Surprised Grindelwald is Clairvoyant? That’s Not the Screenwriter’s Fault

Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster and who writes at Mugglenet.com as ‘hpboy13,’ wrote a dyspeptic and dismissive review of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. ‘The Real Secret is No One Cares’ begins with something like an assertion that Grindelwald’s ability to grasp the future in this film was inserted in the third film to explain the disconnectiveness of its own plot points:

while Secrets of Dumbledore is a VAST improvement over its predecessor… it still isn’t any good. To those withholding judgment from Crimes of Grindelwald in the hope that the franchise would course-correct enough to redeem that film, I would be very curious if that hope is still alive after this installment. Because while this film is not as bleak and boring as the last one, it still is in no way coherent.

The creators are aware of this and engage in a bit of lampshading to wave it away. Apparently, Grindelwald has the Sight or some magical ability to see the future. The only way to combat that is to have a plan that is so chaotic and makes so little sense that he won’t be able to puzzle out what’s going on. Yeah, sure, and that has nothing to do with heading off criticism that the events of the film are chaotic and make no sense!

If like me you did not know what “lampshading” is, the article to which Khaytman links defines it this way:

Lampshade Hanging (or, more informally, “Lampshading”) is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief, whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.

The sarcastic conclusion that Grindelwald’s “magical ability to see the future” has been inserted here  to head “off criticism that the events of the film are chaotic and make no sense” takes as its unstated premise that we have not been told that Grindelwald has this ability until Beasts 3. Which is true.

But that isn’t Rowling’s fault. We know that this information was in the shooting script for the first Fantastic Beasts film, that the scene revealing this capability was shot, and that it was cut from that movie before its release. Kelly Loomis discovered this in December 2016 and it was written up here in a post titled Fantastic Beasts’ Seventh Deleted Scene Grindelgraves’ Vision in MACUSA Office.

This seventh deleted scene in Fantastic Beasts was one Kelly found in an interview Colin Farrel, the actor who plays Percival Graves in the movie, did with ‘Inside Reel.’ He says: [Read more…]

The Secrets of Dumbledore Box Office: 67% Drop from First Weekend Gate

Fans of the Fantastic Beasts film franchise have been watching the gate receipts for the latest installment, Secrets of Dumbledore, attentively and with some trepidation. Secrets had the worst opening weekend and first week of any of the Wizarding World movies and then had the second-biggest drop-off in its second week.

DailyCampus.com reported after the first week that Secrets has to make $750 million to break even:

“The Secrets of Dumbledore” debuted to a $43 million gross this weekend, about $20 million less than “The Crimes of Grindelwald”’s opening weekend in 2018. To make matters worse, this film has a $200 million budget. Factoring in marketing expenses, the domestic-international split of the franchise and the theater’s share of box office revenue, the film likely needs to gross around $705 million worldwide, of which $175 million is domestic, to break even. With a $43 million opening weekend domestically, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” has virtually zero chance to gross that in North America, unless it has some magical legs. The film will likely close around $110 million domestically, perhaps worse depending on the trend next week. 

The second week numbers are in and it looks like the $110 million break-even target won’t be reached. Per Screen-Rant.com:

After having the Wizarding World franchise’s lowest opening weekend, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore had a massive box office drop in just its second weekend of release. The film lost 67% of its business in a week, only gaining $14 million in the process. This decline is mostly because of newer, more interesting releases, such as Universal Pictures’ animated adventure film The Bad Guys, which topped the weekend box office for April 25, 2022. Additionally, although The Secrets of Dumbledore performed better internationally, it remained a commercial disappointment domestically. This arguably reveals a disinterest in the franchise, thus raising questions about its future.

ScreenRant thinks Warner Brothers will protect its Wizarding World franchise, with all its lucrative theme parks, merchandising properties, and new gaming programs, by shifting from the seemingly cursed Beasts movies to a filmed version of the Cursed Child play. Daniel Radcliffe is already saying he’s not interested, at least not right now, which of course is what he must say to get Warner Brothers to give him a significant payout.

Three quick notes about all this after the jump! Did Warner Brothers make this film with the expectation that it would be the series closer? [Read more…]

Jacob Kowalski’s Wand in ‘Secrets’

still have not seen Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore yet but I saw this short promotional film at the Wizarding World twitter feed and thought of one reviewer’s border-line disgust with the Jacob Kowalski subplot. He marveled that Dumbledore would be so foolish and indifferent to the dangers the No-Maj would be in with only a fake wand. It turns out, of course, that Jacob’s presence was critical to the story-flip at the Grindelwald camp’s Supreme Mugwump Election victory party but, despite that little bit of fore-sight brilliance on DDore’s part, why else does Jacob the Muggle figure so much in this tale of a wizard civil war? And what’s with the prop wand?

