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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 4, 2022


Starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston, Mads Mikkelsen, William Nadylam, Victoria Yeates, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Fiona Glascott, Richard Coyle, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Oliver Masucci, Dave Wong, Maja Bloom, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Valerie Pachner, Paul Low-Hang, Ramona Kunze-Libnow and Hebe Beardsall.

Screenplay by JK Rowling and Steve Kloves.

Directed by David Yates.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 142 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Fantastic Beasts franchise has never really captured the adulation of the public like the Harry Potter books and films – of which this saga is a loose prequel. The Secrets of Dumbledore may have more connections to the original franchise than the previous two FB films – obviously, we get to spend time with a young wizard Aldus Dumbledore (who was also in the second film) and for the first time the new films touch down (briefly) at Hogwarts Academy.

And yet, for as spectacular as it looks, The Secret of Dumbledore is a bit of a morose, dark and overly complicated mess. There are too many characters, too many situations, and not enough excitement or humor. And it opens with an extended sequence of animal abuse. It is a slight improvement from the second Fantastic Beasts movie, but the promise of the first film seems to have mostly sputtered out by now.

Strangely, though, for a film that has near wall-to-wall magic, there is very little sense of wonder in The Secrets of Dumbledore. These wizards have access to the infinite power of magic wands, and it seems that mostly they use them to shoot at each other like they are laser beams. It seems like kind of a waste.

Therefore the positives of this film tend to get weighed down in the exposition. It is more politically biting than ever and Mads Mikkelsen makes an intriguingly nuanced villain in replacing Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. Also, the story is more upfront about Dumbledore’s homosexuality than ever before. (I wonder if Rowling felt the need to show that open mindedness with the recent scandals about her comments on the trans community.)

First things first – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore looks spectacular. It is darker, drabber and more colorless than previous Rowling adaptations, but that somewhat fits in with the depression-era totalitarian vibe of the storyline. As with previous films in this universe, the art direction is to die for.

The acting, too, is mostly first rate, although this is not particularly an actor’s film. Unfortunately with so many characters and so much going on, there is not much an actor can do to stand out, although Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol (a.k.a. singer A Fine Frenzy) do have some particularly intriguing moments.

However, for all of the action going on here – and there is a lot – nothing much seems overly original. For example, a scene where Eddie Redmayne’s character is being chased through some catacombs by a giant beast with deadly tentacles seems like it’s been done before – often. And, like I said earlier, the fights in which wizards shoot magic beams at each other with their wands seems like a very unimaginative way of handling the sorcery and the fights.

This is the third film of a proposed five-film franchise, but I’m not going to lie, this almost feels like it’s limping to the finish line. I’m not sure where they are going to go with these stories after this. Hopefully someplace a bit more fantastic.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: April 15, 2022.


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