Once upon a time the advent of a new Harry Potter release was a huge deal, and that was true for me as much as the next 90s kid.
I still remember the day my mum, frustrated by mine and my sister’s begging, abruptly parked the car, left us sitting in there and returned a few minutes later with the newly-released Prisoner of Azkaban – or the holiday where my dad read us the Chamber of Secrets so perfectly, so insidiously, that I tried to negotiate the hotel room exclusively by mirror for the next few hours just in case a basilisk was lurking.
By the release of the Half-Blood Prince I’d somehow ended up as a talking head in a schoolkids’ recap of the series that was broadcast on ITV (still screencapped and shared by my friends around a decade later). The Deathly Hallows? Bought at midnight from Tesco and read in a 10-minute break during a 24-hour dance-mat-a-thon (long story), only alerting people to my antics when I fell asleep mid-sentence, dropping the book on my face with an almighty thunk.
Yes, I liked Harry Potter a lot – which is why it’s a little galling to find how unenthusiastic I am with the reminder that another Fantastic Beasts film is grimly chugging its way towards the multiplexes. Somehow, the magic of Harry Potter had sapped away, and the person who so desperately rushed to finish Order of the Phoenix so that he could give his friends fake spoilers (who could believe it when Mrs Weasley was Voldemort’s real mum?) is left vaguely considering that he might try and catch the movie when it’s out, if he’s not busy.
In fairness to JK Rowling, the fault doesn’t entirely lie with the recent Fantastic Beasts movies. I never really felt the same enthusiasm for the big-screen versions of the stories as I did for the books, and while I watched them all religiously – my friends and I even did a dress-up movie marathon at one point, though we did that for a lot of films – I found it a little odd when people said the release of Deathly Hallows part 2 was the end of an era in 2010. Hadn’t that come three years earlier when the book came out?
And I was right – because while the Harry Potter books haven’t continued, the Potter movie machine has. Just a few years later, fans around the world were preparing for the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, loosely (and I mean loosely) based on a World Book Day textbook that was somehow to become a trilogy, then five-film series, of blockbuster movies.
Obviously, there was anticipation for the first Fantastic Beasts – and when it came out, it was…just OK. I liked the aesthetic and some of the characters, but the tie-in to a larger plot about more Wizard Fascism seemed like a bit of a stretch. Whatever – maybe the next one would be better.
As it turns out, Crimes of Grindelwald wasn’t. And now I’m staring down the barrel of three more films filled with magic, incredible creatures and spells, and I’m just not enthusiastic about any of it. Somehow, over the past few years the release and regularly reported production of various mediocre Potter products (and I do include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in that, sorry, the plot makes no sense) has worn away my goodwill and interest.
Of course, not everyone feels this way, and there are plenty of fans who love and are excited by the Fantastic Beasts movies. But they’re super-fans who’ll support the series no matter what –and the thing is, my Harry Potter-related stories really WEREN’T the antics of a crazed Potterhead. I think I was pretty typical of every kid around my age who grew up with the books, which were the biggest literary sensation of a lifetime (if not a century).
For a time, when it came to Harry Potter everyone was that kind of fan…until they weren’t. The people who really were super-fans still are, I imagine, for the most part, and a lot of other people still have fond enough memories to go and check out Newt Scamander’s next adventure, but it must be a case of diminishing returns. After all, Crimes of Grindelwald is the lowest-grossing Harry Potter release to date, and that was with the return of fan-favourite characters like Dumbledore.
And unless Fantastic Beasts 3 finds some way to inject a little bit of the old magic into its story again, we risk Harry Potter becoming like the Terminator franchise – a going concern only defined by its past glories, and how poorly the recent releases compare to them.
Fantastic Beasts 3 will be released in November 2021