Like any red-blooded Gryffindor, I’ve never failed to defend the honor of the Wizarding World against accusations that the books don’t make sense.

Why do folks use trains, floo powder, port keys, carriages pulled by griffins, thestrals, broomsticks, dragons, magical underwater pirate ships and the Knight Bus to get around when they can apparate? Why didn’t someone ever consider using a Time Turner to kill Voldemort or at least save some of his victims?

These types of questions have answers to greater or lesser degrees, but it’s certainly true that witches, wizards, and the world they inhabit are all rather strange. (150 points for catching the Snitch will never make sense.) If you look closely, however, these kinds of oddities are where J. K. Rowling’s genius for world-building really shines.

First: there just aren’t very many witches and wizards. Population estimates indicate that the world is at least 99.97% Muggle, and probably more so. (The basis for this, and other claims, can be found in my longer article.) Next: witches and wizards don’t have to work if they don’t want to. Slughorn got by comfortably filching from unsuspecting Muggles. With almost 1000 Muggles to every witch or wizard there is plenty to go around. Poverty exists, but not like in our world. The Weasleys had plenty of access to food, shelter, clothes, medical care, and even elite schooling, and the Gaunts only lived in squalor because they chose it out of pride.

By contrast, Muggle society is defined by constant struggle. We work hard, or we don’t eat. That constant pressure is the driving force for Muggle innovation. The Wizarding World doesn’t have that driving force, and as a result it has tended to ride along on the coat tails of Muggle society.

Consider the basic economy of the Wizarding World: other than specifically magical items, the Wizarding World doesn’t seem to produce anything. Who provides the food that the Hogwarts house elves use to make their feasts? Who provides the cloth to be made into school robes? Who mines the tin, copper, antimony, and bismuth that go into a cauldron (pewter, standard size 2)? All the basic materials for the Wizarding World probably come from Muggles.

There is also no independent Wizarding culture. Religion, language, music, and even the educational system all derive from the Muggle world. Sure, Hogwarts teaches you how to use magic, but who teaches you how to read and write? For Muggle-borns like Harry and Hermione, at least, you learn in Muggle schools.

Even the Wizarding World’s governments are derivative. In the UK, Her Majesty’s Government is led by the Prime Minister who then picks all the other Ministers. So when the witches and wizards of the UK call their head of government the “Minister for Magic” they’re inserting their top-level government into the Muggle system in a way that is at least dependent if not outright subordinate.

ministry-of-magic-630

Because the Wizarding World is not subject to the unceasing pressure to fight for survival, it has never really developed. It is a primitive society in modern trappings. Only the most ancient of human institutions exist—like universities and government—while all of the modern ones (like corporations and franchises) are absent. Everything from inefficient methods of travel to imitation banks (real ones do more than lock up money in boxes for you) makes perfect sense from this perspective.

So much for wizarding society, but what about the odd behavior of witches and wizards? Without doubt the strangest is the reckless disregard for human life, especially the lives of children. In the very first book, for example, Dumbledore relocates a ferocious, man-eating monster into a school for children as young as eleven years old. He warns the students not to enter the third floor corridor, but in a castle filled with moving staircases where the youngest kids are constantly getting lost, what kind of protection is that? Then he puts a lock on the door, but it’s the kind of lock that students learn to pick on practically their first day. Then there’s the danger of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Or the hazards of playing full-contact sports a hundred feet in the air with an age range of 11-17 in the same league. And these are just the reckless decisions with kids before the outbreak of the Second Wizarding War!

Well, the same power that makes it easy for witches and wizards to live off of the work of Muggles also makes the Wizarding World very, very dangerous. In the Wizarding World, every child wanders around with potentially lethal power from a pretty young age. The resulting fatality rate is much higher than what Muggles are used to. Dumbledore and Grindelwald accidentally killed his little sister in a childhood fight, Luna’s mom blew herself up playing around with potions, and Quirrel is apparently on the run from an angry vampire. Any witch or wizard who wants to kill someone can do it with a single spell. It’s like living in a society where everyone carries a loaded bazooka everywhere they go. Then there are the dangerous creatures (Fluffy is only the second most dangerous creature in the castle after the basilisk) who apparently interact far more with witches and wizards than they do with Muggles. (And by “interact” I mean “try to eat”.)

Although some things, like the time turners, really don’t make sense, for the most part the more you dig into the books of Harry Potter the more impressive Rowling’s world-building prowess becomes. The idiosyncrasies of the Wizarding World and its denizens turn out to be not just imaginative flourishes, but a pretty keen statement on human nature. Without constant, omnipresent struggle our society would tend to atrophy.

