After a disappointing start, Warner Bros. has one last shot to save Fantastic Beasts, but The Secrets of Dumbledore may be a cheap trick.
The Fantastic Beasts trilogy has suffered from extremely poor reception thus far, and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, apparently shifting complete focus to fan-favorite Albus Dumbledore, is Warner Bros' last, desperate trick to save the trilogy from near-total failure and reconnect it to the beloved Harry Potter franchise. J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and the movies they spawned are still one of the greatest creative phenomenons in history, so naturally, they attempted to catch lightning in a bottle again with Fantastic Beasts. Unfortunately, the films have failed to connect to the same audience that loved the originals, leaving Warner Bros with one last chance to save the Fantastic Beasts franchise. The incohesive plot, shifts in narrative focus, and character development that don't work all play a part in the trilogy's struggles.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opened a premise that was fantastical, fresh, and most of all, fun. The film introduced a world away from Hogwarts and transported the characters into real-world situations. Rowling's first attempt at screenwriting was understandably troubled, and the ending of Where to Find Them proved she was a novice, despite her prowess in writing novels. The first film ended in the vein of waking up from a bad dream: with memories wiped and damage repaired. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald relegated the fantastic beasts to plot devices that drove the story towards a confrontation between the dark wizard and Harry Potter's future mentor, Dumbledore. The Crimes of Grindelwald was a huge letdown and can be considered one of the messiest sequels in terms of plot, characters, and narrative shifts.
The Secrets of Dumbledore is nothing more than a cheap trick to coerce fans back into theaters by shifting the narrative to a well-known character. Apparently, WB's takeaway from the dismal performance of the second film was that simply involving Dumbledore wasn't enough fan service, and they decided that he should be the main focus going forward, even at the cost of sidelining Newt Scamander in his own film series. The lack of planning seems to be the trilogy's biggest downfall, as the series went from having a few mentions of Dumbledore in the first film to revolving entirely around him and his secrets in the third.
Adding Dumbledore to the title screams desperation and draws obvious comparisons to the Star Wars sequels. There is, of course, also the chance that Dumbledore isn't all that involved, and the title itself is a trick (much like The Rise of Skywalker), which has the potential to anger fans even more than abandoning Newt. It truly feels as if this is an unwinnable situation, and with the trouble surrounding the role of Grindelwald, mainly Johnny Depp being let go and Mads Mikkelsen stepping into the role, the trilogy has had its fair share of bumps and bruises, and the title of the film and reworking of the writers seems to be an attempt at hiding them behind a familiar face and presenting longtime Harry Potter fans with a distraction in the form of Dumbledore.
It can be argued that the title of the concluding chapter should just be Secrets of Dumbledore, sans Fantastic Beasts. The final installment in any trilogy is the most important film, and The Secrets of Dumbledore certainly has some heavy lifting to do, but this does not come across like the finale of the Fantastic Beasts storyline, but a standalone film that has completely abandoned the original premise, all-in-all, it seems as though Fantastic Beasts lost its way early on and focused on the wrong things and for better or worse, the team is dead-set on continuing down that road. Audiences have to sit tight and wait to see if Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore can save the franchise or if it will just be a disappointing, cheap trick.