The following was pitched to and commissioned by Flickering Myth
Hitler is everywhere in Hollywood movies. The Emperor is Space Hitler. Davy Jones is Sea Hitler. Loki is another Space Hitler. Harry Potter is not immune to the trend. Voldemort, with his blood status obsession, shares a creed with the 20th century’s big bad. Voldemort is Wizard Hitler. And with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, J.K. is making this trope the basis for a five-film franchise and it should create enough material to fill every instalment. It’s all to do with the dates, see.
J.K. revealed that her latest adventures in the wizarding world will be set between 1926 and 1945. 1945 is the year the Allies won WW2 and Hitler died. We know from Harry Potter lore that in the same year Dumbledore beat Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in a duel. Evil was conquered twice that year.
Flick back to 1923, three years before Fantastic Beasts starts, and Germany’s Weimar Republic is struggling. Hitler tries to seize power with the Munich Putsch and fails. He serves released nine months in prison. Once released, he gathers support until he was able to take power in 1933 to commit genocide against anyone he deemed inferior to his Aryan ideal.
Grindelwald, by comparison, disappeared after escaping European aurors and was caught by our new protagonists in 1926. It’s obvious he’ll escape prison quickly and try to make wizards superior. He believes muggles are beneath wizards and witches. It appears J.K. is going to give us her thoughts on Hitler’s rise and turn Grindelwald into a more literal wizard Hitler.
If this allegory on the rise of Nazism isn’t enough, terrible recent political events add another layer. The filmmakers understand how the story is related to the rise of populism and Donald Trump. Depp’s casting may be unpopular and his look too campy, but the haircut is reminiscent of the president-elect. The look isn’t an error or Depp’s attempt to make a caricature — it’s a comment on Trump and his evil.
Depp’s disdain for Trump is well-known. He filmed Fantastic Beasts in January, one month after he filmed his Funny or Die short film. Then, in March, he called him a “brat” and a bully.
Grindelwald also bullies people. The way he treated Credence (Ezra Miller) is evidence of this — he whispered sweet nothings into his ear, overlooked his power because he believed him to be a squib (non-magical child of magical parents) and tried to turn him into a weapon. Grindelwald is so accomplished at exploiting people he was able to emotionally manipulate Albus Dumbledore.
It’s safe to say Depp isn’t a fan and Trump’s rhetoric is everything Rowling and the film are against. The film celebrates inclusion, Trump want’s exclusion. The film celebrates everyone’s differences, Trump hates those who are different to him. Like Grindelwald, Trump prioritises people based on their birth. It is clear from the setting and the illusions to Hitler and Trump that this franchise is much more than Eddie Redmayne doing a mating dance.
When Harry Potter lore is taken into account, the amount of stuff these films have to fit into their runtimes is staggering. They have to deal with Dumbledore’s romantic feelings towards Grindelwald and his guilt about his sister’s death. Even though Newt (Eddie Redmayne) is going to take a back seat, they have to maintain his story as well. There is also Voldemort to deal with.
This is all speculation but it is possible You-Know-Who may flirt with these spin-offs. 1926 is the year of his birth and 1945 is two years after his Hogwarts graduation. We know he had already created a Horcrux, committed patricide and opened the Chamber of Secrets before his graduation. He was a bad egg already and it’s possible Grindelwald’s loss fuelled him on, like how Germany’s WW1 loss fuelled Hitler. Maybe the series isn’t just a comment on the rise of tyranny, maybe it’s also about how tyranny can be passed down through generations.
These are heady themes and Rowling has the ability weld them with wizards and witches. It was overstuffed but Fantastic Beasts worked. It set up a whole sub-franchise to comment on the rise of evil. This is a deep allegory that needs time to be pulled off successfully. Maybe five films won’t be enough.