And Now No One Will Know Where to Find Them
The Death of the Fantastic Beasts
I cover superheroes, sci-fi, and horror on this site a lot because, well, that's what I care about. Those are the genres of nerd-dom that I actually can get invested in. I try to branch out from time to time, looking at other things to get nerdy about, but I do mostly stick to what I like because that's the stuff I can enjoy (and the enjoy reviewing). If it does fit into those categories then, likely, I won't spend as much time focusing on those items or genres just because, well, there's always so much to cover at is it.
High fantasy is one of those genres I just struggle to enjoy. Put a phaser in someone's hands and I'm all over it. Make it a magic wand and I tune out. There are times I can get past this, and off and on the Harry PotterFirst released as a series of books (starting in the UK before moving worldwide), the Harry Potter series gained great acclaim before even becoming a series of successful movies. Now encompassing books, films, a prequel series, and a successful two-part play, the series even now shows no end in sight. series fit that bill. They're decent, sometimes solid books, and the films occasionally managed to rise to that level as well. I've already hashed and rehashed the main Harry Potter film series enough already but, suffice it to say, if you like those movies (and those books), then I understand. They have their moments and I won't throw shade at you for it.
At the same time, though, I struggled to care about the Fantastic Beasts films. Oh, the first one was amusing enough. Not as tight as any of the Potter adventures, but it had its charms and was a fun enough extension of the brand. But that's also what it felt like: a brand extension. It was a movie created because someone -- the execs at Warner Bros., maybe J.K. Rowling herself -- decided they didn't have enough gold-plated yachts and needed one more. Like the Harry Potter play this is hardly mentioned anymore, the first film in this new series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, felt inessential, created solely because the franchise had to not, not because there was any great storytelling need for it.
This was only made more explicit with the later movies in the series. Reportedly J.K. surprised the producers of the first film when she announced at a press conference that the Fantastic Beasts films would be a five film series. She apparently had the ideas for how that would work, and since she would be writing all five herself, they would all be her exact vision. And her exact vision was "cash grab retread stories that didn't tell us anything new about the world of her books at all." The second film felt like a retread of the Voldemort storyline from the previous series. The third film was hated by the public for its meandering story and lack of, well, anything of substance. The series was quickly losing it need to exist.
Part of the issue might have been that Rowling was not a screenwriter. Warners realized this after the second film seemed to fail with the public, so they teamed her up with Steve Kloves, who had worked on the scripts for all the Potter films (except Order of the Phoenix). Perhaps it would have worked better if Rowling had written books for these Fantastic Beasts stories, and then had someone adapt them for her. But she was high on her own supply (and she still is, TERF that she is) and felt she could do no wrong (and, who, has she disproven that time and again). At least then there would be more structure to the stories.
Of course, if she'd done these as books first it's entirely possible that we all would have learned that her community of fans didn't want to support her anymore (because she's a TERF, of course). It's hard to tell how much the films she wrote failed because she's a terrible screenwriter who created meandering stories no one wanted to watch, and how much is because her name is on the franchise and no one wants to support her. Personally, I think it's a bit of both. The films are bad, but she's even worse as a person. If I don't have to give her money I'm happier for it.
Whatever is the case, the Fantastic Beasts films started strong and then quickly petered out, going from a $811.7 Mil haul for the first movie, to $648.5 Mil for the second, and then $407.1 for the third. And that third film's take was against a $200 Mil budget, which, after splits with the theaters and the costs of advertising, means the movie likely lost film. That would not only make it the first film in the whole Wizarding World franchise to lose money, but it was also the lowest performing film in the franchise across all eleven films. Hell, even the second film on this set, The Crimes of Grindelwald, was the lowest performing film in the whole franchise until the third disaster, The Secrets of Dumbledore, came out.
I write all this not to poke fun at Rowling for her hubris, although that is fun to do. She expected that, just based on brand along, she could shove through five films simply because she wanted to. She was a mega media mogul and her world was the tits, in effect. Except, no, it wasn't. People loved the Harry Potter books and films and want to visit the theme park based on the world. But there has to be good content to keep the franchise going and get asses in seats and, as proved by the sequels, the Fantastic Beasts films, as devised, were not good content. They were mediocre retreads of Rowling's one good idea, show, in effect, that the Empress had no clothes anymore.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Warner has pulled the plug on the franchise. They lost money on the third film and the trend was obvious from first to second the third. The film franchise was in a tail spin, so it was time to axe it. Now, producer David Heyman says it's just a "pause" but, really? There; no way the films continue on in this form. If there's a conclusion to the film series it will be after Warners does some serious retooling and restructuring, but even then I wouldn't count on it. The Fantastic Beasts name is tarnished goods.
I don't feel bad for Rowling about this, not one bit. Nor do I feel bad for Warners. They gave the author carte balance to make her next film series even knowing, one, she wasn't a screen writer and, two, that she was damaged goods herself. They saw that, but they also saw dollar signs, and they let the prospective money talk. They they ate it on the third film. That was bad planning, from a studio that has been struggling with all of their properties for some time (they're the only Hollywood film studio currently losing money year to year, and they're losing it in the billions). This was their own hubris coming for them as well.
I do feel bad for the fans of the Wizarding World, though. Because these were done as films and not books first, the franchise basically is going to lay fallow without any kind of conclusion to the story. Anyone that was actually invested in these Fantastic Beasts stories is now left without the conclusion. What will happen to Newt Scamander and his friends? How will Grindelwald be defeated? Who knows. We're unlikely to ever see that on screen, and without three books already to lead into it, I doubt the fourth and fifth adventures that were planned will be turned into novels either. This is the end of the line for this part of the world unfinished and undone.
The franchise itself will live on, of course. There's still the original books, which still sell, and the movies, which you can watch and love all over again (if that's your thing). And Warners is taking the original novels and readapting them at some point (or so they've threatened) into a TV series so you can watch the original stories all over again in a new form (assuming that the series does well and it's not canceled somewhere into Mr. Potter's third year). Does this mean we might eventually see a new adaptation of Fantastic Beasts as a TV series, then?
Yeah, I wouldn't count on it.