Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald received a measly 37% from Rotten Tomatoes and earned a worldwide box office gross of $653.7 million, a record low for the Harry Potter franchise.
Wait … How did we get here?
It wasn’t that long ago when Harry Potter was a franchise juggernaut making close to a billion dollars during each installment’s run. It has spawned theme parks, Quidditch leagues, and book clubs (which are probably small cults, if we’re being honest).
Yet, here we are: Two films into a five-film prequel franchise that feels just as magic-less as the muggles that inhabit it. How is this even possible? It has a stellar cast, the same director as four of the original Harry Potter films, and even has freaking J.K. Rowling herself penning the script.
So what exactly went wrong? How can this be fixed so that we don’t end up with another prequel disaster? Glad you asked…
Here are four ideas brewing in our cauldron.
Harry Potter but Without the Magic
A big draw of the Fantastic Beasts films is they give an excuse to not only explore new parts of the rich world of Harry Potter, but also create all new and creative creatures we’ve never seen before.
This series had the potential to be filled with even more magic than the previous, yet the spells feel boring and uninspired. And dark. The movies are largely set in dark grey and brown city streets. At least some of the creatures were awesome!
(I’m looking at you Niffler!)
The thing that really sucks out the charm that accompanied the original series is these films are so used to eye-opening magic. Nobody is wowed by anything, anymore. The audience experiences the story through the characters. In short, if the cast is not captivating, the audience will not be captivated.
The Harry Potter films feature almost an entire ensemble of kids still learning about magic. Some of the franchise’s highest points have been “little moments” (i.e., Harry riding on the Hippogriff, or Harry running through Diagon Alley with Hagrid looking for school supplies). The real magic of these films is the story takes its time to create anything “fantastic.”
The closest we’ve gotten to these moments in the new films is Jacob exploring Newt’s briefcase zoo for the first time, but even this moment takes a hit from the creatures’ CGI not being 100% believable.
If there’s one thing causing this franchise to suffer, it is a lack of charm and wonderment.
All Set-Up and No Payoff
From the very first moments of Harry Potter was introduced to us, they were building up to that final duel between Harry and Voldemort. Every film laid the groundwork and escalated the tensions that culminated during that epic battle in Deathly Hallows Part 2.
The reason this worked so well was the foundation and development was all happening in the background of what were already great, singular films. While these films are all vital parts of a larger story, their main focus was to deliver a great movie that could be enjoyed on its own. When taken away from the series (e.g., Goblet of Fire, Chamber of Secrets, Prizoner of Azkaban), each film could all be enjoyed in just the same way.
You can’t say that about Crimes of Grindelwald.
The only reason that movie actually exists is to deliver exposition necessary to understand the next movie, which was probably going to do just the same before they delayed it. Crimes had no interest in telling its own story, and if this series is going to succeed in the slightest, there has to be actual stories to tell, not just groundwork to lay.
Replace J.K. Rowling as the Writer
Calm down! Before you figure out a way to downvote this article, keep an open mind. This is controversial among Potterheads as she is the very person to create this world, but if she’s not careful she could also be the very person to destroy it.
As much as it may sound, this isn’t a dis on Rowling as a writer. She is a magnificent novelist, which is clearly proven from the multi-billion dollar franchise that she has single-handedly created. However, a movie isn’t a novel. With zero previous experience at writing a movie, she was handed the responsibility of writing the screenplays for this series.
It makes sense for her to work with the writers, or even come up with the stories, but writing the entirety of the screenplays by herself? That’s why this series under performed and disappointed as much as it has.
Books and screenplays aren’t written the same.
In a novel, especially the Harry Potter books, characters can just sit or walk around while talking to each other and it feels natural. However, in a movie that would be super boring, and it’s the main reason Sorcerer’s Stone (which largely followed the book) doesn’t hold up for some fans. Novels don’t always adapt well to the big screen no matter how good the story is. They sometimes have to take creative liberties.
In the Fantastic Beasts movies, especially Crimes of Grindelwald, you can tell that Rowling is writing these as if they were a novel. The narrative is being revealed in boring ways. What’s frustrating is there is some important exposition being revealed all the way up until the climax of the movie. There is also almost no sense of a three-act structure in that film.
When looking at the two separate series, the only major thing that changed was J.K. Rowling as the writer, which is exactly when all of the issues started to arise. If they are gonna change one thing moving forward to fix most of these problems, they should replace her.
On the Right Track?
Despite the downward slope that the franchise as seemed to be going down, there is reason to look up. It was recently announced that Fantastic Beasts 3 has been delayed to November 12, 2021 to give “the filmmakers the time and space to allow their artistry to truly flourish” according to Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich.
From what we know, it looks like the studio has confidence in this franchise and are actually taking their time to make sure that they deliver something worthwhile, which is fantastic news (pun-intended) since the series has given us some pretty magical performances in Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and Jude Law’s Dumbledore.
While we have no idea if they will return to the high standards set by the Harry Potter films, at least we finally have something to look forward to again.
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