5 Ways to Prep - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
By George Rose
November 14, 2018
Before there was Comic Con, before cyber-bullies trolled the internet and before inflation ruined box office statistics, there was only one thing that mattered… movies. Remember that feeling you had as a kid when you’d go to the movies and lose your mind over the big screen experience? This was before IMAX and 3D and rumbling chairs took cinemas to the next level, far above what was ever really needed to enjoy the experience. You just needed some friends, a bucket of popcorn and a few special effects to make your money worth spending.
Well that’s all gone now. I mean, beneath the glossy 3D glow of the latest “prequel sequel” is probably a great story that deserves to be told. But, really, with Fantastic Beasts already being a prequel to the Harry Potter saga we all kind of know where things are headed. Prequels are fine and all, but how many do we really need? Warner Bros says five, we need five. The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second of five planned prequels to the seven-book (slash eight-film) series about a wizard boy that lived. Chances are, though, that if you’re reading an article about Fantastic Beasts 2 then you already know the story so there’s no need to rehash it.
Blockbusters are great. Trilogies are amazing. Extended series of films are also pretty cool, if done right. Marvel does it every day while the likes of Star Wars stumbled a bit with Solo. Harry Potter, on the other hand, was seven books that became eight films and was told to masterful effect. After Warner Bros made all the films that could be made, they grew hungry for more. Enter the new age of the prequel series. It’s an odd thing, really. I mean, if you’ve seen a bunch of movies and invested in a new world, how much could you really learn going back in time? You’d have to go reaaaally far back and, even then, I wonder why not just move forward.
For now, we’re way past the world of 3D/4K/IMAX nonsense and well into the realm of the prequel series. No, we don’t just get one knock-off prequel for the novelty of it, we get MANY! It seems like this occurrence is reserved for the biggest blockbusters so it’s not all bad. Only a few other series have tried it before but I imagine the rest of the imitators are not far behind. Still, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little excited for Fantastic Beasts 2. I really do love all things Harry Potter and if anyone is going to do a good prequel sequel it’s the Wizarding World. So buckle up your brooms, my friends, as we prep for The Crimes of Grindelwald.
#1) FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016)
Before watching a sequel I always recommend you watch the film that most immediately precedes it. Luckily, there’s only one this time so there’s not much you need to catch up on. Newt Scamander is a British wizard that travels to America to release one of his many collected monsters into the wild where it belongs. On this journey, a few of his creatures gets loose and a crazy adventure ensues. Along the way he makes a new non-magic friend, learns of the American customs regarding magic and stumbles onto a dastardly plot that would see the Voldemort of their time, Grindelwald, rise to power and cause mass destruction.
What the film has going for it is that it’s not just set several decades before Harry Potter but that it is set in America. It’s nice to see that magic exists outside the UK and that things are actually a bit different in each region. If you’re going to do a prequel, you really have to change it up. It can’t just be earlier in time or you’ll know where much of it is heading. To be decades earlier and in a new continent is an advantage for Fantastic Beasts. Not only that but they also kicked up the magical mythology up a notch. Ever wonder what would happen to a witch or wizard if they denied themselves their inherent abilities? No, because it didn’t seem worth thinking about. Fantastic Beasts takes this notion and runs with it, creating one of the more surprising additions to a world you already thought you knew. It’s a good movie and well worth a watch before Crimes of Grindelwald, even it if isn’t up to the heights of the original Potter films.
#2) HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (2002)
The first Harry Potter movie, The Sorcerer’s Stone, taught you all about Harry, his friends and the world of wizards. The first Fantastic Beasts films does the same, but focuses on Newt and wizards of America in the roaring 1920’s. Both served similar purposes, though I would argue Beasts was a bit darker since it didn’t focus on young children. Regardless, Beasts 2 is heading where I imagine most sequels lead… down a darker path. When the threat of world destruction is looming there’s only one way to go and that’s down. It makes sense, then, that to see where Beasts 2 is heading you go back to the beginning and see where Harry Potter went.
In Potter 1, you get a glimpse of the big, bad Voldemort and hear whispers of his looming presence. In Beasts 1, you get a glimpse of the big, bad Grindelwald and hear whispers of his looming presence. Ugh, how original. In Potter 2, Voldemort plays a much bigger part but in an unexpected way. Rather than immediately dive into the worst version of the villain to come, Harry must fight the memory of Voldemort as projected through an old diary of his that was found. It’s not until further down the films do we really see Voldemort in his modern-day form. Beasts 2 is sort-of breaking free from that mold as we’ve seen from trailers. Grindelwald is here and he’s ready to unleash his fury. Except, oh wait, never mind. Beasts 2 also features a young Dumbledore which is kind of like Potter 2 featuring a young Voldemort, sooooo…. yeah.
