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Film

Why J.K. Rowling needs to relinquish control of the 'Harry Potter' franchise

@Russellisation

When you consider some of the biggest and most lucrative movie franchises of the 21st century, no doubt, the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and The Fast and the Furious come to mind. It’s easy to forget, however, that just over a decade ago the answer to this question would be much different, with the Harry Potter franchise dominating the contemporary box office, raking in $7.73 billion in total from 2001 to 2011. 

Creating a fervent excitement from children and adults alike across the world, the Harry Potter books and movies, now included under the ‘Wizarding World’ umbrella, created an internationally recognised brand that has since splintered off into the emergence of theme parks, theatrical experiences and video games. Though, whilst the brand continued to bulge, the material of the Wizarding World remained stagnant, with little for fans to consume other than the original Harry Potter movies. 

Written by the then-beloved author of the original books, J. K. Rowling, the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016 was supposed to spark a new era for the franchise, fueling, in turn, more merchandise, more material and more fandom. Instead, with the release of the third film in the series in 2022, it appears as though the Fantastic Beasts movies have done more to tarnish the brand than enhance its quality. 

The tragedy of the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise

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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, despite the author herself writing the screenplay. 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. 

If the material of the movies weren’t enough, actor Johnny Depp was kicked from the production of the second film in the series The Secrets of Dumbledore in November 2020 due to the ongoing lawsuit with Amber Heard that marked him as a potential domestic abuser. In addition, J.K Rowling sparked an internet firestorm in 2019 when she posted tweets deemed to be transphobic by the internet community. 

“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. Meanwhile, 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. 

Popularly disliked in the modern zeitgeist, Rowling no longer holds the cultural weight she once did, with many disregarding her opinion and stance, unwilling to support the views and work of a ‘transphobe’. In consequence, many boycotted the latest Fantastic Beasts movie, and with The Secrets of Dumbledore on course to barely break even and make back its staggering $200 million budget. 

Clutching hold of the franchise, Rowling is suffocating the Wizarding World with an anaconda’s squeeze, draining it of its eccentricity, pleasure and, ultimately, its magic. 

With the third film in the Fantastic Beasts series likely to be the last, now would be the perfect time for J.K Rowling to relinquish control of the Wizarding World brand, with a George Lucas-type deal worth billions. 

Much like Lucas created a beloved series from the ground up in Star Wars, then proceeded to leave the stagnant franchise shortly after the release of the prequel trilogy in 2005, J.K Rowling is in a position where she can make more money by handing the franchise over, rather than struggling with constant creative toil. Without control, Warner Bros would have the final say in all Wizarding World projects, including movies, video games and much more, breathing new life into a series that is begging for reinvention. 

For the perfect nostalgia play, the company could consider, for example, a film series about ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ in which the younger versions of beloved characters such as Albus Dumbledore, James Potter, Lily Potter, Rubeus Hagrid and many more return to the big screen. Or, how about focusing on the international wizarding schools that were barely explored in The Goblet of Fire, or even the high-flying potential of a Quidditch sports flick?

The Wizarding World radiates creative promise, with a wealth of colourful ideas and eccentric characters to follow and explore, but the first step to allow Warner Bros to explore such prosperity is to offer the dishonoured gatekeeper a handsome fee.

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