Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
WHERE TO WATCH:
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Professor Albus Dumbledore knows the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards and witches. They soon encounter an array of old and new beasts as they clash with Grindelwald's growing legion of followers.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
When the first Fantastic Beasts debuted in 2016, I was beyond excited. Diving into another part of the magical world of wizardry I grew up with was a feast for my soul. I loved everything about Newt Scamander and his pure dedication to saving all manners of beasts from terrible people. I was a bit annoyed with the reveal of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald at the end but still had such high, naive hopes.
Then The Crimes of Grindelwald was released, and it all went downhill - the mill of controversy around Johnny Depp and his marraige with Amber Heard and JK Rowling's reputational downward spiral over her transphobia comments. It has marred a once untouchable world with conflicted feelings for many, and the Fantastic Beasts franchise suffered terribly because of it. While I didn't hate The Crimes of Grindelwald, it got bogged down by so much second-rate Voldemort plot and woe-is-me Obscural fodder that it didn't shine as bright as the first in my heart. With The Secrets of Dumbledore, we are seeing the last few kicks of a dying franchise despite its delightful additions of more magical beasties - which is what it all really should have been about.
Set a few years after the first film, Newt and allies are tasked by Dumbledore to try and thwart Grindelwald's plans of taking over leadership in the global wizarding world. Jacob - Newt's muggle friend - is still pining after his witchy love after she joined the dark side, and Tina is inexplicably almost nowhere to be seen despite the fight for freedom. Credence is still, well, being Credence.
While not exactly a predictable plot, it's one filled with a lot of rinse-and-repeat story arcs from the Harry Potter series. Wizard Hitler gaining his foothold in political power in… sigh… Germany… and a Dumbledore setting bizarrely unspecific missions to thwart said evil power that magically all works out in the end due to some unexplained and unknowable foresight. We even revisit Hogwarts, where we've already been a thousand times. As has been mentioned many times on the interwebs, fans never wanted a repeat of the Harry Potter stories - we just wanted new stories and characters set in the same world. The first Fantastic Beasts held that promise, and all we wanted was Newt, his besties and their loves to travel the world and save cute magical beasties. The cast was perfect, they had a wonderfully delightful dynamic, and our beloved fantasy world would have been re-invigorated.
Outside of the disappointments of the franchise, the film itself wasn't unwatchable. The smatterings of moments where Newt has to save or handle some magi-animal or his pets causing some new mischief were an absolute joy and a glimpse into what could have been. With Mads Mikkelsen replacing Depp, he does bring a more refined menace to the role, but on our third actor playing the same role, we lose any of the build-up and gravitas that we might have had if the role was associated only with one person, like Ralph Fiennes' impeccably terrifying Voldemort. That's also the problem in general - we don't care enough about any of these new characters because they haven't been introduced and developed from the get-go, outside of Newt and Jacob. The changing motivations of Queenie and Credence is another sore point, making absolutely little sense in terms of their characters and the plot. When you finally get to the climax, you just find yourself not caring, unless an animal is involved. The lack of Tina also makes very little sense, and despite claims of a "scheduling" conflict, the filmmakers sorely underestimated how important her involvement was to the franchise.
As for Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler, just perfect, no notes. The whole film could have been just them, no one else, and it would have been perfect.
Casual fans won't hate The Secrets of Dumbledore, polished by beautifully designed sets, flawless CGI and great magical battles, but it's hard to miss the numerous gaping plot holes. Warner Bros. has already put the fourth and fifth instalments on hold indefinitely, and you can already see this sentiment as the film ends without any real cliffhangers. This is a franchise I'm happy with slowly fading away, and I hope that they give it many years before attempting to build something new in the wizarding world again, with lots of time spent in the drawing-room. I'll just have to rewatch the first one to get my Newt-fix.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: