Becoming the films ‘that must not be named’, the Fantastic Beasts series was supposed to revitalise the Wizarding World for Warner Bros, having found great success with the Harry Potter films that ran for ten years from 2001 up until 2011. Swapping out Daniel Radcliffe for Eddie Redmayne in the lead role, Warner Bros has seen the series tank in popularity, unable to capture any of the magic of the original series.
Based in part on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter tie-in guidebook of the same name, the Fantastic Beasts series was one built on false promises, with none of the meticulous plotting of the novels to rely on. The films are instead a messy mosaic of ill-fitting characters, needless storylines and scant originality that relies on nothing more than morsels of Wizarding World trivia to justify its existence.
With two films currently under its belt, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them from 2016 and The Crimes of Grindelwald from 2018, the series has tragically failed to drum up the excitement of the Harry Potter series, failing to realise exactly what it was that made the original films so special.
Swapping the wondrous magic of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the dirt and grime of New York City in the 1920s, the switch of location is a baffling error with the grim real-world location doing very little to stir emotion or visceral enjoyment. The series knows its errors too, slowly creeping back to the iconography of the Harry Potter series with every instalment from the appearance of Albus Dumbledore in The Crimes of Grindelwald to the return to Hogwarts in the upcoming third film, The Secrets of Dumbledore.
Resorting to the nostalgia of the past is a pretty clear admission of failure, particularly as The Fantastic Beasts series was supposed to expand the universe not retread the same beaten path. Desperate for fans to recall their excitement of the past, The Secrets of Dumbledore is squirming to stay relevant, reusing old footage from the classic films at the start of the brand new trailer, whilst reducing the size of the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ title in the poster to focus on the extravagance of the iconic ‘Dumbledore’ name.
Throwing the Fantastic Beasts series into uncharted territory without properly plotting its path to success, it’s clear that Warner Bros were willing to try something different with the series but were completely ignorant to the fact that audiences simply ‘might not be interested’. By focusing on spectacle over characters and grand franchise lore over a simple story, the series alienated audiences, preferring to pursue its own mission of box office glory rather than sculpt a popular, beloved follow-up to Harry Potter.
Warner Bros did this by following in the footsteps of Disney, in tone at least, with their new series carrying a distinct identity that wasn’t far from the world of Marvel, sharing a similar formula of one part comedy to two parts action before finishing off the potion with a dose of superficiality.
Dull, boring and totally uninspired, the result of this current series has produced little magic at all, and in the midst of this creative failure, the Wizarding World is crumbling in the modern zeitgeist.
If the loss of Johnny Depp in The Crimes of Grindelwald wasn’t bad enough, being fired from the project due to his lawsuit with Amber Heard that marked him as a potential ‘wife beater’, then the ongoing controversy of J.K Rowling has surely caused some long-term damage to the series.
The writer of the original novels, as well as the screenwriter for each of the current Fantastic Beasts movies, Rowling got caught up in controversial opinions regarding transgender rights in 2019, with her view becoming increasingly outspoken ever since. “People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” the writer commented on Twitter in 2020, causing outrage from the LGBTQ community and others.
As recently as March 7th, 2022, Rowling came against recent legislation for women and girls, discussing the “likely negative consequences,” if the bill were to pass that made it easier for transgender people to identify as their chosen gender.
Though certainly not the reason the fictional Wizarding World is on its knees, her questionable publicity isn’t doing anything to elevate the series that needs all the help it can get to compete with current trends in cinema. The failures of the Fantastic Beasts series started way back when the idea was first conceived, choosing a story of middling creativity and lacklustre innovation, set far from the wild magic, wonders and fun of Hogwarts.