Bogged down by scandal and a creator who can’t keep their hateful rhetoric to themselves, the Wizarding World as we know it is in jeopardy.
After an extremely dispirited second film in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, they set out to right some wrongs and I’d say they were rather successful. The story flowed better and the stakes were higher, building suspense perfectly into a thrilling third act. Each character got their heroic moment, with one of the very best getting the final big save, and it functions as a satisfying end to the series should they decide to end it here instead of following through with the originally planned five films.
Some background knowledge of Potter lore is really necessary to fully enjoy these films, which I feel is something most audience viewers will be heading into the theater with enough to get them through. Crimes of Grindelwald left those of us fully immersed in all things Potter wondering if they were throwing canon events out the window in favor of making more films (and more money), but rest assured the loose ends are tied up well enough to stay true to the established history.
Now, as with the second film, if you’re going into this one hoping for fantastic beasts (because why wouldn’t you) you’ll again be disappointed. This saga should really be titled “Albus Dumbledore as Told by Newt Scamander.” So, as long as you head in without that expectation (in reality, I went in with none) then you’ll enjoy this installment for its story and characters. Eddie Redmayne is still just as charming and endearing in his role as the beloved Hufflepuff Magizoologist, with two of our favorite critters back in action — Pickett the Bowtruckle and Teddy the Niffler.
Whether it was intentional or not, Secrets of Dumbledore leaned heavily into what we as a society have faced since about 2015. The way an enigmatic leader who plays on fear can entrance a massive following can find themselves in a position they don’t deserve, does this sound familiar? If you’re one of those people who think that’s not how it happened, this film may not resonate with you as it does with others. Some may chide the wizarding world for being charmed by what we know as viewers to be a madman, but this did happen right under our own noses. So, maybe we need to give the magical community a break here.
Speaking of enigmatic, this film would not have been a triumph over its lackluster predecessor without Mads Mikkelsen taking over the role of Gellert Grindelwald. Now, I do not agree with the reasonings behind Johnny Depp’s exit from the role in the slightest. However, I do think it was needed for the saga. This was an exceptional example of how one casting change can morph the entire tone of a film. Law and Mikkelsen’s chemistry was magnetic and seeing how Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship is the focal point of this particular film, it was an imperative element to this film’s success over the last. Had Depp still been in the role this would have been an entirely different film, and unfortunately not as good of one.
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All of our favorite charmers are back, including the perfectly timed comedy of Jacob Kowalski played by Dan Fogler, with the exception of Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein. The circumstances of Tina’s absence are lightly explained, but not enough to satisfy the curiosity itch or propel her or anyone else’s story forward. The only valid explanation (which is entirely an assumption) is that there was a scheduling conflict, but in a series as large as this one it would be expected to take priority. However, the story navigates on without her, with the only awkwardness coming from my own sometimes nosy nature. All the new additions to Scamander’s team of magical allies were also fantastic, each of them bringing their own special abilities to the table that all get highlighted throughout the film.
While this is still not a perfect film and doesn’t quite live up to some of the best in the original Potter series, I wasn’t disappointed. Secrets were uncovered, loose plot points were tied up, and I personally love seeing more of Dumbledore’s history. I do just wish they’d maybe consider a name change to something not involving the magical creatures that have taken a backseat to allow that history to play out.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is now playing in theaters.