Fantastic Beasts: A Series in Five Acts (Potentially)
In the first installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, the audience is introduced to Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), a dark wizard wreaking havoc across Europe through a series of headlines splashed across newspapers alongside adverts for giggle water. For long-time fans of the Wizarding World, this is familiar territory. So is spending most of our time with the protagonist – in this case, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a kind-hearted magizoologist. But instead of remaining in Europe, the film takes place in New York City while Newt recaptures his escaped magical creatures and neglects to get his case fixed. The remainder of the run-time only briefly mentions Grindelwald, leaving viewers to wonder what the real threat is if not this dark wizard. He’s a stranger. Because of this, even some of the most avid fans of J.K. Rowling’s previous works were disappointed with this trip back in time. I will argue that the first film, as well as its sequel, will ensure the series overall is all the better for it. Consider “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” the second of five acts.
The story structure most people are taught in school is called the Three Act Structure. It looks something like this:
Resembling a mountain that needs climbing, it has – you guessed it – three parts: a set-up, confrontation, and a resolution. A beginning, a middle, and an end. Ever wonder why there are so many trilogies in books and film? Even the unnecessarily dragged out Peter Jackson version of “The Hobbit”. (Yeah, I said it!) But if we zoom in, there’s more to the story.
Despite being taught the Three Act Structure, what we are most familiar with is the Five Act Structure. Why? Because, chances are, you’re familiar with Shakespeare. No, Shakespeare did not pioneer the Five Act Structure, but I am using him as a recognizable reference point. Surely the majority of those reading this blog post were made to read at least one of his plays in high school. So, how does this apply to “Fantastic Beasts”?
If Act One of the Five Act Structure is essentially the exposition, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” nails it. The audience meets Newt for the first time as well as his allies and the antagonist, Gellert Grindelwald. The film establishes the time period in which the story is taking place, the rules of that time period, and other backstory to build the world. More importantly, the conflict is introduced – we get the inciting incident. Now, before you scream at me through the screen that the inciting incident long predated the film because Grindelwald was already a criminal at the start of the movie, I would like to remind you who we are on the journey with.
Grindelwald is a stranger to us because he is a stranger to our protagonist. It is only when Newt encounters him that Grindelwald has any direct effect on his past or future that would incite any further action between them from Newt.
This brings us to Act Two, or, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”. Often referred to as the “Rising Action”, Act Two is where the stakes are raised. With the audience now thoroughly immersed in this period of history within the Wizarding World, the plot begins to build up some momentum. Each of the characters considered to be protagonists from Newt Scamander to Queenie to Leta Lestrange take actions that propel the story forward and we gain a greater understanding for the reasons they come to particular decisions. Alliances are made and hearts are broken. It is when things go terribly wrong and the time when you’re gonna have to pick a side.
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