It has been more than two weeks since the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in most markets and no one seems to care. Sure, people’ve seen it, and its global box office seems to be nearing a respectable $300 million mark, but it’s nowhere near what a tried-and-true franchise is meant to inspire and deserve.
This is a film set in the same world as the cultural phenomenon and box-office monster of the Harry Potter series. It also shares the creative team. David Yates is at the helm of the franchise, just like the last three Potter films. But for some reason, the franchise continues to be a case of falling returns.
With a budget of $200 million, Secrets of Dumbledore needs to make around $800 million if it is to recoup its budget, let alone profit. The film needs a miraculous recovery at the box office, fueled by a never-before-seen group of fans to further its business of positive word-of-mouth now disillusioned with the franchise.
That is of course unlikely.
What is Fantastic Beasts?
The franchise is named after Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a book that is both real and fictional. Written by Magizoologist (a wizard or witch who studies magical creatures) Newt Scamander, it was also written by Rowling and published as an actual book.
The Hogwarts graduate and Englishman Newt, who is played by Eddie Redmayne in the film, is extremely likeable as a batty but talented wizard. We find him in New York in the first film, ostensibly to release a trafficked Thunderbird to his Arizona home, but in the sequel it is revealed that he was created by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law, who penned the younger version of the future Hogwarts Headmaster). sent there) to keep an eye out for Gellert Grindelwald, the franchise’s supervillain and the most powerful Dark Lord in history, until Voldemort surpassed him.
Subsequent films and the franchise as a whole lead to the titanic duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, his former lover. The duel will make Dumbledore the greatest wizard of his time.
Why is the franchise a failure?
The first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, promised a return to the wizarding world and was fairly well made, receiving positive reviews (74 percent on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes) and was a commercial success ($814 million worldwide Box Secretariat ).
But its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was panned across the board by critics (36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and was also a box-office failure ($654.85 million). And now Secrets of Dumbledore, while better received than Grindelwald’s crimes, is likely to be an even bigger disaster.
Some might say the franchise was doomed from the start. Harry Potter films worked because writers and directors had thousands of pages of source material available in the form of JK Rowling’s books. Fantastic Beasts, on the other hand, had no concrete basis to start a franchise.
And the tentative decision to split the franchise into five parts based on outlines (maybe) didn’t inspire much confidence. The whole franchise reeked of money grabs from Warner Bros and Rowling in an attempt to capitalize on Harry Potter’s popularity. The first film was a success and the franchise would grow in popularity in future installments. But Grindelwald’s crime turned out to be a total mess with a plot that was simultaneously too complicated and too simplistic. The film was crowded and overly long and didn’t have many of those wow moments that Potter films littered.
It didn’t help that fans weren’t too happy about it Johnny Depp, who played the super villain of the film Grindelwald, was part of the cast. Depp was accused of domestic violence by his ex-wife Amber Heard and became something of a pariah in Hollywood. But Warner Bros stuck by Depp, at least until he lost his defamation case against British tabloid The Sun, which had called him a “wife beater”.
But all hell broke loose when Rowling came under fire for her allegedly transphobic tweets and remarks. Her contention is that there should be a difference between biological women and trans women and that there are only two genders as opposed to gender which can be multiple.
She has angered transgender people, activists, and their allies, many of whom have begun reassessing the diversity quotient in their books. She once quoted and tweeted an article headlined “Opinion: Creating a more equal post.”COVID-19 World for menstruators.” She joked, “People who menstruate.” I’m sure there used to be a word for these people. someone help me whoops wimpund? woomud?”
Not only her fans, but even stars of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films sent messages of solidarity to the trans community, insinuating that they don’t support Rowling’s comments. Emma WatsonHermione Granger, of the Harry Potter series, tweeted: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t are who they say they are.”
Eddie Redmayne, who plays the lead role of Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series, which falls under Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise, told Variety, “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I’ve tried to… constantly training. This is an ongoing process. As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to be absolutely clear about where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary identities are valid.”
Can Fantastic Beasts recover?
The short answer is yes, but Rowling should probably retire as a screenwriter. I said earlier that when it was announced Fantastic Beasts seemed like a money grab, and it’s true. But cash grabs have worked before. Released in 2014, the Lego film was the very definition of a corporate product, but its stellar creative team (Phil Lord and Chris Miller) ensured that the film not only justified its existence, it proved it, whatever the subject matter is fact that great writers can always work miracles with it.
Rowling is certainly one of the greatest fantasies of her age, the modern day Enid Blyton, but as should be clear by now, she’s not a very good screenwriter. Because of this, Steve Cloves, who basically wrote the screenplay for the entire Harry Potter series, was invited to help her with Secrets of Dumbledore. But even that wasn’t enough. Perhaps Cloves should take out loans sold in future installments — if, and this is a big if, the franchise has a future.