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Fantastic Beasts Post-Mortem: Where Did the Franchise Go Wrong?

Recent comments by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav appear to indicate that the Fantastic Beasts franchise isn’t moving forward. During a Q3 earnings call, he stated that his goal was to focus more on franchises like Harry Potter and Superman, implying that these franchises do not have any movies in the pipeline. This, combined with the poor performance of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, would suggest that Fantastic Beasts 4 & 5 have been scrapped.

With this in mind, it’s time to take a look back at the franchise and see where it went wrong. While Harry Potter was a global phenomenon, Fantastic Beasts never attained the same level of popularity as its predecessor, despite Warner Bros.’ faith in the project. Obviously, the success or failure of a film is due to compounding factors, and can’t easily be explained, so the scope of this article will be limited to just five basic reasons.
Bad Worldbuilding (Harry Potter wasn’t designed to go global)Harry Potter had a simple premise. Set in a magical boarding school, author JK Rowling only ever explored smaller sections of the wider Wizarding World. Fans saw glimpses of Beauxbatons and Durmstrange during Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and got to see select locations across Wizarding Britain, but the scope was relatively narrow.

This worked when the series was centered around Harry Potter, but the Wizarding World doesn’t really lend itself to cohesive worldbuilding. Rowling has famously said that math is beyond her (for instance, Hogwarts is supposed to have 1,000 students, but if one does the math based on Harry’s class size, only 280 students could possibly be attending), and it’s clear from the films that Rowling does not necessarily do her research when it comes to other cultures.

The central conceit of Fantastic Beasts was being able to see the wider world and its history. Unfortunately, it felt half-baked and just wasn’t as compelling as it could have been. Native American practices were appropriated to provide some exotic “magic”, while American history was largely ignored. Meanwhile, Rowling provided fans with more information about the schooling system of the Wizarding World, which includes a grand total of one school for the entirety of South America, one for Africa, and one for east Asia. And all of these schools were based on the British boarding school model. It made the world feel smaller, rather than larger.

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