April 15th, 2022
MOVIE: FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
STARRING: JUDE LAW, EDDIE REDMAYNE, MADS MIKKELSEN, DAN FOGLER
DIRECTED BY: DAVID YATES
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
It’s hard to believe this is the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts series and none of them have conjured up anything remotely memorable. They exist, all of them directed by David Yates, with an all-star cast of actors, set as prequels to the saga of Harry Potter and I have yet to remember anything about them. This installment- The Secrets of Dumbledore– might be the best of the three, which is not saying much, especially since I found this one to be the most disappointing yet. There may not have been much expectation from the first three Fantastic Beasts, but The Secrets of Dumbledore wastes all of its potential, on a tedious plot about an election for the new Minister of Magic, delivering a movie that is anything but Fantastic.
The plot of this one picks up where the second installment- 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald– had left off, only this time Gellert Grindelwald himself is no longer Johnny Depp but recast with Mads Mikkelsen. The evil wizard is the longtime friend and once lover of Dumbledore (played by Jude Law with a great beard and a bit of gravitas) but now the two have grown apart, what with Grindelwald wanting to start a war with muggles, seeing them as monsters. Now it’s up to Dumbledore’s assembled team of friends, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), and returning muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to stop Grindelwald and his team of evil wizards before he rigs the election for the role of minister of magic. There’s a bit of magic along the way, a brief stop at Hogwarts in its early stages as a school, a mythical creature called a Quilin (it’s like a flying baby horse with a catfish face), and a few wand battles. You would think all of that and two-hours and twenty-two minutes would amount to more, but alas.
One thing is for certain the Fantastic Beast movies have had more than a fair share of controversies that don’t help- writer J.K. Rowling has shown her bigotry to members of the Transgender community, Johnny Depp was removed after one day of shooting (he still gets paid his 16-million for his contract), and just this past week Ezra Miller was arrested. Even if all those things were removed, The Secrets of Dumbledore still fails to work as an adventure. The screenplay, co-written by Rowling and Steve Kloves, bumps into itself too much. There are subplots galore, none of them generating any true attention, one with Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth (Richard Coyle) and his long-lost son- Ezra Miller plays the bitter orphaned child- willing to do Grindelwald’s bidding; There’s Kowalski’s longing for lost love Queenie (Alison Sudol); And then is the battle to stop Grindelwald being entered into the election, only for the outgoing minister to say “even people who murder muggles deserve a chance to be voted on by the people”. It’s all entirely strange and none of it amounts to anything worthy of the time spent.
There is one genuinely entertaining scene, where Newt must rescue his brother from a prison, which includes a large pack of baby scorpions and a massive scorpion that devours a prisoner as soon as their time is up. The set piece reminded me of the Shelob spider scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but even with those memories at hand, it’s still routinely interrupted, where Yates feels the necessity to go back to other matters of Grindelwald. It’s that consistent problem of the direction and genuine flow of the story that causes The Secrets of Dumbledore to fall flat at every turn.
It’s not that The Secrets of Dumbledore is the worst movie one could see this year, but for a large scale production, and a collected cast this charming, it’s the biggest nothing burger I’ve ever digested. Katherine Waterston only reprises her character as a cameo, which may have been the right choice for her. Jude Law plays a graceful younger Dumbledore but is never focused on enough. And perhaps the biggest sin of all for Yates and company, is that they found a way to make Mads Mikkelsen seem bored. The fascinating actor looks the part of a villain and barely breaks a sweat in his performance. It’s quite amazing, really, for a series of three installments, with such a rich history of successful films, to each have little to zero impact. Maybe that’s the greatest magic trick they ever pulled. With a wave of the wand, I hope this is the end of Fantastic Beasts. I guess I should say, Expelliarmus!
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE IS IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY APRIL 15TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady