With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening to bad reviews and middling box office, Warner Bros. needs to course-correct with Fantastic Beasts 3. When it was announced by the studio that they planned to make a new Harry Potter universe film, fans were enthusiastic. J.K. Rowling had given Harry Potter and friends their satisfying ending but there was still so much to explore in the Wizarding World. With a mini-book written for charity serving as the central influence, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them moved the action to 1920s New York, centering the story on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his adventures with magical animals. Yet it was obvious that Rowling and director David Yates’ ambitions grew far beyond a one-off romp with a minor character, and the film spent time developing its mythos to show the rise of the dark forces that influenced Lord Voldemort.
The gambit ultimately paid off. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first of five installments that will show the rise and fall of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), as well as bring in elements familiar to fans, such as young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). Given the phenomenal popularity of all things Harry Potter, which has not diminished since the end of the main series, it seemed that Warner Bros. had hit the jackpot with an iron-proof new franchise that could keep the fans satisfied and the money rolling in for a few more years.
However, it seems that their long-term franchise plan may already be coming off the rails. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opened to bad reviews and fell short of box office expectations, making around $13 million less than its predecessor in its opening weekend. On top of that, fans’ reactions ranged from confused to angry as Rowling and Yates’s made changes to Harry Potter canon. Because of Fantastic Beasts 2's disappointing moments and scenes, anticipation for Fantastic Beasts 3 may not be as high as it could've been - but hope is not lost yet. Amid the carnage remains glimmers of incredible ambition and potential that Warner Bros. can build upon Fantastic Beasts 3 and beyond (Rowling has hinted that the third film will take place in Rio de Janeiro). Here are some key ways that Fantastic Beasts 3 can help Warner Bros. get back on track.
- This Page: Fixing The Big Problems With Fantastic Beasts
- Page 2: Fixing Fantastic Beasts' Harry Potter Canon Problems
- Page 3: Ways To Improve What's Already There In Fantastic Beasts
Replace JK Rowling as Fantastic Beasts 3's Screenwriter
J.K. Rowling has great talent as a writer and world-builder, which is evident by her Harry Potter books. The Harry Potter series is an old hero’s tale and coming-of-age story set to the backdrop of the rise of fascism, deliberately paralleled with what happened in Britain in the 1930s when fascist politician Oswald Mosley tried to incite a Nazi-style uprising. The metaphor is broad but it works in the context of children’s speculative fiction. In an attempt to dig deeper into her own metaphors, Rowling has further forced this political parallel in Fantastic Beasts, but it doesn’t work.
A large problem with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is that, on top of being remarkably confused about its own concept, it draws attention to an ugly problem with her universe: either the Wizarding World is complicit in the rise of fascism and genocide that plagued the planet in the 1930s and 1940s - specifically with WWII - or they just ignored it and let it happen. Rowling has faced these problems with her Pottermore website, which attempted to expand the Wizarding World mythos.
Ultimately, these are issues that could be more easily dealt with if Rowling was focused more on serving the plot rather than expanding the Wizarding World. For instance, the climactic scene of The Crimes of Grindelwald involves all the main characters spouting out exposition, which comes shortly after an extended scene explaining the Lestrange family's tree, and how Credence Barebone simply couldn't be the long-lost Lestrange brother. Rowling’s priority in world-building cannot sustain a movie, let alone five of them. Fantastic Beasts 3 would benefit immensely from bringing on a skilled screenwriter who can either take over from Rowling or collaborate with her to help tame her ideas into a workable arc. This is what happened with the Harry Potter movies, when Steve Kloves (who wrote all the Harry Potter movies except one) disregarded any information from the Harry Potter books that didn't server the core plot.
Fantastic Beasts 3 Should Choose A Proper Protagonist: Newt, Credence, or Albus
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is Newt Scamander’s story: he's the one with the beasts and the narrative is mostly focused on his efforts to document them. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, Scamander’s arc seems mostly ignored in favor of further developing Credence Barebone's arc, as well as young Albus Dumbledore's story. It’s a simple case of a lack of focus. It also emphasizes a key problem with the franchise: the Fantastic Beasts movies have no definitive protagonist and this has allowed the story to splinter off into many disparate elements that either don’t mesh together or have no real direction.
So far, the franchise seems to have used Scamander’s story as the Trojan horse to explore Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s conflict, which would be fine if it knew how to continue using Newt effectively once that narrative got off the ground. Instead, he seems like the third wheel in what is supposed to be his own story. All three characters are interesting enough to anchor the Fantastic Beasts movies but the franchise itself must pick one and build the appropriate narrative around them. Fantastic Beasts 3 should make that choice and ensure future movies have a sense of cohesion.