Hollywood is nothing if not committed to ensuring a popular movie franchise can live on indefinitely. That’s made it all that more strange to have Harry Potter lay dormant since 2011’s Deathly Hallows – Part 2 wrapped up the series once and for all. Of course we’ve seen J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world sputter back to life in 2016, first with theHarry Potter and the Cursed Child stage production in London, and soon with the first of what will be five separate Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films.
The announcement came straight from Rowling at a global fan event promoting the first movie, set to release November 18. “I’ve now done the plotting properly,” she promised, “so we’re pretty sure it’s going to be five movies.” She later clarified on Twitter that five movies isn’t a minimum number, rather it’s the exact roadmap for Fantastic Beasts. She’ll also be the screenwriter for the duration, and is reportedly putting the finishing touches on the screenplay for the second film in the series.
The first question that springs up in light of this news is: Do we really need five Fantastic Beasts movies? There’s certainly a strong case to be made for either side. That said, it’s tough to not have your initial reaction be an audible groan. If this was an artistic decision designed around the feeling that there was a mountain of untapped potential within the Harry Potter universe, that’d be one thing. Hell, even the presence of a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trilogy seemed like an OK idea. But five movies? That’s a financial move intent on bleeding the Potter-verse dry.
It’s worth clarifying that there’s tons of history in Rowling’s Harry Potter saga that we’ve yet to even scratch the surface of. The years leading up to the rise of Voldemort and the birth of Harry are practically begging to get filled in. We even have the setup for a showdown with the legendary dark wizard, Grindelwald, who terrorized the world for the better part of the 1930s and early-’40s.
With the star power of Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander leading the way, there’s little doubting the potential here. What we’re calling into question instead is the sheer breadth of a pentalogy that is operating without the source novel support the original Harry Potter movies had. Fantastic Beasts will be upstream without a paddle so to speak. More than that, it’ll be attempting to build out a new chapter of the Potter-verse with nothing more than a 40-some page fictional textbook as a basis for the story.
This leads us to the inevitable question of whether Fantastic Beasts is in fact filling a demand for the audience, or simply lining the pockets of the studio. While the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, there’s something to be said for Hollywood’s propensity to continue stories that should have ended long ago for the express purpose of squeezing money out of a franchise at the expense of the overall narrative.
The one thing we can derive a fair share of hope from is the fact that J.K. Rowling will be heavily utilized from start to finish. As the one penning all five screenplays, she’ll be the primary architect of the world she herself created in the first place. The original Harry Potter films all featured a separate screenwriter who adapted Rowling’s novel to the screen. This makes Fantastic Beasts the most involved she’s ever been with any of the Harry Potter films (at least on paper). That alone is enough to at least hope for a solid opening chapter to the saga.
Ultimately, we won’t know much until the November 18 release. But even if it’s an amazing movie worthy of its beloved source material, the fact that we still have four more of these on the docket is an exhausting prospect. People will eventually tire of the never-ending mega-franchise, and even with Star Wars planning a new movie every year for the rest of eternity, no one will be immune.
The future of the Harry Potter saga will be an interesting one to keep an eye on all the same. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn’t short on creative talent across the board, and it’s clear that J.K. Rowling isn’t finished telling the story of the wizarding world. It’s all merely a question of when it’ll hit the inevitable point of diminishing returns. When it does, the legacy of Harry Potter will be a difficult one to assess.
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