This is a non-spoiler review for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. However, it will contain spoilers for other films in the Harry Potter universe.
The Harry Potter franchise means a lot to me. As a kid, I regularly read the books with my family around the fireplace as a kid. As for the movies, I have many happy memories of watching them. At the same time, I completely disagree with author J.K. Rowling’s comments against the transgender community, and I hate they’ve demolished such a special franchise about finding your place.
This brings us to Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third in a set of hopeful five films. We follow Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Theseus (Callum Turner) Scamander, along with returning team members Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), and newcomer Professor Hicks (Jessica Williams) from Ilvermorny as they attempt to take down Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen).
A defining trait of this movie is that it tries to juggle a lot of plates with not-excellent results. Rowling leaves several threads created in the first film hanging, with no hope of continuing in the future. The “Fantastic Beasts” portion of the title has gotten smaller and smaller, as has the focus on the original main character Newt. In fact, the female lead of the previous films, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) appears in two scenes! While Dumbledore has a rich history, Newt Scamander is a great character. In a better world, Fantastic Beasts would be a “monster of the week” show with him meeting a new magical creature every week.
Circling in on the Albus Dumbledore backstory we get here, it’s the main focus of the film. However, the script does not do enough to tie you in emotionally. We’re dependent on the Harry Potter books and films to understand why Albus feels he’s not worthy of the attention the wizarding world gives him. We do get some bare verbal mentions of a failed love story between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. In addition, Mikkelsen and Law have terrific chemistry as ex-lovers.
In regards to Mikkelsen taking over the role of Grindelwald, the film acts as if nothing happened. With Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp portraying the character across the two films, it’s not out of the question for another actor to take over the role. But in the second film, we see a young Grindelwald, and he has the same heterochromia as Depp’s Grindelwald has. So to play that off, I think there needed to be another explanation for why Mikkelsen is the icon now. With that, Mikkelsen plays the role very well, and was given a lot of leeway with how he took his portrayal which is great to see compared to his role in Chaos Walking.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is of course of the wizarding world, and it wouldn’t be right to leave us lacking some magical landscapes and creatures. Creature-wise, we have the lovely niffler Teddy and Pickett the Bowtruckle returning. New to the mix are a scorpion-type creature as well as a Qilin, a main feature in the story. One of the best parts of the film is Newt and Theseus interacting with the scorpions. We get to see Berlin magically, a lot of portkeys, and some lovely brick walls that transform. There are a lot of action moments as well that have excellent animation.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore isn’t terrible. It’s much better than its predecessor, but it loses major focus on what the promise was originally. While this series has David Yates as a director and Rowling as the main writer for all of the films, it feels seriously disjointed. I know Star Wars gets that hate for the sequel trilogy films, but this one takes the cake. Despite this, Mikkelsen and Law are some of the highlights of the movie. Redmayne is always a treat to see on screen, and I’m crossing my fingers he gets a chance at Doctor Who. – Katie Rentschler
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in theaters now.