The new Fantastic Beasts movie, The Secrets of Dumbledore, is a movie carrying a heavy load. There have been so many production issues that you hope they never appear on the screen, but they do., from the firing of Johnny Depp from the role of Grindelwald to J.K. Rowling’s comments about transgender. The missing Katherine Waterstone character, Tina, is reduced to a very brief cameo, with Harry Potter scriptwriter Steve Kloves being bought in to doctor the original script. The film is coming from a previous forgettable film that suffered from far too many subplots. However, while this is much more in keeping with the first film’s tone and is better than the previous movie, it is proof once and for all that the Wizarding World has run out of steam.
Albus Dumbledore enlists Newt Scamander and a group of wizards to thwart the plans of Grindelwald, who wants to raise an army of wizards to destroy the non-wizarding world. However, Grindelwald has plans to stop Dumbledore and win the presidency, so he can rule the land.
Thanks to some impressive set pieces and a much tighter script, this is a much more involving story than the previous film. If you haven’t seen the last movie, you may struggle as the first 30 minutes constantly reference the events. Admittedly, I had forgotten what happened, so I found it hard going, but once the new plot was introduced, it became a much easier ride.
Having said that, the joy of the first film was Newt Scamander. His goofy yet loveable character moved the film along pleasantly, and at the time, I stated that it was far more entertaining than any of the Harry Potter movies. Yet Newt has been sidelined as almost the comic relief. Here, Dumbledore and Grindlewald are the main protagonists, and it’s like we have gone back to the days of Harry and Voldermort, except in adult form. So you start to think you’ve been here before, and lo and behold, you have. The fantastic beasts are still here, although fewer of them this time than before. A deer-like creature forms an essential part of the plot, while some scorpion-like crab monsters lead to a slightly awkward moment that is supposed to be funny but is more embarrassing, especially for the actor involved.
The cast all do a valiant job. Mads Mikkelsen is perfect as the new Grindlewald, and you do wonder why he wasn’t cast in the role initially. Jude Law brings an air of confidence as Dumbledore, although his accent kept changing for no reason whatsoever. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt is now a second fiddle character and is given the job of being calm before each storm. You want more of him apart from being forced to do embarrassing dances to escape deadly creatures. Jessica Williams, as Eulalie Hicks, impresses as one of the newcomers to the franchise.
The Secrets of Dumbledore isn’t as forgettable as The Crimes of Grindlewald, but it would seem as if the magic is slowly dying from the series. Lacking any inventiveness and relying on familiarity, the promise of two more movies doesn’t bode well. Maybe it’s time to hang up the wands and move on. Or at least take it back to the fun of the first film and give it back to the misadventures of Newt Scamander.
3 out of 5
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Callum Turner, Alison Sudol, Jessica Williams.
Written by: Steve Kloves and (also based on a screenplay and based on characters created) J.K. Rowling
Running time: 142 mins
Release date: 8th April 2022