Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Starring Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Katherine Waterston
Director David Yates and screenwriter J.K. Rowling can’t conjure enough secrets to keep their fledgling Harry Potter spinoff interesting. A continuation from the previous two films, with even more Hogwarts and Dumbledore this time around, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is a long-winded slog.
Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, the charming focal point of the first film, has been relegated as a supporting character with the narrative scattered among various plot lines. Rowling doubles down on adult themes in this sequel such as: Grindelwald continuing his race war, Dumbledore’s sexuality no longer being a secret, and a strong element of violence towards animals. Yates has directed some great moments in the Harry Potter series, however, his vision for these last two spinoffs is lackluster at best.
Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is positioning himself to lead the Wizarding World in the upcoming election. One of the most important elements of this decision is the use of the revered magical creature, the Qilin, which can sense the pure heart of a wizard.
Grindelwald intends to use his own dark magic to manipulate this tradition to his favor. Dumbledore (Jude Law) once again must rely on Newt (Redmayne) and his friends to stop a threat that could have serious consequences for generations to come. The mysterious parentage of Credence (Ezra Miller) is unveiled as the weight of his abandonment continues to crush his spirit. Baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) hasn’t given up on Queenie (Alison Sudol), who now follows Grindelwald into the darkness.
“Secrets of Dumbledore” certainly has creatures and magic, but there is little fun, at least from the point of view of a child or young adult.
The delays from the pandemic gave screenwriter Rowling more time to refine the script, leaning further into an allegory of modern politics. Like the previous film, it’s difficult to discern who these films are really aimed at. “Secrets of Dumbledore” certainly has creatures and magic, but there is little fun, at least from the point of view of a child or young adult.
With “Harry Potter” audiences now adults, these films are aimed at more grown-up sensibilities. Grindelwald isn’t terrifying like Voldemort, Newt lacks the audience empathy compared to Harry and the rest of the characters don’t have the colorful personalities. Jude Law as Dumbledore is the better performance of the group.
If Warner Bros. continues the five arc saga Rowling has planned, there needs to be serious directional change. These films, this one in particular, suffer quite a bit from self-sabotage: Rowling’s own off-color remarks concerning the trans community, Depp’s departure after being canceled, and just before the release of the film, Miller’s arrest in Hawaii.
The scenes where we return to Hogwarts were the highlight, and introducing younger characters audiences are familiar with might be a smart path forward. “So we are back where we started?” one character asks in the film, to which Dumbledore replies, “Yeah, only it’s worse.”
The third installment of the Harry Potter prequels exhibit a continual erosion of magical adventures and cinematic creativity.