Despite the negative publicity (Johnny Depp’s court case and J.K. Rowling’s views on trans people) and the feeling that enlarging the Wizarding World franchise is an exercise in greed, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is actually rather entertaining.
This is third film of the series outlining the adventures of magi zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) following Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018). Yates returns for director duties as does Rowling for screenplay. Scamander’s tome is often mentioned in the Harry Potter books as one of the prescribed textbooks at Hogwarts, though Scamander does not appear in any of the books or movies.
Set in the 1930s, the movie opens with a meeting between two powerful wizards Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). They were once close, sharing love, a vision of how the world should be, and a blood pact that prevents them from duelling against each other. The two have since walked separate paths, with Dumbledore dazzling the wizarding world with his brilliance and teaching Defence against Dark Arts at Hogwarts, while Grindelwald preaches hatred, intolerance and bigotry.
Apart from Scamander, Team Dumbledore includes the muggle baker and WWI vet, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler); Theseus (Callum Turner), Scamander’s older brother, who works in the British Ministry of Magic; Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams) who teaches at the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) who once was on the other side and has since seen the error of his ways, and Scamander’s assistant, Bunty (Victoria Yeates).
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston, Mads Mikkelsen
Storyline: Dumbledore’s Army from the 1930s comes together to defeat the dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald
Run time: 142 minutes
The stakes in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (what are his secrets?) do not seem very high. The big battle in the film is for the ballot. After being acquitted of all his crimes against humanity, Grindelwald is standing for elections for the Supreme Head of the International Confederation of Wizards. Credence (Ezra Miller) going through identities at a dizzying pace does not add up to much, and the big reveal of his truest self is slightly ho-hum.
There are magical creatures, including the sweet qilin and a thrilling rescue. Moving the action to Bhutan is quite inspired. And while shoving in Hogwarts, a snitch, the Slytherins, John Williams’ score and McGonagall (Fiona Glascott) might be just that wee bit manipulative, it can be forgiven as we are all slaves to nostalgia. Whether it is enough for two more films is the question. If all else fails, there is Mikkelsen’s magnificent sneer.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is currently running in theatres