With Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, one can’t help but wonder what this means for the film series as a whole.
Mads Mikkelsen taking over the role of Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald brings up a few questions that will only truly be answered once the unnamed third film is released in cinemas on 15th July 2022 (unless further delays occur, of course). But since that’s a pretty long time to wait, we might as well start dissecting what we do know, because by Merlin’s beard, we’re starved for new content, and this is the best thing we can do to pass time while we wait.
To understand the type of Grindelwald Mikkelsen might be portraying, we must first take a look at his past roles. Doubtless, Mikkelsen has a knack for bringing an undercurrent of danger to the characters he plays, each one with his unique brand of magnetism that draws you in even as he commits unspeakable acts.
Certainly not a stranger to playing villains, he rose to international fame for his portrayal of Le Chifrre, in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale (which included an infamous torture scene where he got a little too personal with Daniel Craig’s Bond). He would go on to play other similarly monstrous characters that fill you with dread each time they step into frame. Additionally, this isn’t even the first time he’s played a wizard. Some might remember him as Kaecilius in 2016’s Doctor Strange, where he opens the movie by cutting off a man’s head.
However, it is really as the titular character in the NBC series Hannibal where his charisma truly shines, delivering every line that he utters in a way that makes you consider ‘eating the rude’. Maybe not enough for you to actually go through with it, but he makes it fun to entertain the thought.
Given his impressive resume, it really isn’t hard to imagine him pointing the Elder Wand at some poor soul and just casually casting the Cruciatus Curse, or perhaps giving a grand speech convincing his followers that everything they do is “for the greater good”.
What Kind of Grindelwald Would He Be?
While Grindelwald is known for being one of the most powerful Dark Wizards of all time, the films so far appear to suggest that it’s really his ability to manipulate everyone around him that makes him so dangerous. His grand speeches that stir the hearts of his many followers are followed by scenes showing how cold and cruel he really is when among his inner circle.
Though it’s been established that Mikkelsen has no issue playing a silver-tongued snake, he is still stepping into a role that some members of the audience have come to expect certain things from.
While both actors are definitely skilled in their own right, there is no doubt that Depp has injected some of his signature style into his portrayal of the Dark Wizard. We can’t help but wonder what this would mean for Grindelwald, as Mikkelsen himself has said that he has to make the character his own, and yet not detach too far from what Depp has brought to the table.
Would Mikkelsen bring new depth to Grindelwald and make us hold our breaths waiting to see what he does next? Or would we perhaps miss Depp’s flair that he so comfortably exudes in the more dramatic scenes? Of course, this all boils down to their different acting styles, which brings us to our next point.
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Comparing the Grindelwalds
Depp’s version of Grindelwald had just the slightest tinge of his usual style which we have grown so familiar with over the years, and was most noticeable in the scene where he asked President Seraphina Picquery, “do you think you can hold me?”, or in that other scene where he waved his wand like a conductor surrounded by blue flames. While certainly not as camp and quirky as Captain Jack Sparrow or Willy Wonka, this version of Grindelwald is unmistakably Depp.
We’re not sure if Mikkelsen will adopt some of these mannerisms to ensure continuity and consistency of the character, and it’s kind of hard to imagine Mikkelsen pulling off the same facial expressions that Depp has brought to the role. At the end of the day, we just can’t wait to see if this recast would be a change for the better.
It’s Okay to Embrace the New
There have been many recasts in the process of translating the Potterverse into film, but there have not been many that are quite as prominent as this one. This major recast calls to mind the one made in the Harry Potter series when the original Albus Dumbledore, Richard Harris tragically passed away, and the role of Hogwarts’ Headmaster was passed on to Michael Gambon.
Gambon’s depiction of Dumbledore, although criticized by a very vocal subset of the fanbase, is still the one remembered by most, given the many years that he played the character. Likewise, with at least three more films in the Fantastic Beasts series, Mikkelsen might just be the face we remember when we hear the name “Grindelwald”.
How Will the People Take It?
Finally, we come to the question that most fans might be worried about. Will this affect the story or experience in any way?
Every time a character is recast in a film or TV series, it places the new actor taking on the role under a whole new level of scrutiny, simply because we can’t help but notice the differences between what we have come to expect, and what we see in the new depiction. And sometimes, that change can be pretty jarring, so the writers and production team have to do something to sort that out.
Since Newt had already cast a Revelio Charm on Grindelwald in the first movie, we don’t think his new physical appearance will be explained away as a Transfiguration disguise. However, we can’t rule out that there might still be some clever trick to smoothen the transition, since this is a film about magic, and not everything needs an explanation.Whatever is coming our way in the summer of 2022, we’re sure that it’s going to be a fantastic addition to the Wizarding World universe. Until then, we might as well reread all the books and marathon through all the movies a couple of times over to sate that Potterverse craving.