I think, among several great answers to my question about what in Beasts3, the film franchise’s story turn, points most clearly to the finish we will see in Beasts5, the series finale, the best is that the ending — Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindelwald despite the Bad Guy having the unconquerable Elder Wand — will come down to Mad Max’s disregard and disdain for the Muggle and Jacob being the true master of the Death Stick, from the Subway scene at Beast1’s finale.

What do you think?

Rowling 2016: The Beasts Political Theme is Anti-Populist, Pro Status Quo

I believe this video was made at the 2016 premiere of the Fantastic Beasts film franchise which was on 10 November 2016, the week after President’s Trump’s stunning victory over Hilary Clinton and four and a half months after Brexit was approved in a UK-wide referendum. Rowling was keen then to say, though she planned the film three and half years prior to its release, she had intentionally been writing about populist politicians working to upend the status quo. The actors who play Newt Scamander and Jacob Kowalski echo her comments and insist that the first movie and series are all about the politics of the present time. Dan Fogler said he thought viewers had a lot to learn from Rowling’s “wisdom” in this regard.

I think the first film’s anti-populist message is fairly muted but that it picks up significantly in Crimes and is front and center in Secrets. See my post last week about the embedded depiction of the 2020 US Presidential election in the third Beasts film. That allegory within the story has too many one-to-one correspondences for me to accept without proofs beyond this 2016 testimony that she plotted Secrets as it was filmed way back in 2011. Of course, just as there is a lot of J. K. Rowling in the Trelawney prophetess character, maybe there is a little prophetess in The Presence.

The mistake that can be made in reading political allegory — one that usually is made — is in neglecting every other dimension of a story for its topical content once that content is identified and explained. Those, for example, who enjoy explicating the Lord of the Rings as a transparency for WWI, WWII, and about the atomic bomb, in my experience, rarely ‘get’ the significant spiritual artistry and meaning of Tolkien’s masterpiece that transcends historical tit for tat allegory (“Sauron is Hitler!”).

So with the Beasts films political content, I think. The topical, current events fare is certainly there, as I’ve written and Rowling testifies above. But is it the “wisdom” of the stories? I think the psychomachia of Credence Barebones, the dragon and phoenix story of Grindelwald and Dumbledore that Lana Whited surfaced so cogently, the Qilin fantastic beast as soul-exteriorizing device, and the four element alchemical quality of the principal players pursuit of marriage with the ‘Gold-stone’ sisters are the greater part of that. The politics is a relative side-show to those main attractions.

Let me know what you think.

The Rowling Library ‘Secrets’ Issue: Must Read for Fantastic Beasts Fans

The two websites I take seriously in Rowling-Galbraith fandom are StrikeFans and The Rowling Library (TRL). Patricio Tarantino at TRL as I have written before is that rara avis who is connected to Rowling, Inc., is popular with fandom and conversant with their concerns, and who is a respected member of Potter Punditry and Royal Society of Rowling Readers. The latest issue of TRL’s online magazine is out, a double-helping exclusively devoted to the new Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore film. There are at least seven articles in it that will be of real interest to serious readers here, namely:

10. DIPLOMACY IN THE WIZARDING WORLD: an up close look at what the film reveals about the nature and operations of The International Confederation of Wizards;

17. THE AVADA KEDAVRA SCENE: there’s real problem for readers of Goblet of Fire who watch Secrets of Dumbledore, namely, the blocking of a supposedly unblockable curse.

22. WHERE DOES THE QILIN COME FROM? Readers of Beatrice Groves’ posts on this subject will find a different perspective here that complements and expands in some ways what Professor Groves has taught us.

26. THE MIRROR DIMENSION: The center-piece of the double-issue that reflects (sic) and speculates (again…) on the hidden inner reality or “mirror dimension” to which Dumbledore has access in Secrets. Nota Bene!

33. TO END OR NOT TO END: There has been quite a bit of discussion about whether to end the series here because the box office take has been bad enough that Warner Brothers has to be worried about recouping their investment in this blockbuster bust of a movie. TRL tackles the topic head on.

38. WHEN DOES THE FILM TAKE PLACE? 1932 seems the most credible answer from TRL’s examination of the miniscule typed evidence, but this causes all sorts of problems. Take Buntyy and her memory, for example…

46. PARQUE LAGE:  If you asked, as I did, “What happened to Brazil?” TRL has your answers.

You can download the issue here. Enjoy this collection of great Secrets of Dumbledore explorations — and let me know (and Patricio, too, he’ll read this post’s comments I’m pretty sure) what you think!