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FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE REVIEW

Before the turn of 2022, I went on a Harry Potter-themed forest walk. The trail was full of animatronics of several creatures from the Wizarding World from Hippogriffs to Nifflers and Giant Spiders (both the best and worst part of the walk). There was an area to discover your Patronus, photo opportunities with wands, and at the end, you entered a mock-up village with food and merchandise. The whole experience was a must-visit for any would-be wizards, and it had more magic in the air that this new installation of the Fantastic Beasts film series.

It’s seemed this film could just not get away from being a headline-generating machine for the internet, so I will do my best to navigate around them as much as I can, but we have to touch upon one such controversy that actually had a positive outcome, the recasting of the film’s main antagonist Grindelwald. Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald wasn’t good, but neither was it bad, I think it was just overshadowed by very convoluted writing. But although the writing hasn’t gotten a lot better, I believe Mads Mikkelsen gives a much cleaner performance as Grindelwald. He is someone who bathes in the acknowledgement of his supporters, and he comes across as more cunning than Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald.

The biggest flaw with the Fantastic Beasts films after The Crimes of Grindelwald was that you couldn’t identify the main character of the film. It’s basic film 101 that you have a centralised character that the series revolves around and tells their story. With The Secrets of Dumbledore, we have that confirmation now, it’s… well Dumbledore’s story. Granted this leaves Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in a supporting role, which is a little infuriating because it pretty much confirmed that the filmmakers ran out of ideas of how to evolve him, but Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore is a good alternative, so long as the filmmakers keep the focus on his and Grindelwald’s rivalry, which they do. I also liked how the film explores the relationship between Albus and his brother Aberforth (Richard Coyle). We only scraped the surface of Aberforth’s character in the Harry Potter films, so it’s nice to see The Secret of Dumbledore expand on him so he’s not just an element of Albus’ past.

Despite the strong leads, The Secrets of Dumbledore is still an infuriating film at times that pays little attention to the filmmaking quality. It’s a pity that Harry Potter veteran David Yates has had his talent for bringing an attractive Wizarding World to the big screen almost relinquished from him. The film is edited terribly with several shots connected by out of nowhere smash cuts that pay little attention to space as well as being staged weird. There would be characters that would move into the frame but then stand in the background, out of focus, with nothing to do. For instance, with a younger Professor McGonagall who stands awkwardly waiting for her purpose in the scene, but that purpose never comes.

Essentially you have two separate plot devices in The Secrets of Dumbledore, an election to find the new head of a sort of United Nations of wizards and the birth of Qilin twins. But the script can’t juggle these two plot devices properly because they should be driving the narrative forward, however, they actually grind progression to a holt. What we end up with instead are scenes that feel oddly repetitive and slow the film down. For instance, there are two high profile events Newt and co. have to attend back-to-back and each one has the characters doing the same thing. Especially Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who tries to get back his love interest Queenie (Alison Sudol) who if you remember, sided with Grindelwald in the last film. I was yelling in my mind for the film to give him something else to do because he was the one character in the last two films I felt the most engaged to, now there’s nothing fresh that maintains that engagement. I guess giving him a wand opens up doors, A no-maj possessing a magical item may be worth exploring, but the film barely investigates that path.

Let’s talk about Ezra Miller as Credence. Again, I’m really trying to navigate recent controversies, however, his character is wasted not just in this film, but in the film series in general. It feels like Credence is revealed to be someone else with each film. Although this is a character whose whole reason for existing in these films is to find out who he is and where he belongs, the approach the film takes to answer that question is boring to unravel.

This film series started out with such good hopes, now it feels like the magic is drying up and Warner Bros. are making these films just so they can hold on to the rights of J.K Rowling’s world. If The Crimes of Grindelwald is one step forward and two steps back, then The Secrets of Dumbledore is one step forward and one step back. It’s not the worst, but there’s nothing to convince us that there will be better things to look forward to. I really hope that this film series has another trick up its sleeve otherwise.

Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average

Have you seen Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.

Next Time: The Northman

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