I didn’t particularly like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I found it to be a C- movie at best with two immensely likable characters (Jacob and Queenie) who felt like worthy editions to the universe but otherwise it had nothing else terribly compelling to offer. If it was just a one-and-done standalone feature, I wouldn’t really give Beasts much thought outside of “Hey, remember Queenie and Jacob? Those two were great; too bad they had to be saddled with that annoying dork with the giant bird and Queenie’s sulky sourpuss of a sister.” But therein lies the problem.
Harry Potter is now a franchise in perpetuity and so Fantastic Beasts is of course becoming a series. That’s the reality of show business at the moment and it isn’t a deal breaker for me. I love Star Wars, James Bond and Marvel and DC, and those institutions have refused to conclude since before anyone even heard the phrase “franchise in perpetuity” (if Disney hadn’t bought Star Wars, the now defunct Expanded Universe would have gone on until the end of time). A cultural touchstone like Harry Potter was of course going to follow suit.
I’m going to get the unpleasant business out of the way first: the pre-release period of Crimes of Grindelwald has just been a parade of unpleasantness. Johnny Depp’s continued presence in the series. The initial erasure of Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality (hopefully that isn’t the case anymore). The Nagini-is-actually-a-person business, which is both stupid and probably racist. All of the above makes me leery of giving this franchise any more support.
Those are all significant problems and they are stacked on top of the fact that I didn’t even like the first movie and that I find the direction Beasts is taking to be baffling. If this series was just about Newt having whimsical adventures with silly magical creatures then it would be a harmless distraction. But because it also has to function as a five goddamned part prequel series about the global wizarding war, it’s a bloated mess instead. If you wanted to make a Dumbledore versus Gellert Grindelwald story why not just make that? Why does it have to be shown from the perspective of wizard Steve Irwin? And if you absolutely must capitalize on one of the peripheral Harry Potter books, then why not just choose Quidditch Through the Ages and make a magic sports movie franchise? That’s something no one’s seen before.
There’s already a great deal of talk about J.K. Rowling turning into prequel period George Lucas. I don’t really have anything to add to that, though the Nagini reveal is pretty much on the same level of Darth-Vader-building-Threepio in terms of “Who the hell asked for this?” Creators losing touch as time progresses is an extremely normal career arc. I can live with the fact that I won’t like the Beasts series, but Rowling’s and Warner Bros.’ continued support of the credibly accused domestic abuser headlining their shared blockbuster franchise is much harder to swallow.
I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter, in addition to re-playing the LEGO Harry Potter games. This series is a huge deal for me and will always be a big part of my life, almost as much as Star Wars is. As you could no doubt tell by this article’s headline, I haven’t come to any satisfactory conclusion. I probably will see The Crimes of Grindelwald at some point; it’ll make a billion dollars with or without my ticket purchase. But whereas going to see the Harry Potter movies always felt like the best kind of adventure, seeing new installments of Fantastic Beasts just feels like a chore at this point.