The one cool thing about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (the two titles have nothing to do with each other) is all in the final trailer: The music, the special effects and production value. A blockbuster film franchise which can afford the best actors and has no excuse to suck; as incredibly well outlined by The Cosmonaut Variety Hour to which I am piggybacking off of) mightily does. It is an incomprehensible film, equally incomprehensible that a 9 film series of well produced films can mess up so badly when greed and story desperation meets the acute control Hollywood likes to place on its products. It is one of the worst films of last year and in a fair world would be nominated for a Razzie if the Razzies actually mattered.
Commercial Performance – The Box Office gross of this film compared to its predecessor: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them makes my prediction in that review come true: diminishing returns. This was not a sequel we needed for one, and for another the film we got was bad. Audiences can tell a little when a movie is bad especially in the Rotten Tomatoes era, and they will stay away. The first film opened to $74 Million, this one sixty-two. This movie uses up all the charm the series had on a $200 million dollar budget and a grand $653 million worldwide. That amounts to a 29% slide and up to 33 if you compare domestic grosses.
Future Films – Warner Bros. got away with a bad movie. This will not happen again. Even if the next film is tolerable, let’s say on par with the first one it won’t saved this now doomed franchise. The other factor is that before the performance of this film the series was extended narratively from a planned trilogy to five films. Audiences are slowly getting around to tiring of endless middle chapter franchises like this one which are nothing but set ups for an endless array of future films. Studios don’t often notice or care for quality dips between main films. They look at release dates (which are great and now placed way in advance, so no excuse) and hone in on one focus-tested audience complaint that usually contradicts the story filmmakers want to tell. This is because audiences don’t really know what they want, they’re only meant to enjoy films not criticize them. In this case, the likely result will likely feature less Johnny Depp, who has slowly been sliding off the Hollywood scale due to his growingly tired performances and off-screen behaviour that labels him an abuser.
Solutions – Here’s the problem, and Johnny Depp is just one of them. The movie was bad yet movie executives are business people not creative writers so they don’t know exactly what went wrong and the likely culprit – Screenwriter J.K. Rowling is also the main asset. There’s also a matter of director David Yates who has been doing the same franchise for 12 years. Early Potter movies particularly the more episodic first four: The Philosopher’s Stone (2001), The Chamber of Secrets (2002), The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Goblet of Fire (2005) succeeded by mixing up the formula with new directors. Even the fifth in 2007 which introduced Yates also had a different writer and composer. The franchise either has to be shaken up with a new writer and director or be put to bed early with the next one being the altogether final. Fantastic Beasts 3, which really should be called something else at this point since it’s plot point C and is not metaphorical arrives in theatres on November 12th, 2021. At this rate I predict a $30-40 million opening range and a barely over $100 domestic total and a $400 million worldwide total.
A) Get a completely new Director or even one of the old ones, and a new writer, even one of the old ones to create a fresher if familiar detour from what we’ve seen with the last two films.
B) Go all-in on finale that makes up for the misery that was the second one worthwhile, pull no punches. Let audiences know ahead of time that all bets are off.
C) Make a much smaller $100 million dollar film (which isn’t that small) that is smaller in story scope where the main character belongs will make up for the losses of grosses. Play to the dedicated audience and fanbase like the later Potter films and double down on the strengths of the series, the lighthearted charm, the production value, make a more romantic film, very much like Harry Potter 6 before 7 & 8 that closes off Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein’s romantic subplot so we have no distractions going into the next film but also don’t need it to tell the existing story.