Come on, Warner Bros., now you’re just being rude.
Yesterday, beloved Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling announced that her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise would span across five unique films, and everyone had themselves a nice, long laugh. What’s the point in announcing a five-movie cycle months before the first movie in the cycle has even been released? Anything could happen between now and then. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them could bomb at the box office. J.K. Rowling could break her contract with Warner Bros. and negotiate an exclusive production deal with zero-budget company The Asylum. A new political regime could come to power that bans all Harry Potter-related products on the basis that it promotes witchcraft and corrupts our God-fearing youth.
(Actually, that last one is just a little too feasible given the current political climate. Let’s, um, ignore that for the time being.)
Five might seem like an impossibly big number from the outset, but honestly, it’s a bit more common than you’d expect. In the last two years alone we’ve seen the fifth entry into the Bourne franchise (Jason Bourne), the fifth entry into the Mission: Impossible franchise (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), the fifth entry into the Terminator franchise (Terminator: Genysis), and – if you accept Bryan Singer’s decision to retcon an entire movie out of existence – the fifth entry of the X-Men universe. There are five Die Hard movies, five Tremors movies, five Underworlds, and five movies featuring CIA analyst-turned-President Jack Ryan. Next year we will even be able to enjoy (“enjoy”) a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. If Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was not enough to stop that franchise in its tracks, then we might be on pace for five more before it is all said and done.
And those are just the films that offer direct sequels; we can expand the pot to include adaptations of book series or shared universe films and the list grows even longer. If memory serves, there were also a total of five Twilight films, eighteen Star Wars movies, and sixty-seven entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Jack Reacher franchise might just be getting under way, but with Tom Cruise’s work ethic and his propensity for turning cinematic highlight reels into 90-minute Tom Cruise highlight reels, it could very well be a race to see whether the franchise can break into the triple digits before Cruise becomes a centenarian. And don’t even get me started on Transformers. Seriously. I don’t want to talk about it.
Look, all kidding aside, five is only an impressive number because it’s one we don’t often hear spoken aloud. When the housing crisis and the war in Iraq were still front page news across America, pundits pointed out the word ‘trillion’ had lost all meaning through its repeated usage in the media. The concept of a five movie cycle is similar to this. We may have a difficult time wrapping our heads around a movie that takes five iterations to tell now, but by the 2020s, we’ll have more Marvel and Star Wars movies in circulation than actual main primary characters in those separate universes, and five movie cycles will be a quaint thing of the past. The first time a Disney executive stood in front of a projector screen and mapped out a decade’s worth of new releases, we were flabbergasted. Now we spend our days trying to figure out who will play Iron Man when Robert Downey, Jr. decides he’s tired of dying his goatee.
The Uncertainty of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
That being said, there’s also a fine line between hearing J.K. Rowling announce her plans for a cinematic Fantastic Beasts pentalogy and Warner Bros. being the one to break the news. Rowling is an admirable figure for many reasons – not least of which her dedication to charity and literacy efforts world-wide – but she is the quintessential tinkerer, someone who will never tire of making small changes to her already published works. We’ve kind of already made our peace with that. Compare that to if Warner Bros. had made the announcement. Any time a studio tells us they are going to release multiple movies in the same cycle, there’s a part of us that recognizes we’re being devalued in the creative process. We don’t mind having sequels for movies that we’ve helped turn into successes; when the studio talks past our involvement in their next project, however, we start to feel like nothing more than human-sized wallets.
We can ourselves worked up for a five movie cycle. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. What really matters is that studios like Warner Bros. don’t keep trying to sell us when they’ve closed the deal. It’s not hard to picture Warner Bros. looking across the aisle at their competition at Disney and thinking, man, if only we could have the same kind of unveiling process for our films. The only difference? Disney has earned that degree of pageantry. Many of us have talked ourselves into seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – hell, as a non-Harry Potter fan, it’s the first movie in the franchise that I actually want to see in theaters – but there’s also a big difference between fans clamoring for a third Captain America film and studios telling us that we’ll want to sign up for four more trips on the Eddie Redmayne express sight unseen. Warner Bros. has our enthusiasm, and soon enough, it will have our money. To ask for anything else right now just seems a little on the nose.
Related Topics: Harry Potter, Sequels