The really interesting question that remains is this: what would the Wizarding World look like if it couldn’t depend on Muggles for all its basic needs?

Hollywood reacts to ‘Begin Again’ director’s candid criticism of Keira Knightley’s acting skills

Should the trust between actors and directors ever be broken?

10:33 am EDT, May 30, 2016

After Begin Again director John Carney’s candid comments about Keira Knightley’s acting went viral, Hollywood has taken to Twitter to defend the British actress.

In case you’ve somehow not heard the story, here’s the sitch:

Over the weekend, The Independent released an interview with Irish director John Carney, in which he had some harsh words for former colleague Keira Knightley.

The pair worked together on the 2013 musical rom-com Begin Again, where Knightley starred opposite Mark Ruffalo as a promising young folk singer recovering from a broken heart.

Carney evidently wasn’t satisfied with Knightley’s performance, claiming she “always has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done.”

Related: Exclusive: Keira Knightley, Joe Wright talk Anna Karenina and the choice to set it in the world of theater

Going on to praise both Ruffalo and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s performances, Carney said, “I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that.”

“I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars,” he continued. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.”

Carney concluded, “I learned that I’ll never make a film with supermodels again.”

Now, Carney clearly had a frustrating experience working with Knightley on this film, and his distinction between ‘proper film actors’ and ‘movie stars’ may be legitimate in theory. Begin Again certainly wasn’t the great critical hit that Carney’s Once had been, and at the time of the movie’s release, Keira Knightley herself admitted that she struggled with the material, not being a singer-songwriter herself and having no great appreciation for music.

“It’s terrible. I know nothing about music whatsoever,” she told The Guardian. “I was always more into reading and drama. I was such a geek. … There’s often a huge link between music and memory. And I’ve got such a bad memory.”

But the issue Hollywood professionals have with Carney’s comments seem to have less to do with Knightley’s specific performance, and more about the fact that Carney made these comments at all.

Ava DuVernay certainly makes a great point about why Carney should have stayed silent:

Both industry professionals and notable journalists have joined DuVernay in speaking out against Carney. Here are some of their reactions:

All the same, there are some that find Carney’s candidness refreshing.

What do you think? Should John Carney have held back his criticism of Keira Knightley out of professional courtesy? Or was he right to share his negative experience?

John Carney rose to international fame with Once in 2007, and this year he’s coming out with a musical drama titled Sing Street.

Spectre director Sam Mendes is officially not returning for more James Bond movies.

While we wait for (almost certain) confirmation that Daniel Craig won’t reprise his role as 007 in the next James Bond film, we can at least contend with the knowledge that Sam Mendes will not direct Bond 25.

The two-time James Bond director came on board the franchise for the wildly successful Skyfall, but his follow-up Spectre was not considered as great of a success.

Even before Spectre‘s release, Mendes was talking about quitting the all-consuming franchise, saying at the time, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.” But it was only during a Welsh literature festival that he finally confirmed his departure.

Related: Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra doesn’t want to be a Bond Girl, she wants to be Bond

“It was an incredible adventure. I loved every second of it, but I think it’s time for somebody else [to direct],” said Mendes, as quoted via The Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

Bond 25 is likely to be completely new chapter of the franchise, with Daniel Craig set to follow Mendes’ lead and officially announce his departure soon. Everyone’s been expecting him to bow out ever since his controversial promotional campaign for Spectre, and it’s even more likely now that his two-time collaborator has called it quits.

On the speculation about who might replace Craig, Mendes says, “I can guarantee that whatever happens next it will not be what you expect.”

“[Bond producer] Barbara Broccoli chooses who is going to be the next Bond, end of story. And without that there would have been no Daniel Craig because public support for Daniel was zero. It was her saying: ‘That man over there, he’s going to change the whole tenor, I’m going to cast him.’ That turned the whole thing on its head,” says Mendes.

Rumor has it that Tom Hiddleston is in talks to be the next James Bond, but until we learn more, we can speculate away as we wish! It’s also time to start making those Bond 25 director wishlists. Anyone know if Ava DuVernay is available?

How will ‘The Flash’ finale affect the ‘Arrow’-verse?

Or will it at all?

11:00 am EDT, May 29, 2016

In the final moments of the Flash‘s season 2 finale, Barry made a decision that could have major ramifications for the other Arrow-verse shows.

