Earlier this week, it was reported that Warner Bros. was moving forward with the sequel to 2018’s disappointing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald following a production hiatus. The Harry Potter spinoff prequel earned more than $150 million less than its predecessor, 2016’s successful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, while drawing mostly negative reactions from fans and critics. In response, WB pressed pause on the next Wizarding World installment to reassess. Now, the studio has added Steve Kloves, who penned seven of the eight Harry Potter scripts, to work with J.K. Rowling on the screenplay as WB is reportedly still interested in fulfilling its initial five-film franchise plans.
Rowling’s Wizarding World is one of the most valuable pieces of intellectual property in the world, with the potential to be the sun in WB’s galaxy. The eight Harry Potter films earned nearly $8 billion combined and Rowling’s book series is the best-selling in history with more than 500 million copies sold. Humbly, we suggest an alternative course of action for the IP if parent company WarnerMedia hopes to continue to leverage it successfully.
Step 1: Replace David Yates
Yates has directed the last six films set in the Wizarding World and is slated to helm Fantastic Beasts three through five. He’s a capable veteran with a firm grasp of this universe, but his lengthy run with the property has left it a bit stale and in need of visual refreshment. Magical set pieces begin to blur together in monotony under the blue and green-tinted lens of spell-casting and witchcraft.
It’s no coincidence that Alfonso Cuarón’s The Prisoner of Azkaban is the franchise’s most visually striking entry. If the experience could be grilled and served like a nice steak dinner, his film would be kobe beef. Other skilled directors that could craft an engrossing cinematic experience for Newt Scamander and Co. include Marielle Heller, who dabbles with some surrealist and dreamy imagery in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Alma Har’el, whose Honey Boy boasts a hypnotic dream-like quality and deep pathos.
Step 2: Reign in Fantastic Beasts
WB intends to follow through on its original five-film arc, and has enlisted Kloves to co-write Fantastic Beasts 3 with Rowling. At this point, Rowling may have written herself into a corner by introducing so many mysteries and dangling plot threads that the story may indeed require five films to sort out. But we’ve seen what happens to franchises that overstay their welcome (sorry, Terminator) after audience interest begins to wane. What might be difficult to do but in the best interest of the IP’s long-term health is to close out the Fantastic Beasts series as a trilogy.
This would provide the next film with defined boundaries that free it from the clumsy necessity of planting seeds for future installments (one more vague tease about terrible-hair-cut-character Credence and I’m hitting eject). This way, the creative team can focus solely on providing the best possible isolated conclusion that reinvigorates fan enthusiasm without over-saturating their tastes.
Step 3: Develop Exclusive Wizarding World Content for HBO Max
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is unquestionably the single-most consistently successful creation in Hollywood history. However, the MCU’s vehicle of expansion does not track along the Y axis thus far—adding more characters, locations and superpowers is not the same as exponential growth (studio head Kevin Feige recognizes this and is attacking the issue with an enticing Phase IV slate). But the Harry Potter franchise can expand and contract as freely as a caterpillar.
The beautiful thing about grand fantasy series such as Rowling’s is that there are endless spinoff possibilities thanks to centuries of fictional history. A new series for WarnerMedia’s forthcoming streaming service HBO Max could be as directly linked or fresh and unfettered as its wants. Who’d say no to a Tom Riddle prequel? Aren’t you the least bit curious about Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw and the founding of Hogwarts one thousand years before the events of Harry Potter? The free range of motion the source material provides is unending.
Step 4: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Cursed Child, a two-part play written by Jack Thorne, may be needled by hardcore Potter Heads, but it’s a Broadway box office smash and the script broke sales records in 2016. It feels inevitable that Warner Bros. will attempt to reunite the original cast of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in 10 years for a film adaptation of the play, which picks up with an adult Harry Potter who has become a father of three and a devoted Auror for the Ministry of Magic.
Regardless of the fanbase’s nitpicks with the script, there’s no doubt that there would be global interest in seeing the original Harry Potter cast come together 18 or so years after Deathly Hallows Part II. The blockbuster would be a safe bet to join the $1 billion club and extend the cultural footprint of the series to a new generation.