As you enjoy the trailer for Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Spalding University screenwriting professor Larry Brenner explains the major flaw in the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Namely, that Tina Goldstein, not Newt Scamander, should be the protagonist.
In light of the release of the Fantastic Beasts 2 movie trailer, it bears questioning the structure of the story to determine whether the beautiful cinematography, stellar acting, and enchanting soundtrack will pay off, or if the second movie will fall short of great. We can’t really determine that before November, but we can look back and consider where the first Fantastic Beasts movie falls short. Here is what Larry Brenner had to say.
“While it is my favorite HP universe movie, it does something fundamentally wrong,” explains Brenner. “Who is the protagonist of this movie? Newt, right? I just watched a movie about this dude and I don’t know ANYTHING about him except that he likes magical beasts. And I learned that in the first thirty seconds. He should not be the protagonist.
“Tina should be the protagonist. We have a character who has a clear adherence to law and order. Then … she has to question whether the ideals she holds are actually in line with her government. She goes from being right (because she follows the laws) to being right (because she is choosing to make hard choices). These are struggles a protagonist normally faces.”
Brenner, who is not only a screenwriting professor but also a dad and big fan of the Harry Potter universe, continues. “Tina should be the protagonist. But the whole thing is framed as his story. It’s her story. This isn’t his country, this isn’t his world. His stakes are small. But this is her whole life! Her career! Her country! She has actual things to lose. And she loses them.
“Protagonists are supposed to be active,” Brenner expounds. “They drive the plot. Tina makes difficult choices. She moves the plot forward. Sometimes she makes mistakes. She thinks she wants one thing, and learns she wants something else. I have no problem with there being a Newt Scamander character. But he’s not Harry Potter. She’s Harry Potter.”
Brenner explains in another way. “It’s all about who’s the foil. She isn’t a foil to him, he’s a foil to her. She does what people tell her is right; he just does what he thinks is right. And then you have Grindelwald. He is a force for order, but order as a form of evil. Again … her foil.”
At this point, I did share this article that shows that the protagonist problem has not gone unnoticed.
“I’m glad they saw it was a problem,” says Brenner. “But it was a problem with an easy solution. Make the woman the hero. She’s an Auror (ok, former Auror) who just got slapped down by the establishment.
“Tina thinks her weakness is the fact that she let her emotions get in the way of her job. But in fact, her emotions make her better at her job. Her instinct is to protect Credence and help him heal. If they’d just let her DO THAT, all of this could have been prevented.
“And there is no vindication scene in this movie. They don’t apologize to her, because, you know, woman. They apologize to Newt! Who broke the law and was irresponsible. The HP universe shouldn’t be a place where this nonsense happens.
“Newt can be the manic pixie dream boy,” Brenner concludes. “And good movie becomes great movie.”
Some might argue that this was done to provide continuity between the movies since the title about the “Fantastic Beasts” implies that Newt is the common thread. But that’s a weak argument. Already the title is Fantastic Beasts, which provides the common thread. The beasts are not the main character in the same way that Harry was. These stories themselves are linked more by the artificial framework of the beasts; each individual story ought to stand well on its own.