It looks like The Flash is headed in the direction of Flashpoint, a comic book story in which Barry saves his mother and creates an alternate future in which he never became The Flash, and the world is in chaos. I’ll do a more in-depth look at this story later in the hiatus.

On The Flash, the death of Barry’s father sent him on a downward spiral that resulted in him going back in time and stopping The Reverse Flash from killing Nora Allen. Barry watched as his season 1 counterpart faded away as the timeline changed before assuring his mother that she was safe.

It’s early, but I’ll take a shot at theorizing what this change could mean not only for The Flash but the other Arrow-verse shows as well.

The Flash season 2, episode 18 recap Barry, Caitlin, Cisco

‘The Flash’

All we know about The Flash‘s third season so far is that Tom Cavanagh will be back as a series regular, indicating there will be some version of Harrison Wells in play. I believe that is likely to be the Earth-1 version of Wells, the one who Eobard Thawne murdered and whose identity Thawne stole, since the original timeline of those events has been changed.

There is also a good chance that when Barry returns to the alternate future he’s created, he’ll no longer have his speed since there would have been no impetus for Barry to become a CSI. Without being at his lab at CCPD, he wouldn’t have been thrown into a rack of chemicals when he was struck by lightning, thus granting him powers.

It’s also likely Barry also won’t be as close with the West family, since he wouldn’t have been taken in and raised by them, which will be heartbreaking.

We also know that the original Harrison Wells’ particle accelerator wasn’t meant to go active until several years after the one Eobard Thawne-as-Wells created; he wanted to expedite the process so he could return to his own time. If that timeline remains the same, there won’t be nearly as many metahumans on the the loose since the particle accelerator created the majority of those we’ve met.

Flash and Arrow crossover

‘Arrow’

Stephen Amell doesn’t know whether the Flash finale will affect Arrow, though it will be odd if it doesn’t since time across Earth-1 has been changed. “I do know that we’ve done a lot of work on Arrow to introduce the other shows, for lack of a better term, and now that that’s all done, we’re focused on doing the things that we do well for season 5,” he tells ComicBook.com.

He adds, “Arrow is at its best when we’re dealing with problems in Star City. We’re not a time-travel show, we’re not a multi-Earth show, though obviously [we do that] with crossovers and stuff like that. We’re Arrow, we deal with Star City, and I feel like we’ll be better off focusing on that.”

Considering Barry was directly responsible for the Team Arrow’s survival in Nanda Parbat at the end of season 3 as well as when Vandal Savage attacked in the season 4 crossover, though, it seems impossible that such a major change in time wouldn’t affect the group in some way, especially if there is no longer a Flash.

One change I wouldn’t mind seeing would be Laurel’s survival, but I won’t hold my breath.

Legends of Tomorrow season 1, episode 1 recap team

‘Legends of Tomorrow’

One reveal from the Flash finale that seems especially likely to impact Legends in some way is the appearance of Jay Garrick, Henry Allen’s Earth-3 doppelganger. In the comics, Jay Garrick is one of the founding members of the Justice Society of America, which the Legends finale introduced via Rex Tyler.

John Wesley Shipp has teased that the writers are excited to explore more of the Jay Garrick character, and he speculates that will include the JSA. It will be interesting to see if he crosses over to that show at any point.

As for the time travel change, if the team does take on the role of the Time Masters, as they’d considered doing before Rex Tyler’s arrival, that seems like a major event for them to take notice of.

It’s also worth noting in the comics during Flashpoint that Leonard Snart is a hero in Central City known as Citizen Cold — I’d love to see Wentworth Miller (who will recur on both Flash and Legends next season) play that part for a bit.

Supergirl season 1, episode 18 airs tonight Kara, Barry

Bonus: ‘Supergirl’

Some are theorizing that this change may, somehow, merge Kara’s world with the Arrow-verse now that Supergirl is on the same network with the other shows. I’m not quite sure how that would work, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it since Kara and Barry are an absolute delight together — and we know a major four-series crossover is in the works.

All that being said, there is also the possibility that the Flashpoint events will remain on The Flash, such as in an alternate universe, because of the concern that too many viewers of Arrow in particular don’t also watch The Flash and don’t want to have to catch up just to understand the show. This is a complexity of having a shared universe.

While I understand that concern, however, I feel like storytelling concerns should take precedent. And if you’re going to create that shared universe, you need to embrace what comes with that, including shows having direct affects on one another.

How do you think the ‘Flash’ finale will affect the ‘Arrow’-verse?