Fantastic Beasts: The Problems with Property Rights

Jack Rose, Cav-Culture Editor

In 1984, New World Pictures released a film with an unusual name and a dark premise called Children of the Corn, based on the Stephen King story of the same name. A total of eight sequels were made. Not because someone wanted to continue the story, but to hold onto the property rights. Similar stories can be said of the Amazing Spider-Man Series, or multiple Fantastic Four Movies. Studios will make just about anything to hold onto property rights, and Warner Bros. is no better.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third movie in Warner Bros. Prequel Series to the beloved Harry Potter franchise. The movie falters and fails in numerous places, especially in its lackluster plot, but has some success with characters. Focusing heavily on Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), and his “secrets:” an evil former lover, a grumpy brother, and a troubled nephew. However, few of these performances are particularly well played.

The movie primarily focuses on Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald, an evil wizard focused on starting a global war to kill all non-magical people. His plan to declare war on all “muggles” involves him winning an election for the “Supreme Mugwump,” because if Star Wars has taught us anything, adding politics to your prequel movie makes it a surefire hit.

Despite the silly political aspect of his plan, Grindlewald’s performance is spectacular. Despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to his spot in the role, Mads Mikkelsen plays a fantastic killer Wizard. Being the third person to hold the role, Mikkelsen’s cold-hearted deliverance of dialogue truly sells his desire to dispatch any non magical person. 

Also of note is Jude Law’s performance as a younger Albus Dumbledore. The actor does a great job making the role his own, while still clearly taking inspiration from the two Dumbledore’s that came before him. His bigger fights and his smaller interactions truly help to flesh out Law’s performance. 

While the film fails in numerous places, perhaps the biggest failure is by Warner Bros. Studios. The Fantastic Beasts franchise exists to allow Warner Bros. to hold onto the intellectual property rights of Harry Potter. The first movie might stand as the exception. A monster hunter in the wizarding world? That’s a potentially interesting idea. Franchise it? That’s where you run into problems. 

The namesake of Fantastic Beasts came from a single mention of a book on a shopping list. It appears once in the Harry Potter book series, and after that, J.K. Rowling wrote it into existence as part of a Hogwarts Library Collection, along with the Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Quidditch Through the Ages. Oh, to think that in a different life we could’ve been watching the Tales of Beedle the Bard: The Secrets of Quidditch!

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. has dug itself into a hole by picking Fantastic Beasts. With a potential fourth movie in the series on the horizon, the Beasts that are oh so Fantastical continue to be shoehorned into a series about politics. Gone is the fun movie about recapturing magic animals, leaving only a light-hearted zoologist in a story about race tension. While the beasts are a part of the story, the plot would be no different without them.

The future of the Fantastic Beasts is completely unknown. A money-hungry studio, an author that won’t stop talking, and an unjustified firing have left the series in disarray. While it’s likely we might get another movie with an unusual name and a darker premise, here’s hoping we never see Fantastic Beasts VII: the Corn Children return. Hopefully, someone is able to cobble together a finale fit for the wizarding universe, but based on the current track record, a satisfying end may just be another non-existent fantastic beast.