Weekend Forecast for November 18-20, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
November 18, 2016
For most of the year, reboots and way-too-late sequels have met with just modest success, if not outright hostility. In most cases, this is because the films have been obvious retreads with no new ideas, and which tread no new ground. The return of one of the more beloved franchises of the new century may break with that pattern by actually having something new to say.
While J.K. Rowling has said she's largely done with Harry Potter proper (and yet – Cursed Child. You in or out, Joan?), the world she's created is clearly still calling to her. So this weekend, we get new material in on the big screen for the first time in five years, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin-off based on a zoological textbook of magic creatures in that world. Set in New York in the 1920s, it follows Newt Scamander, renowned magical naturalist (and Hufflepuff!) to America as he loses track of some of his creatures in the midst of anti-magical fervor.
Less obsessed with the deep plot strands developed in the Harry Potter books and films, this is more of a stand-alone adventure film that examines what an American society of wizardry might look like, and how it would fare in society at large. Without the boarding school tradition, it's much less cloistered from the world at large and has to interact with the puzzled American reaction to magic and oddball behavior, but also its more troubled history with witchcraft, with a faction in the film openly calling for persecution.
Eddie Redmayne stars as the lead character, with supporting turns from Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Dan Fogler. There are as many as five films already planned for this sub-franchise, which seems ambitious notion, as the Harry Potter films came with a plot arc that people were already hooked into, and we only need look at the Hunger Games series to see how interest can drop off if the conclusion isn't satisfying in a multi-part odyssey (to say nothing of Divergent).
It would be quite the upset for these films to have the same esteem as the Harry Potter films even with Rowling writing the screenplay and David Yates, of the latter, more adult Potter films directing. Its reviews are strong, but not, you know, Harry Potter strong, and while this series has always trended cross-generational, I think the mistake of this one is that it's actually *too* adult focused and may leave the younger audiences behind (although maybe they never really got into it in the first place, so...). Opening super-wide, this should find a solid tentpole-sized audience, but if Warner Bros. is looking for a new mega-franchise, they'll have to let it build. I'd expect to see an opening weekend of about $87 million.
A real rare beast, an actual teen drama, hits theaters this weekend in The Edge of Seventeen, starring Hailee Steinfeld, who's had some difficulty following up her success in True Grit. In the film, she plays an acceptably misfit and outcast high schooler with the typical complicated high school life until her best friend starts dating her brother. Drama!