Well, it looks like we all have a lot to look forward to over the next decade (at least). On October 13th, at the special Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them IMAX fan event, J.K. Rowling, in a surprise last-minute appearance, broke the internet by revealing that the future of the Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise has expanded from the previously planned trilogy into five feature films. Not three, not four, but FIVE movies in total, all taking place decades before Harry Potter.
The response to this huge revelation has been mixed among the community. Some, like myself, are ready and willing to trust in the creators to give us a fulfilling new series of films and are prepared for any content the Wizarding World may present to us. Others are much more skeptical, wondering how this story could possibly require so much time, effort, and investment to tell. These detractors say the studio is just exploiting the fanbase with promising us four sequels to a film none of us have even seen yet.
Clearly, Warner Brothers must be extremely confident in the first film, which premieres in just under a month. Why did they choose to allow this news to come out now? Is it to increase hype for the film? It seems like an odd choice, but of course the optimistic half of the fans are not complaining. However, are the detractors right? Is this overkill?
Well, it seems as if these movies won't simply be standalone adventures in the wacky life of Newt Scamander as one would initially assume. If all the Grindelwald and Dumbledore name-dropping is indicative of anything, this series isn't shaping up to simply be a bunch of loosely tied events in the career of a Magizoologist. The story of Newt, his new friends, and his beasts is going to entwine with the epic tale of Grindelwald's rise to power in 20th century Europe and evolve into a grand prequel saga that indirectly (and maybe directly in some ways) affects the events of the original Harry Potter series we already know and love.
(The following paragraph tells the background of Grindelwald and Dumbledore as we know it so far, mostly through the Deathly Hallows novel. If you don't wish to be spoiled, skip this part.)
For those who don't know, in the lore, Gellert Grindelwald was the first powerful Dark Wizard to gain an immense following, second only to Voldemort himself. As a young man, he befriended another young wizard named Albus Dumbledore (you may have heard of him). There are several factors in the literature, Pottermore, and Rowling's own words that indicate Albus fell in love with Grindelwald, but eventually they grew apart over opposing ideals towards Muggles (who, in the American Wizarding community, are known as No-Majs). Grindelwald had a lust for power that was much stronger than any affection he may or may not have reciprocated towards Dumbledore, and during a fierce three-way battle between Gellert, Albus, and Albus's brother Aberforth, the Dumbledores' young sister Ariana was tragically killed. Albus blamed himself, and knew he had to defeat Grindelwald one day. Their final, epic battle eventually took place in the midst of World War II in 1945, and was known as quite possibly the single greatest wizarding duel ever recorded.
How this could combine with Newt Scamander's global travels is not entirely clear as of yet. Some kind of balance must be kept with his beastly, world-spanning adventures and this tragic, fantasy war epic throughout these films. Clearly, there is a fantastic bigger picture being built here.
This being the case, are five films really too much? This is new and original material from J.K. Rowling herself and the brains behind the original series of films. How can this be a bad thing? It's too big to fail.
There is one peculiar aspect of this announcement that has me curious, and it's a question that may surprise you: Is this all there's going to be? Now, I know what you're thinking: How could I possibly want more than five movies? How could I possibly be asking for more already? Let me explain. I don't want more than five Fantastic Beasts movies. I think that series should stop there. What I've been wondering is: Are Wizarding World movies going to continue being made indefinitely a la Star Wars?
Disney has no intention of stopping the content emerging from the world of lightsabers and blasters. Could Warner Brothers say the same about the world of wands and magic?
You may have noticed this symbol on several occasions. It's on every website related to the Potterverse, it's on Fantastic Beasts merchandise and the Cursed Child script book, and "J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World" is a phrase that's being flaunted in all the marketing for the upcoming film (and also in the title of this very article). Warner Brothers trademarked this as an umbrella term for all things magical from Rowling. It's no longer just Harry Potter. This is a brand now, just like Star Wars. It is the name for the entire universe J.K. Rowling created, very similar to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, which encapsulates The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and Tolkien's many other works.
If they were just planning to follow-up the Harry Potter phenomenon with the Fantastic Beasts series, why emphasize this brand name? All they would have to do is include the phrase "before Harry Potter" in all the trailers and marketing and be done with it (although they've started to include that as well in the latest TV spots). But they decided not to stick with that alone. Why is this? Is it because they want a bigger shared universe to eventually become a reality? That would make a lot of sense. Or, maybe they really wanted this brand name just to connect these two series, but that seems a bit unlikely.
Now, I've written an article on tons of other potential ideas for future films already, so that's not where this is going. In the early stages of development, when Fantastic Beasts was announced as a trilogy, I thought it was a sign of huge things to come. Each film would bring Newt Scamander to a different locale, expanding the universe and the lore globally. This would seem like the perfect setup for a massive expanded universe to follow. Now that it's evolved into a five-film prequel saga being released over the course of about eight (or more) years, does this heighten or lessen the chances of a shared universe?
Now, granted, the idea of Newt traveling to a different locale each movie has not changed. That's still the plan, and Newt will remain the main focus throughout the films (as far as we know). However, with a much bigger plot being crafted now, does it leave any room for further films to be made? Will there be any juice left in the gas tank? If not, why would you use this new brand in all the marketing materials?
At this stage, who knows what they're planning. We could get surprise release dates for Wizarding World films unrelated to Fantastic Beasts starting as early as 2021, or some kind of TV series in a few years.
Some of you out there may not even want any more movies made at all. There are plenty of people who are afraid of so many cash-grab sequels, prequels and spin-offs tarnishing the reputation of the original series, but I respectfully dismiss these fears. In my eyes, there's really no reason that any new films can ruin previous ones in a franchise. The originals will always be there and nothing will change that, no matter how good or bad any additional films may be. So, why not keep going? There's nothing to lose (unless you're George Lucas and you inexplicably feel the need to change your already completed and beloved films and get rid of the original cuts).
Of course, I may just be spoiled and I should be thankful that we're getting any new content to begin with, let alone five more films written by J.K. Rowling herself (and yes, she is writing all of them). When you put it that way, yes, I'll still be immensely satisfied if this is where it finally stops, but it's been the "end" of the series about two or three times now, so who's to say it ever will stop? Granted, I think Harry's story is done. Leave any additional material about him and his friends to Pottermore and other supplementary means. No more films with "Harry Potter" in the title until the inevitable reboot in 50 years. And please, don't make any Cursed Child films, Warner Brothers. I know that you know this would be a bad idea in the long run.
So what do you think? Are you a "the-more-the-merrier" type of fan like myself, or do you think people should learn to let these franchises go? If you fall into the latter category, remember that the studios will always remain in the former. Every single film, book, game, TV series, comic, and piece of merchandise ever made is done for profit — everything is a cash-grab in some way. There's always someone involved who is in it for the money, but that doesn't mean these new films (and any other form of entertainment from any property, for that matter) can't have just as much artistic value as what came before. Why not just let yourself be swept away and enjoy the ride? Why can't these franchises go on indefinitely? You never know what stories may connect with you. Try to give every piece of entertainment a chance. If you genuinely dislike something that comes out of a series you love, that's OK. Opinions are OK. Nothing is going to take what you already do love away from you.
Back on topic, do you think that there's an infinite amount of potential with this universe? Do you think the Fantastic Beasts "pentalogy" will be enough? Do you think it should have stayed a trilogy? Would you rather it just be standalone Scamander adventures? Do you think they should've done something else entirely instead? Do you even care about any of this? Whatever is going on inside your head, let me know in the comments below. Let's get a great discussion going and get excited for the future.
Check out the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them below: