Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review: Third time's an 'average' charm for Eddie Redmayne's movie
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is an overindulgent potboiler filled with delightful performances and stupendous visuals, but one too many odes to Harry Potter. Read Pinkvilla's review.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Ezra Miller
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Director: David Yates
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Stars: 3/5
Potterheads are sure to flock to the nearest theatres, ready to gobble up whatever they're given from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, albeit with limited expectations, especially after The Crimes of Grindelwald disappointed most. This time around, it's Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald's (Mads Mikkelsen) complicated relationship and differential views about the future world that takes centerstage, but with one too many characters, is third time the charm for the Wizarding World franchise?
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore begins with a revelation that's plagued limitless fan theories and fan fictions and that's Dumbledore proclaiming his love for Grindelwald, which is now reaching its expiration stage. This sequence has an emotional maturity attached before magic takes preference in visuals and storytelling. On one hand, Grindelwald is hell-bent on war against the muggles, while Dumbledore is not of the same opinion. Set against the backdrop of 1930s Germany, Grindelwald follows suit with obvious Hitler inspiration and his fascist mentality transforms him from a caged prisoner to a potential candidate as the International Federation of Wizards' Supreme Head. While Dumbeldore is the obvious rival to face off a powerful Grindelwald, who can see fragments of the future, Albus is bonded with Gellert by a blood bond, which imposes them from fighting each other. Hence, Dumbledore assembles a ragtag group of magicians and a muggle to aid him in dwindling his once lover's evil plans and in turn, save the world from dastardly destruction.
Amongst the Fantastic squad, we have Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a reputable magizoologist, Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski), a kind-hearted No-Maj baker, Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Newt's brother and a handy British Ministry of Magic employee, Professor Eulalie 'Lally' Hicks (Jessica Williams), a street smart charms teacher, Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), Leta Lestrange's half-brother and a French wizard and Bunty Broadacre (Victoria Yeates), Newt's tactful assistant, who are given adventurous missions to thwart Grindelwald's plans, as he rises to power at an increasing pace. The kryptonite here is qilin, a magical creature (envision a hybrid between a dragon and a deer) who bows only to the purest of hearts. An age-old tradition enables the qilin to decide who is worthy of being in power, and with the upcoming elections in Bhutan, both Grindelwald and Dumbledore are in possession of a qilin.
What works for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore's script, written by J. K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, is that there's a sense of emotional maturity as opposed to the past two instalments, seen in Harry Potter veteran David Yates' direction, especially in Dumbledore's characterisation, as he's torn between love and duty. However, because of overindulgence in adding as many sub-plots as one can't even begin to imagine, you're left wondering what the movie is really about. We see this in how Newt's storyline, which was supposed to be the leading arc in this particular franchise, feels lost in translation while the supporting characters receive fragmented stories to tell as well. However, Dumbledore and Grindelwald's central storyline isn't fleshed out either and the "secrets of Dumbledore" are never really solved in its entirety. It's basically a "too many cooks spoil the broth" situation with the endgame being an overambitious potboiler.
For me, the run-up to the climax in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore foreshadowed an action-packed war, but I was left disappointed by the anti-climatic nature, with obvious hints at the next few instalments. Furthermore, from the onset, especially with Grindelwald and his disciple Credence Barebone's (Ezra Miller) bone-chilling, ruthless treatment of the qilin, you're left to wonder just how "universal" the plot is for an all-ages audience, as was the Harry Potter movies' trademark selling point. It's also questionable how Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore feels more like a Harry Potter movie, than a standalone, owing to the numerous IP placements in the form of countless easter eggs. Fan service is at an all-time high in this one! That's not to say there aren't any bright spots, as plenty of scenes and dialogues are extremely fun to watch and hear, with the magical, patent flavours we've come to know and adore from the Wizarding World. However, they're all layered to be a clunky narrative when laced together.
When it comes to the performances in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, it's Jude Law, who instantly wins you over with his charming, elegant act as he's able to bring out the best parts of why we love Dumbledore. He aces in inculcating Dumbledore's genius wizarding mind with his acute bouts of melancholic loneliness in tow. On the other hand, all eyes will be on Mads Mikkelsen, as he takes over from Johnny Depp, who was ousted from the franchise after his controversy. Mads' Grindelwald is starkly different from Johnny's maniacal performance, and only because it's Mads Mikkelsen, does he makes the restraint act work in his favour. In their few sequences together, Jude and Mads are a cinematic match made in heaven, but I was left wanting more of their imploding equation. In retrospect, Eddie delivers a fine performance, as expected of him, but is strayed to the sidelines because of Dumbledore's dominant presence in the story's entirety. However, Redmayne is bestowed with the best sequence in the movie that is sure to tickle your funny bones because of the absurdity that follows. In pursuit to save his brother from a German magical prison, Newt (and Theseus!) have to do a hilarious wiggling dance to save themselves from maneater creatures. Only in J.K. Rowling's world would this be deemed normal!
Callum Turner is equally likeable while Dan Fogler and Jessica Williams add infectious charms and a whole lot of sassy humour to their respective loveable characters, who will come out as fan-favourites to root for. William Nadylam and Katherine Waterston as Porpertina 'Tina' Goldstein, Newt's love interest and an American witch, don't have much to play with. Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, Jacob's love interest who joins Grindelwald's dark side, enlightens in a limited time frame, while Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone manages to invoke intrigue, with his physical acting, over his disgruntled family history.
What's one thing that remains untouchable in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the visual mastery. This is specifically seen in the breathtaking action sequences, in particular, an otherworldly duel between Dumbledore and Credence, which lets both action and words do the talking in tandem. The magical fantastic creatures, in and out of Newt's utopian briefcase, are just as enchanting as you'd expect them to be. Bringing J.K. Rowlings' magical world to the silver screen is no joke, but taking the task head-on and excelling in spades is the technical prowess of George Richmond's art-conscious cinematography, Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont's exquisite, intricate production design and James Newton Howard's princely score. When it comes to the editing, a strenuous duration of two hours and twenty three minutes can't be blamed on Mark Day, it's clearly the stuffed storyline to be put to the stand.
In finality, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore should have heeded Dumbledore's sage advice for its script, "Do what is right, not what is easy."