It’s now been three years since the release of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, which, despite its title, really does turn out to have emerged from a much simpler time. After all, back then the Harry Potter spin-off franchise merely had to worry about one of its leading figures being accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife; we were still years out from the complete self-dismantling of author J.K. Rowling’s public profile, as she doubled down, then tripled down, then pushed the “down”-ing sciences to their mathematical limits, in her embrace of transphobic rhetoric online. None of which appears to have dissuaded WarnerMedia from pushing forward with the Beasts franchise now, or from keeping Rowling—whose screenplays for the previous two movies, we note mostly in passing, underpinned a pair of the least comprehensible “blockbusters” we’ve ever tried to wrap our brains around—on as its primary screenwriter. (Joined now by Steve Kloves, who wrote the scripts for most of the main series Harry Potter films, and who was absent from the previous two Beasts movies.)
But, hey: New title! That’s right, Scamander Sca-fan-ders: The new Fantastic Beasts film is all about The Secrets Of Dumbledore, presumably linked to some big, incredibly eye-rolling plot developments that happened during the cinematic exit shuffle of Crimes. Those closing scenes set up some incredibly high narrative stakes for this franchise, the kind of meaty revelations that would have meant an enormous amount to at least some of us, once upon a time, before all those other revelations about the Harry Potter universe, and the woman who created it, became impossible to distract ourselves from with all this switched babies and secret brothers nonsense. (Seriously, Grindelwald has one of the worst “exposition” breaks we’ve ever seen.)
Secrets—allegedly the third of an eventual five of these damn things—also has a new release date: April 15, 2022, because if there are two things you can’t avoid in life, it’s Death Eaters and taxes. (And, apparently, telling people you have strong, angry opinions about their personal gender identity.) The Beasts franchise, of course, stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, and the final lingering vapors of Johnny Depp’s audience summoning ability.
Correction, 8:15 p.m., 9/23/2021: This story has been updated to reflect the addition of Steve Kloves to the Beasts writing team.