J.K. Rowling has conjured up something seemingly impossible, announcing Thursday that the upcoming Harry Potter spinoff series, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, will be the first of a five-film franchise. Yes, you read that correctly: five.
The original plan of a Fantastic Beasts trilogy already seemed like an unnecessary extension to a Rowling novel that is, essentially, a wondrously creative textbook of (fantastic) beasts in the Wizarding World. In other words, it's a fun addendum to the Harry Potter novels, but not the type of work that necessarily demands an on-screen adaptation — let alone five.
Yet it appears even the Harry Potter cinematic franchise isn't averse to a tiresome trope in the film industry: the never-ending expansion syndrome for young adult-centric narratives.
This strategy has been implemented across a plethora of projects — most recently, the Hunger Games and Divergent series, the latter of which has fizzled out to the point that its final film will be a direct-to-TV movie without its lead, Shailene Woodley. Even the original Harry Potter films were extended from seven films to eight — though considering how strong the final movie was, you could call it the rare case that worked.
The main reason Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was extended made sense, too. There was so much packed into the final book, it needed to be stretched out over two films. The Fantastic Beasts pseudo-textbook is 128 pages.
Rowling will be a co-writer for the first film — and it's an entirely new story in the Harry Potter canon that we can presume will be more fleshed out than its source material (quite frankly, it has to be). But five movies following Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander has the same issue as Lucasfilm's rumored plan for three Han Solo-centric films. It's an extension of the universe through a narrow perspective, without exploring other narrative possibilities in the Wizarding World.
More indicting is that it's also a perspective that isn't particularly diverse. The early complaints for Fantastic Beasts footage was its nearly all-white depiction of 1920s New York. If producers can cast a black actor for the role of Hermione in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play — which was a tremendous move — we should be able to see more diverse stories in the Wizarding World. Instead of five Redmayne-starring films, we'd be more open to expansive stories in the form of an anthology series. Imagine the first Harry Potter story following a female lead or a person of color. These aren't just stories people want to see; they're financially viable.
Rowling has created compelling fiction that captures imaginations, instills empathy and is essential childhood reading (and watching). However, making five Fantastic Beasts movies doesn't follow that mold. It feels familiar and forgettable, and makes us yearn for something original.