The Plot: Newt (Eddie Redmayne) is called upon by Dumbledore (Jude Law) to counteract Grindelwald’s (Mads Mikkelsen) growing power. Grindelwald has the power of foresight, so it’s down to Newt, his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) to enact their own counter-foresight and attempt to stop Grindelwald’s attempt for the wizarding world throne. There are further complications in the former relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, so their struggle to maintain balance/disorder becomes deeply personal and political at the same time…
The Verdict: J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series bears some resemblance to The Hobbit in that it’s a lesser companion piece to the much greater franchise that came before it. However, that hasn’t stopped Warner Brothers from milking their cash niffler repeatedly to see how many coins they can produce. And so we have the third in the series The Secrets Of Dumbledore, which seemingly crept up quickly and quietly into cinemas like a stealthy ninja. Could it be that the series is running out of steam already, with yet two more films to go to complete the arc? Not quite. While the series has been consistent as in consistently average, there’s a sense here that Fantastic Beasts might finally be hitting its stride and finding its own voice to keep it relevant and yet separate from the legacy series about the boy who lived. It shares the same DNA, but widens the scope and history of the wizarding world to its own ends.
As the title suggests, the film is all about secrets and how they can be destructive on not just a personal level but on a world-building level too. Rowling and co-writer Steve Kloves deepen the already tangled relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, giving this particular instalment a more edgy atmosphere. Change is in the air. Grindelwald is a dangerous character who projects himself as a cult-like figure who deliberately wants to start a bloody war, sorry – special operation, with the muggles and tip the balance of power in his favour. Now that he’s morphed into the commanding presence of Mads Mikkelsen, stepping in after Johnny Depp was consumed by his own personal war, Grindelwald is a more interesting and morally dubious character this time around. Mikkelsen and Law play off each other well, their secret history told in their eyes rather than their words. However, it’s not really them that matter the most in this film.
The series’ two secret weapons continue to be the gentle Newt and especially the out-of-his-depth-but-enjoying-it muggle Jacob. Were it not for them, this particular muggle would otherwise be lost among the wand-waving and spell-casting by the dizzying array of other characters that zip in and out of scenes like Speedy Gonzales. The delightful Dan Fogelman continues to be the most valued player here as Jacob, the audience surrogate who thankfully hasn’t been relegated to barely a cameo (spare a thought for the great Katherine Waterston). His evolving story is the most engaging among a rather dull sub-plot about a wizarding election that merely amounts to a lucky bag choice being made rather than, say, a democratic choice. Wizards could learn a lot from muggles, it seems. Returning director and head wizarding honcho David Yates even stages the Berlin scenes with more than a touch of fascism about them, revealing a surprisingly political angle to a family-oriented series. Well, the Star Wars prequels got bogged down in space politics so let’s hope that Fantastic Beasts doesn’t fall into the same trap with wizarding politics.
So, The Secrets Of Dumbledore is essentially more of the average same but with a more confident approach to its material as the series hits its stride. The mid-point of any series is where it could potentially stumble and this film very nearly does by sidelining certain characters and only revealing a certain amount of Dumbledore’s secrets. One suspects that there’s a big one yet to be told. But thanks to some stylishly-staged action sequences (fluttering pieces of paper at a dinner scene spring to mind) and spirited performances from key cast members, this instalment avoids being a Dumble-snore. The magic is still there, but for how much longer can Yates and his team sustain this? Only time will tell, as there’s mileage yet to go.
Rating: 3 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
Fantastic Beasts – The Secrets Of Dumbledore
Magic is still there
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore (UK / USA / 12A / 142 mins)
In short: Magic is still there
Directed by David Yates.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Callum Turner, Ezra Miller.