Now that Johnny Depp is out, end the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series for good
Johnny Depp has been kicked out of “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them 3.” Good riddance! But I’ve got a better idea.
Let’s end the no-good “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” series once and for all.
Amber Heard’s abuse allegations against 57-year-old Depp, who in recent days lost a libel case against the UK’s Sun newspaper for calling him a “wife-beater,” are troubling. However, Depp’s departure isn’t going to change the fact that this franchise is a misguided snooze. That’s like staring at a rotting, maggot-infested chuck roast and concluding, “Maybe we should add some paprika.”
“Fantastic Beasts,” which stars Eddie Redmayne as a wizard and magical animal expert named Newt Scamander, was always a far-out idea. It’s based on a short paperback guide to fake creatures J.K. Rowling wrote for charity during the salad days of Harry Potter.
The films, which sprouted up out of practically nothing, chronicle Newt’s adventures through London, New York and Paris as he tries to wrangle funny critters. The worst part: In the background of his travels we witness the rise of a bigoted dark wizard named Gellert Grindelwald, played until today by Johnny Depp, who looks like a mix of Guy Fieri, Hitler and a bottle of Wite-Out. It’s sad and hopeless.
The second one, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (Who writes these long titles? Stanley Kubrick?) was better than the first, but that’s not saying much. They both pale in comparison to the wonderful Harry Potter saga.
Warner Bros. is not as shrewd as Disney when it comes to mining its catalog for every bankable angle. Look at “Star Wars”: Nine core movies, two spinoff films, cartoon shows and an Emmy-winning TV series about a heretofore unknown character. And audiences gobble it up. We’re minutes away from “Mace Windu: The Opera.”
WB would like to milk its multi-billion-dollar property Harry Potter for all its worth, too, and thus established the “Wizarding World,” a universe with the same rules as Hogwarts, but totally new characters and setups. Outside of its successful theme parks, however, the plan is not working. Both “Fantastic Beasts” films are the lowest earners in the 10-movie family. Audiences still adore “Star Wars” without Luke, but they need Harry.
It does them no favors that the Newt films are bleak and aimless. Harry had one job: vanquish Voldemort. We read each book knowing there will be a clash between good and evil at the end, with the lead-up all fun, mystery and satisfying coming-of-age scenarios. “Fantastic Beasts” is faintly atmospheric sludge with blah characters and plots that amount to little more than, “Get the animals back in the cage!” Rowling, suffice it to say, is a much better author than screenwriter, and she should’ve delegated that duty to somebody else.
There are five planned movies, which is four too many. For now, Depp is simply being recast, and presumably some of his scenes will need to be reshot with the new actor, at great expense to the studio. Fine. But when the only buzz you get is about the messy personal life of one of your stars, you know it’s time to call it quits. Let’s put these “Fantastic Beasts” down for good.
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