Mads Mikkelsen will replace Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3, and his past roles show he can be an even better version of the character. Depp’s interpretation of the character was simply too out of place in the world of the Harry Potter prequels, but Mikkelsen can make the villain more complex and believable. This is a chance for the series to reintroduce and reinvent Grindelwald.
Ralph Fiennes played Lord Voldemort as a flashy, perhaps even flamboyant character with an evil laugh and snake-like face in the Harry Potter movies. Fiennes’ choices worked for Harry’s young adventures and the movies’ epic battles between good and evil, but the Fantastic Beasts series has a completely different tone. First, it has Newt Scamander as its main protagonist and, unlike Harry, Newt is an adult already sure of himself and his place in the world. He and his companions are not in a coming-of-age story, and the Wizarding World is no longer a place of awe and mystery.
Instead, the prequel series gives audiences a far more serious and down-to-earth world of bleak themes such as prejudice, societal strife, and the rise of fascism. Even the outfits and the color palette of the movies signal a more mature tone. But Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald felt different. From his looks to his acting, he appears out of place and even somewhat cartoonish. Depp is known for playing unique, eccentric characters but Grindelwald was never meant to eccentric, thus he feels like a less interesting version of Voldemort.
Meanwhile, Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter, from the NBC series Hannibal, was the right balance between menacing and charismatic. Hannibal wasn’t his first or only time playing villain either. In Casino Royale, he played Le Chiffre, and later he fought Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange as Kaecilius. But it’s his Hannibal that showcases why Mikkelsen is a great replacement for Grindelwald. Mikkelsen’s Hannibal was sad, melancholic but also predatory and charismatic, which exactly how Grindelwald is supposed to be. He’s a tragic but vile character. Unlike Voldemort, Grindelwald uses charisma to have people join his cause, and, most importantly, his past with Albus Dumbledore indicates he has a human heart.
While Depp is certainly capable of playing subtle characters, his Grindelwald feels cartoonish compared to the rest of the cast and world. Now that Mads Mikkelsen is set to be in Fantastic Beasts 3, the series has a chance to add more depth and complexity to its main villain by utilizing Mikkelsen’s past experience with the same type of characters. While the Fantastic Beasts movies still have other issues to fix, this casting choice is certainly a step in the right direction.