Harry Potter fans may find themselves in familiar territory when Fantastic Beasts 3 hits theaters in 2021. News broke this week that the sequel is officially moving forward at Warner Bros. after some significant delays that followed the bumpy release of the second film in the franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. While 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was crafted as a new extension of the Harry Potter franchise, one set decades earlier and with a host of brand new characters, it failed to capture the same rapturous response that met the initial Harry Potter films. The box office was solid—$814 million—and the reviews were fine, but something felt a bit off. So when Fantastic Beasts 2 grossed $150 million less than its predecessor and garnered genuinely negative reviews, Warner Bros. found themselves in a bit of a pickle. They were two movies into a planned five-movie arc, and something wasn’t quite working.
Fantastic Beasts 3 was originally supposed to start filming this summer as J.K. Rowling had already begun writing the script for the third movie before Crimes of Grindelwald was released, but when it was clear that Grindelwald was stumbling a bit, WB took a beat. Filming was delayed until fall, then winter, and now Fantastic Beasts 3 filming won’t begin until Spring 2020—with a script that leans into the aspects of Grindelwald that fans responded to the most enthusiastically.
Indeed, Variety reports that Fantastic Beasts 3 will bring Jude Law’s Albus Dumbledore into more of a lead role and will set more action at Hogwarts. The iconic school was the setting for a couple of scenes in Grindelwald, both in flashbacks and in “present” time for the characters, while the sequel also introduced Law as the younger version of Harry Potter’s cheeky headmaster.
Warner Bros. executives are reportedly “high on the script they’ve seen, believing it represents a big step forward in quality,” and indeed Steve Kloves—who wrote all of the Harry Potter movies except for Order of the Phoenix—was brought in to co-write the script for Fantastic Beasts 3 alongside Rowling. Kloves and Rowling established a good relationship while making the Potter movies, as Rowling revealed she confided in Kloves quite frequently as she was plotting the endgame for the book series.
Rowling scripted the first two Beasts movies solo, and while some were keen on those stories and characters, others found them lacking. I quite liked the twists and turns that Grindelwald introduced, and it certainly sets the franchise on an interesting path with that Ezra Miller reveal, but I’m also not opposed to seeing how the series looks with Kloves back in an official capacity.
As for the Hogwarts of it all, I don’t necessarily think the franchise needs to dwell too heavily on the past, but no doubt the infamous school has plenty of secrets left to tell—especially with Dumbledore involved. How the new setting of Rio de Janeiro fits into it all is unclear, and Fantastic Beasts leads Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol are all expected to return as well. But don’t be surprised if Fantastic Beasts 3 feels a bit more Harry Potter-y than the first two movies.
Rowling initially pitched a five-movie arc for this Fantastic Beasts story and Variety notes that that remains the plan, so this story’s not over yet. It’s just in the middle of a very long pit-stop.