After four years since the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and the controversies that have mired the Wizarding World franchise, we finally get to see the third installment of the series in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. While it may not be the most spellbinding inclusion into the wizarding universe, it does add more to the advancement of the saga than the previously less-than-stellar sequel.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is directed by Wizarding World veteran David Yates and co-written by J.K. Rowling and long-time Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves. Starring an ensemble cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston, and Mads Mikkelsen, the film follows Professor Albus Dumbledore’s (Law) story much more closely this time around as he tries to outmaneuver the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen). We get more context into Dumbledore’s family history and past that was never really clear in prior Wizarding World films.
However, the main plot of the film focuses on Dumbledore as he assembles a unique team of wizards, witches, and even a brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission as they encounter Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers as well as new and familiar beasts that prove to be crucial in their battle against this looming evil.
The film takes us right into Kweilin, China, as Newt Scamander (Redmayne) tries to locate and help a Qilin give birth, a rare magical creature that can see into one’s soul as well as the future. Grindelwald’s acolytes, led by Credence Barebone (Miller), are not too far behind tracking Newt and the creature. They end up attacking and killing the mother while kidnapping the newborn so Grindelwald can harness its ability of precognition. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Qilin birthed twins, the younger of which Newt is able to save.
Unable to fight Grindelwald due to a blood pact revealed in the previous film, Dumbledore recruits Newt, his brother Theseus (Turner), American witch Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Williams), Senegalese-French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), and American No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) to thwart Grindelwald’s plan for world domination. Additionally, due to Grindelwald’s ability of precognition, the only way Dumbledore’s team can outflank him is to make seemingly random actions to confound Grindelwald.
What follows is a much more fun, magical adventure than in the previous films with political intrigue that one could argue rivals our current state of world affairs. The story is a bit sharper and even reminiscent of earlier Harry Potter films which can be attributed to Kloves returning to write for this film. His touch was sorely missed in the previous two films.
Jude Law has clearly cemented himself as the defacto younger version of Dumbledore; Grindelwald on the other hand, like the current franchise, has been uneven and is now on his third incarnation of the character. The third time’s a charm though, right? Well, fret not, Mads Mikkelsen is brilliant as Grindelwald and honestly should have been there since the beginning. There is now a gravitas to the villain that only someone of Mikkelsen’s caliber can harness while also sparking a much-needed magnetism with Law’s Dumbledore in all their interactions within the film.
Unfortunately, the film and franchise as a whole aren’t without their flaws even with fantastic actors anchoring it. One glaring concern is the missing child-like sense of wonder of being a part of this magical (and colorful) world that we fell in love with in the Potter films. Try as they might to include the lovable Jacob Kowalski, even he can’t break through the sullen grave faces, dull wardrobe, and monotone visuals (so much gray…) that have cursed this series. While the cast was entertaining in their individual moments of screen time, it felt like they also had a hard time following the convoluted mission they were on.
That being said, fans of the Wizarding World will nevertheless enjoy this newest entry into the universe. There’s enough magic and fantastic beasts left in Newt’s suitcase to keep most Potterheads happy. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, while flawed, is still a significant improvement from the sequel and will hopefully right the ship for the franchise to finish on a high note with its last two films.
About FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
Synopsis: 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, witches, and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines?
Director: David Yates
Writers: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling
Cast: Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Callum Turner, Victoria Yeates, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Jessica Williams, Richard Coyle, Fiona Glascott
Runtime: 2h 22m
Releases: April 15th, 2022 (USA)