I understand imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but OTHER franchises are supposed to copy you. YOU are not supposed to copy you. Beasts 2 is riding parallel next to Potter 2 but, lucky for them, I love this franchise so much I don’t even care. The effects looks great and a movie like this is best on the big screen. The reviews don’t even matter, I’ll be seeing Beasts 2 even though I know it won’t be as good as Potter 2. Considering the curse of the prequel sequel, anything above a complete bomb at the box office should be good enough.
#3) THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (2013)
Much like the Harry Potter books/films, The Lord of the Rings is another example of a classic literature turned into a brilliant box office franchise. Great books, great movies, everyone is happy. The Lord of the Rings was so good that it even won a whole bunch of Oscars, so it’s no real surprise that the prequel book (The Hobbit) was turned into a movie. A one-off prequel to a great franchise seems like a great idea. It’s a way to give fans adaptations of every book possible and it’s another way to, you know, milk the franchise for every last drop.
The Hobbit movie would have been great, except producers decided to turn the smallest book in the whole series into a two-part film. Then they decided, screw it, let’s make it another trilogy! A book that is a fraction the size of the three books in the main trilogy was somehow turned into a three-part series. That’s kind of like, you know, Fantastic Beasts being a book mentioned in the Harry Potter stories getting a film adaptation… then giving it a sequel… then deciding that maybe a five-film franchise is needed to fully explain this brain-fart of an idea.
The problem is that the first prequel will get an audience out of curiosity, and even that crowd will be smaller than all the originals. Lord of the Rings earned between $315 to $378 million over each of the three films, growing in total each time. The first Hobbit made $303 million almost ten years of inflation later. The Harry Potter movies earned between $249 to $381 million and fluctuated over time, while Fantastic Beasts pulled a Hobbit and earned a series-low $234 million. The Hobbit 2 continued the downward spiral and dropped 15% from Hobbit 1, down to $258 million. Assuming the same happens to Beasts 2, we’re looking at about $199 million. Honestly, anything less than $200 million seems like a big disappointment. Hopefully it can break the curse of the prequel sequel. If only we had another example to go by.
#4) STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
Sure, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are both books, both became movies, and both had prequel films. Except, The Hobbit is based on a book and Fantastic Beasts is not, so they’re not EXACTLY the same. There is, however, another franchise with a prequel series that is not based on a book. That would be Star Wars! Except, oops again, the original films are far superior to their prequel counterparts. Once again, the first prequel gets all the hype and most of the profits while the first prequel sequel takes the beating. Episode I made $431 million and then Episode 2 dropped 28% down to $310 million. If Beasts 2 does the same, we’re looking at a $168 million total. That’s… oh that’s bad. $168 to $199 is a pretty lackluster range when you think about a movie in the Wizarding World. Too bad there’s not many other prequel sequels to show us a better comp. If only there was a prequel sequel that improved on the first film’s total.
#5) X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
The X-Men movies are based off of comics which are kind of like thin picture books. The original X-Men trilogy, overall, is pretty great. Two good films were followed by a third garbage fire that actually ended the series on a high note of $234 million. Contracts were up, the franchise was finished and a reboot was the only way the series could see itself moving forward… by going back in time. After the originals earned between $157 and $234 million, X-Men: First Class went back and started a new prequel series with about $146 million. A new cast acting as younger versions of the characters we already knew somehow managed to be shockingly good and it seemed as though a new prequel franchise was born.
Then X-Men had a prequel sequel. They took the new young cast and merged it with the old cast by throwing in a time-travel story. Fans reacted quite well as the critical-hit rode the wave of excitement all the way to $233 million, only $400,000 behind X-Men 3. The prequel sequel actually earned 60% more than the prequel. Both Hobbit 2 and Star Wars Episode 2 brought back cast from the original films and still lost money, but X-Men did it and made more. Fantastic Beasts 2 is bringing back Dumbledore but not the original actor, so who knows what it will do. However, if it pulls a Days of Future past and adds 60% to what Beasts 1 earned, than Crimes of Grindelwald is heading for $374 million. That seems… doubtful. Hey, who knows, I could be wrong. That’s the thing about movies, they’re a lot like magic. You never know what to expect but you know that anything is possible. At this point, anything over $200 million would make me happy and anything over $234 million is a huge success. They just need to retain their audience and I’ll certainly be there opening weekend to do my part in keeping the magic alive.