In 2016, Warner Brothers released Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, achieving generally positive reactions from fans and critics. The J.K. Rowling-penned magical adventure film transported viewers to never-before-seen locations in the beloved Wizarding World and introduced us to promising new characters like Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).
Fans saw Newt and his enchanted suitcase of creatures as welcome additions to the wider Wizarding World. In the first film, Rowling and director David Yates managed to deftly balance and intermingle the lighthearted Newt plotline with the darker Dumbledore and Grindelwald story. There were some worrying signs of tonal clashing early on, but the first film largely succeeded in its aims.
However, this was only the first film of a proposed five-film series. Once the second film hit theaters, the wheels began to come off in earnest. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald made quick work of turning those worrying signs of tonal clashing into blaring alarm bells as it haphazardly hodgepodged family-friendly Newt against the infanticidal fascist Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).
It takes a one-in-a-million screenwriter to make Nifflers and baby killing co-exist in the same script, and clearly, Rowling was not cut out for the task. To make matters worse, the film’s plot was needlessly convoluted, rife with clunky dialogue and questionable characterization.
For the sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Warner Brothers enlisted Harry Potter series alum Steve Kloves to aid Rowling in making the script feel less novelistic and more cinematic. There were modest improvements, but for fans and critics, they were too little and too late, as the film barely broke even at the box office. Warner Brothers has given no word on its future plans for the Fantastic Beasts series, but the fourth film has not yet been greenlit. And judging by reactions from stars involved with the franchise, it seems all but a foregone conclusion that the saga is dead in the water.
Where does the Wizarding World go now?
Between the ongoing Rowling boycotts and the apparent end of the Fantastic Beasts series, the Wizarding World is facing major setbacks. In April, Warner Brothers announced a reboot of the original Harry Potter series that would air on its streaming platform Max. Considering the compounding controversies plaguing this IP, the safe bet might be the right bet for Warner Brothers.
But if they decided to take a risk on a brand new Wizarding World story, what would that look like? Since Rowling has a Nagini-like legal stranglehold on all things Potter, any prospective Wizarding World film or series would require her stamp of approval. Bigotries and shortcomings aside, there’s no denying the cinematic potential of the vast magical world she created. If she loosened her grip on the franchise and allowed other creatives a chance to expand upon her work, the Wizarding World could become a cinematic universe popular and profitable enough to rival the MCU.
For the sake of argument, let’s imagine a world in which Rowling did just that. She’s decided to take a role similar to Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige in overseeing the creation of a Wizarding World cinematic universe. New filmmakers and writers are tapped to work on interconnected projects based on her fictional world. Just as Marvel Studios utilizes Disney+ as a home for long-form stories based in the MCU, Warner Brothers would use its flagship streaming platform, Max. In a world like this, what type of stories would we see?
Mapping out the Wizarding World cinematic universe
There’s a reason why Warner Brothers has decided to reboot the original Harry Potter series. It contains a treasure trove of iconic characters that people would love to see on screen again. For our hypothetical Wizarding World cinematic universe (or WCU for short), we’ll make that same savvy decision and choose to start it in Britain directly after the events of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
We’ll see adult versions of Harry and Hermione running the British Ministry of Magic and Ron standing in for his late brother Fred as co-manager of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. As shown in Cursed Child, Harry has risen to become the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The WCU’s first film could be a gritty magical noir that requires Harry to do some good old-fashioned detective work, unmasking a growing ring of international dark wizards that intend to upend the Statute of Secrecy and instate wizard supremacy over the muggles.
Although inspired by Lord Voldemort’s aims, this new syndicate would present itself much differently than its predecessors. By nixing the snake-like faces, dark masks, and muggle torture, the WCU’s principal antagonists could be much more sympathetic and layered than Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
As the line between good and evil becomes grayer, Harry might have to contend with friends and family members joining the opposition. To discover the scope of this group’s influence, Harry, Ron, and Hermione will have to traverse the globe. In sequels, they could visit the American Ministry of Magic, linking up with the grandchildren of Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein as they unravel the grand scheme of their new dynamic enemies.
There could be a Max streaming series about Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy and their budding romantic relationship during their remaining years at Hogwarts. Ginny Potter could star in a Quidditch-based series about the World Cup. We could go on and on, but if one thing is clear, the potential for expanding the Wizarding World is endless. Rowling doesn’t seem too keen on letting something like this happen, but if she ever did give the go-ahead, the cinematic results could be explosive.
Let the magic grow
Let’s get back to the real world now. At the moment, it might feel like the Wizarding World’s cinematic prospects are shaky as best. Rowling isn’t doing herself or her creative efforts any favors by continuing her barrage of unrepentant transphobia on social media. And the undeniable box office failure of the Fantastic Beasts series will still loom large over any future projects based in this world.
However, if there’s one shining ray of hope for this franchise, it’s the wild success of Hogwarts Legacy. That game proved there is still a massive demand for Wizarding World stories. All Rowling needs to do is open the floodgates and let more creatives come into the fold to help remind people why they fell in love with Harry Potter in the first place. The original book series built a dazzlingly detailed world that captured the imagination of an entire generation. If only Rowling could learn to share ownership of her creation and further expand her world, she could take this franchise off life support and into the stratosphere.