The past few months have been somewhat tumultuous for J.K. Rowling and her wizarding world’s adaptations.
Wizarding World News
The first bit of news came from whispers of a feature film adaptation from a report from Fox News back in early September. Die-hard fans of the Harry Potter architect, J.K. Rowling, became crazed with delight when Rowling posted a cryptic tweet for the first time in months, stating that “Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places,” with the hashtags #HarryPotter and #CursedChild attached to the picture, which, by the way, features Voldemort’s Dark Mark in black-and-white and the Slytherin snake.
While Fox News acknowledges that The Sun first reported the story, I fear that they have jumped to conclusions. Nothing has been announced ever since then about it – only a questionable piece from Cinemablend about Rupert Grint being open about returning to his role of Ron Weasley – and what has been announced in the universe of the ‘Harry Potter’ wizarding world has been quite the opposite.
Just a few days ago, the New York Times reported massive nosedives for the weekly grosses and ticket prices for the Broadway play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The weekly income for the show has fallen under 50% of its peak and ticket prices are now down to a mere 47% of what they were last year – with the show failing to make a weekly $1 million gross for the first time (sourcing from Broadway League).
After becoming a hit in London, the show has hit a major speed bump here in New York and the news is quite concerning for the producers of the show after placing a lot of faith in the project and are banking on long-term success in order to make a profit.
The other news regarding the already-existing movies is that Warner Bros pushed back the production start date of Fantastic Beasts 3 to next year and the release date to May 2021. The bigger news, though, is that J.K. Rowling will only be the co-writer of the film after the well-documented underperformance of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald with critics and at the box office. Steve Kloves, the newly announced co-writer of Fantastic Beasts 3, is a trusted screenwriter of Rowling after having received sole screenwriting credit on all but one of the original Harry Potter films.
The Future of the Wizarding World
So what does this mean for Rowling and the fate of her wizarding world’s universe? Obviously times have been better for Rowling as the new prequel film series has not caught on like she – or Warner Bros – have hoped. The inability to capitalize on the massive success of the two-part finale of Deathly Hallows (the latter of which grossed $1.34 billion) has to be a little concerning, especially considering the fact that Rowling has had complete creative control of the narrative and has even written the past two screenplays of Fantastic Beasts herself.
Although I realize my opinion matters about as much as Harry Potter’s opinion of Rita Skeeter in the wizarding world, I have been skeptical of the idea of adapting Fantastic Beasts to the big-screen the way Rowling has so far. It feels like a mish-mash of a dark Harry Potter prequel (Grindelwald, Young Dumbledore) and a whimsical tale of how a textbook was written. The tone of the first Fantastic Beasts film was quite inconsistent and the retcons of its sequel were equally as polarizing – despite my preference of a darker tone in most cases. There is so much potential for other stories to tell within the wizarding world that this comes off to most film fans as an unplanned cash grab, which I know is not the intent of Rowling.
Perhaps the problem lies with director David Yates, whom has directed the final four Harry Potter films and the two Fantastic Beasts films so far (and scheduled to shoot the remaining three films in the series). Maybe the issue is with Rowling’s inexperience with the genre of screenwriting. It would also be quite easy to blame Warner Bros as well for rushing back into the franchise. Since the crew behind-the-scenes have been with the production of these films for so long, maybe it is time for some fresh faces to take over. I understand that Rowling will never relinquish her power over the IP, but a new director and screenwriter that she trusts and can work well with might be the right ingredient to spice up her pumpkin pastries. It worked brilliantly in what is regarded as the best-received and fan-favorite of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with Academy Award-winning director, Alfonso Cuarón, as well as in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Yates’ first film along with new screenwriter, Michael Goldenberg).
I do recognize the argument with this idea, though. Warner Bros tried this with their DC movie universe and it drastically failed on every level. They replaced Zack Snyder with Joss Whedon and composer Junkie XL with Danny Elfman in an effort to completely change the tone of the film. The massive reshoots and choppy editing job resulted in a mess of a film and a bomb at the box office (although Warner Bros can fix that if they listen to the large fan campaign, #ReleaseTheSnyderCut).
The biggest difference, though, is that Warner Bros did this to their comic book universe with only a few films under its belt and in the middle of building their universe. The Harry Potter films began nearly two decades ago and is still one of the largest IPs in pop-culture. Rowling has been a major part of the 8-film run (7 novels) and now two prequel films in a new series of the same wizarding world. Yates has been the director of 6 consecutive films in the franchise and even Kloves has been the credited screenwriter on almost all of the original Harry Potter films. It is a much different scenario.
With the news of the Cursed Child play dramatically underperforming in the U.S. and with the bad press that the Fantastic Beasts films have continually built up, it will be interesting to see if Rowling and Warner Bros can “right the ship” and recapture some of the magic of the original series.
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