A critically-acclaimed franchise concludes on a pretty high note but its creator has trouble letting go and decides to work on a prequel some years later, only for the results to be middling and alienating to a big part of their fanbase.
If this sounds like George Lucas and Star Wars then you would be correct. But it seems like this description is gradually becoming more suited to someone whom we thought would avoid this little conundrum: JK Rowling.
Following the release of the god-awful Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, it appears that Rowling is getting dangerously close to George Lucas territory with her Fantastic Beasts prequel series, as well as every other supplementary Harry Potter-related project.
Whereas Harry Potter benefited from various other people’s voices, a series of well-plotted books to help frame the films, and Rowling having limited creative input, Fantastic Beasts is relying entirely on Rowling’s imagination and one super-thin fake textbook as the source material.
Couple that with Rowling’s near-total creative control on Fantastic Beasts and what you get is series of films that alienate fans due to baffling plot holes, inconsistencies, weird retcons, and the focusing on the wrong stuff rather than what made Harry Potter so good in the first place. I’d much rather Rowling be focusing on properly defining the characters in Fantastic Beasts than knowing how wizards peed back in the day.
That’s not to say that prequels don’t work – just look at Red Dead Redemption 2 – but the big difference here is the creative team behind the prequels compared to the originals.
For Star Wars, Lucas had a team of directors, editors, and writers to help shape his vision for the Original Trilogy before he took over all the creative reins for the Prequel Trilogy. Likewise, the Harry Potter films were all made by a rotating roster of directors and writers before JK Rowling took on near-total creative control for Fantastic Beasts.
Without people to say no to their worst ideas, it basically meant that Lucas and Rowling had free rein to do whatever they want. But in letting Lucas run wild with ideas, we ended up with awful moments like “midichlorians” and “I don’t like sand” while also losing sight of what made Star Wars great in the first place.
Right now, Rowling is in danger of going down that same path and she’s only a few grains away from her own “I don’t like sand moment,” though she’s come close in Crimes Of Grindelwald with Professor McGonagall, Nagini, and whatever timeline wrangling she did to will Credence Barebone into existence for.
There’s still time for Rowling to course correct and avoid falling completely to the dark side. She may have created the Potterverse and it’s 100% in her right to have a say in everything that goes on, but the world is so expansive that it’s nearly impossible for just one person to keep tabs on every single detail while creating new things that are of the same quality.
What Rowling needs at this point is a few extra creative voices around her who are unafraid to tell her, “nope, that’s a crap idea” or “that doesn’t make sense.” That’s not to say that she doesn’t have much to offer to Harry Potter fans with regards to the Fantastic Beasts films, it’s just that every diamond needs polishing before it shines.
With Fantastic Beasts 3 being announced for 2021, it remains to be seen whether Rowling is able to right the ship for the franchise or whether we need to restart the discussion on how we shouldn’t have any more Harry Potter stories for 20 years