The Fantastic Beasts franchise continues to be lost on what it wants to be and what it’s supposed to be as producers try and fail to re-capture Harry Potter magic (and profit from it).
Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp) wants to destroy the world of muggles so purebloods can be free. Aided by the loyalty of elegantly dressed fascists, including Credence (Ezra Miller), who turns out to be a Dumbledore, he intends to start a war against non-magic folks. Due to a blood pact, Albus (Jude Law) can’t act against his Gellert. Instead, he uses Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as a proxy to stop him. Along with his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), his assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), his muggle baker friend Jacob (Dan Fogler), ally Yusuf (William Nadylam), and the help of professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), Scamander must stop the notorious Dark Wizard from seizing control of the Wizarding world to achieve his ambitions.
By that summary alone, you can tell that this movie is a lot. Fortunately, J.K. Rowling got the help of co-writer Steve Kloves who wrote the screenplay for “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone”.
Newt and Co must undertake a series of tasks without telling each other to “countersight”. Grindelwald can see snatches of the future, so Albus orders them to intentionally mislead his ex-boyfriend to hide their real plans until the opportune moment.
The adventures of Newt and Co is a glossy spectacle, with episodes of physical comedy, magic, and world-within-worlds travel. The production value is exquisite, with art deco-styled detailing, a fitting 1930s Berlin, and Colleen Atwood costume designs.
Unfortunately, as the movie progresses it becomes clear that The Secrets of Dumbledore is a cash grab effort to expand a franchise.
The movie’s entertaining offerings are crowded with competing themes, many subplots that go nowhere, and a heap of book lore. There are no believable stakes, danger, or sense of urgency. A few fantastic beasts make a cameo. The new one, called a Qilin, chooses the next Supreme Mugwump by ancient tradition. Yes, like how Paul the Octopus predicts the next winner of the Superbowl.
The Secrets of Dumbledore is about anything but Newt Scamander. Along with other characters, he’s primarily used for plot convenience. The cast does well enough but none of them is memorable.
So what is this movie really about?
A rigged election.
The movie tries to make us care about its characters and a world being taken over by wizard Hitler. Unfortunately, the result is a clunky mash-up between a Nazi metaphor and childish whimsy. It’s about love, letting go, and fascism.
In the end, The Secrets of Dumbledore is a spin-off tacked on to a franchise. If you’re an HP fan invested in Dumbledore’s bad romance, dapper DILFs Mads Mikkelsen and Jude Law will entertain you. If you have kids, the visual effects are enough to make them sit still for two and half hours. Otherwise, be prepared to be underwhelmed.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
The Secrets of Dumbledore has stunning visuals that can't compensate for its convoluted plot and insufficient fantastic beasts.