Why Secrets of Dumbledore should be the last Fantastic Beasts movie

As new Fantastic Beasts film The Secrets of Dumbledore finally arrives in cinemas after plenty of delays and one high-profile recasting, our Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor Huw Fullerton shares his opinion on whether the third film should also be the last in the troubled franchise…

Dogged with issues behind-the-scenes, presumably very expensive to make and derided by critics, the Fantastic Beasts series must be a bit of a headache for Warner Bros.

It has more popular franchises in its stable that deliver a better return, and don’t attract the kind of controversy that Beasts seems to. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone if it just… went away?

Perhaps it’s no wonder that The Secrets of Dumbledore seems to be angling to wrap up the story, neatly tying up the stories of several characters despite earlier plans to make two more films. Perhaps that was always a little ambitious.

As far back as the films’ first announcement, I had my doubts. While I loved the Harry Potter books growing up, I found the heavily adapted films more of a mixed bag, and the idea of creating a full trilogy from a slim World Book Day novella felt like a stretch (I was always more of a Quidditch Through the Ages fan myself, anyway).

Still, in 2016 the first film came out, and it was… fine. There were some funny bits, some awkward shoehorns, and a sad bit where a great Colin Farrell performance was replaced by a peroxide Johnny Depp. It did the job, was nothing special, and didn’t exactly burn down the box office – it was the ninth-most profitable film of the year, the fifth-biggest opening for a Harry Potter film and the seventh-best opening that month.

Good enough, basically. Soon, screenwriter and creator JK Rowling revealed that it would be a five-film franchise instead of a trilogy… and it feels like that’s where the problems began.

The second film, 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, was an incoherent mess that undid a lot of goodwill brought by the first film. Riddled with confusing and irrelevant subplots and an overabundance of characters, the film would go on to gross less than the first Beasts film (and any other Wizarding World film, in fact) and attract more negative reviews.

Johnny Depp is Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 2
Johnny Depp is Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 2 (Warner Bros, SD)

Off the screen, Fantastic Beasts had begun to bring other problems for Warner Bros. Star Johnny Depp (a huge part of the second film) was accused of abusive behaviour by his ex-partner Amber Heard, and in 2017 Rowling wrote a defence of his casting that many fans found tone-deaf.

Depp has always strenuously denied Heard’s claims, and later, after an article in the Sun called Depp a “wife-beater”, the actor sued the newspaper for defamation, but lost the case, with the court hearing a number of troubling incidents between him and Heard. This further damaged his career and reputation, and after filming just one scene for the third Beasts movie he was asked by Warner Bros to resign.

Rowling herself had also become mired in controversy. The once-beloved creator of the world’s biggest book series had become an outspoken critic of gender recognition law reform, and in 2020 wrote a blog post explaining her views. Critics (including some of the cast of the Wizarding World films) have called some of her language and arguments transphobic. Rowling strongly rejects these characterisations, but the whole affair has cast a pall over her relationship with these films and the Harry Potter/Wizarding World franchise as a whole.

If you look at Rowling’s Twitter feed this week, you wouldn’t know she’d co-written a huge blockbuster about to be released around the world. Almost every tweet relates to trans issues and Rowling’s arguments about them, the entire feed completely consumed by the issue with no space to promote Secrets of Dumbledore.

While once having the adored, famous author behind Harry Potter on board for a film franchise would have been appealing, her involvement now must feel like more of a mixed blessing, especially when considering the fans upset by the positions she’s taken.

Ezra Miller plays Credence Barebone
Ezra Miller plays Credence Barebone WB

Even now, more publicity nightmares come out of the woodwork. Recently, series star Ezra Miller was arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment in Hawaii, with Rolling Stone reporting that Warner Bros is in crisis talks over Miller’s future with the studio.

If it wasn’t too much of a hacky line, you could say this franchise is cursed. And it feels like some of the people making these films know it. The Secrets of Dumbledore feels more stripped back, simpler – like a franchise trying to tie up loose ends, rather than hint at future storylines (as the first two films did).

By the close of the film it’s hard to escape the feeling that we’ve reached some kind of ending, with most of the main characters concluding their arcs and no new threads added to hint at what’s to come.

Recently, producer David Heyman revealed that the script for the next film hasn’t been written yet, which feels like a telling admission. At best, we’re a long way off from any more sequels, and if Warner Bros was serious about making more it feels like it would already be prepping for another shoot.

Maybe it’d be a blessing for all of us if this was the end of the road for Fantastic Beasts. While there may be a few die-hards still eating up every frame of the films, it’s hard to argue that this trilogy has been significantly less popular and successful than the Harry Potter films, and with a significantly more toxic discourse that has overshadowed any small positives at every turn.

Fundamentally, it doesn’t feel like anyone behind-the-scenes or sitting in cinemas would particularly miss Fantastic Beasts if it was gone. In fact, many would probably be glad that the whole messy chapter was over and done with – so perhaps it’s time that we closed this book for good.

Read more: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore review

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in UK cinemas now.

Author Profile

Scott Baber
Scott Baber
Senior Managing editor

Manages incoming enquiries and advertising. Based in London and very sporty. Worked news and sports desks in local paper after graduating.

Email Scott@MarkMeets.com

Leave a Reply