TL;DR – While there are some moments where it excels, the overall story never clicked with me, leading to many frustrations.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review –
When it comes to films that have had been waylaid by the behind the scenes issues, I can think none have been so publicly shown like this since maybe Justice League. Its main star was fired and replaced after one day of shooting. Another was arrested a week out from release, all while the series creator dug themselves deeper into the hole one Tweet after another. It is such a debacle that many of my colleagues are not covering the film, which I respect. But given that we are looking at the movie today, I have to say that now I have seen it, our official opinion is … eh.
So to set the scene, at the end of the last film, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) managed to make his case against the muggles and move a lot of Wizards and Witches to his side. One of these was Jacob Kowalski’s (Dan Fogler) love interest Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol). Now while Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald can’t move against each other, they still make plans. One of which was sending Newt (Eddie Redmayne) out to help a sacred magical animal. However, Credence (Ezra Miller) kills the mother and steals the child, dramatically improving Grindelwald’s position. Unless, of course, there happens to be a pair of twins.
While I never clicked with the film, that is not to say that there was nothing good going on. The visuals in this film are stunning, with the worldbuilding taking steps ahead with each film. I particularly like the creation of the Wizarding vote location in Bhutan. Also while it is clear that they are still chasing the high of the Ministry of Magic battle in Order of the Phoenix. The battle between Albus and Creedence in the streets of Berlin is up there. The new additions to the film also shine, with Mads Mikkelsen being a clear improvement and Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Jessica Williams) providing some much-needed sass and strength to the film. Her scenes with Jacob might be the highlight of the film. The big standout for these films continues to be the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ elements, which is why it is so frustrating that these seem to be more and more side-lined as the films progress. There is this scene where they are escaping, and leaning into the beasts does not entirely remove the tonal whiplash of the gruesome murders, but the humour does help.
Now, I did like a lot of the elements in this film. Those good aspects almost feel like islands in a sea of frustration. To talk about this, we need to engage with the story, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. When looking back to where we have charted in this series, I found Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to be a mostly enjoyable romp and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to be a complete mess of a film. The Secrets of Dumbledore fits somewhere in the middle of those two points, both good and bad. Overall, what we get is not a bad story, but one that is just going through the motions in parts.
Half of this is Grindelwald trying to win an election, and the other half is adding all the backstory they cut out of Deathly Hallows. Unfortunately, the more they move away from the central premise of ‘Fantastic Beasts’, the more it feels like it doesn’t have its own voice. It tries to supplant this with nostalgia and a vague musing on the rise of fascism, there are transparent illusions to the Weimar Republic going on here, but the film won’t commit to it. This, combined with retconning critical moments from the last movie, left me disconnecting from the story.
In the end, do we recommend Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore? Well, look. This is an improvement on the last film, and from a technical perspective, it is pretty good. However, the main story never jelled with me, and that felt like an anchor weighing the whole film down. If you liked The Secrets of Dumbledore, I would recommend to you Stardust.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Directed by – David Yates
Screenplay by – J. K. Rowling & Steve Kloves
Based on – Characters by J. K. Rowling
Music by – James Newton Howard
Cinematography by – George Richmond
Edited by – Mark Day
Production/Distribution Companies – Universal Pictures, Heyday Films & Warner Bros. Pictures
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
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13