Four years later, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” has arrived and is more than a fact. The long-awaited third installment of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise is less full of distracting details than its immediate predecessor, but even a more sophisticated plot can save the two-hour-long film from feeling more than endurance test.
Part of the stress comes from the behind-the-scenes drama that led to the film’s release in theaters on April 15. Johnny Depp, who played the villain of the franchise, Gellert Grindelwald in the second part, was involved in allegations of domestic abuse made by his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Ezra Miller, who plays Credence Barebone, is facing his own problems after he appeared to drown a fan outside a club and, more recently, attacked people at a bar in Hawaii and allegedly broke into the hotel room of a random couple. Then there is the show’s ancestor, Rowling, who has spent the last two years aggressively reaffirming her anti-trans views.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
The bottom line
More focused but no less frustrating.
It’s hard not to think about these real issues when watching The Dumbledore Secrets, which draws the main points of the plot from today’s political struggles. While the film’s moral concerns continue to be summed up in the battle between good and evil, Rowling, who wrote the screenplay with Steve Cloves, is using the upcoming Wizarding World elections to increase the stakes of this conflict. To be good means to fight for democracy, to “do what is right, not what is easy,” says Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) at one point in the film. To be bad means to do the opposite.
The Dumbledore Secrets begins with a cold encounter between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (now played by Mads Mikkelsen), the idols of this moral conflict. They meet in an icy, almost palace cafe, where seemingly missing non-magical people buzz around. Drinking tea, the two warring and crushed magicians review their past and repeat the betrayals. Grindelwald’s commitment to dominating the wizarding world and starting a war with non-magical humans leaves Dumbledore in a difficult position. The future director of Hogwarts has to stop his enemy and his former lover, but an agreement made decades ago prevents the two of them from fighting immediately.
That’s where Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the nasty wizard of the series, comes in. Dumbledore recruits Newt to help him assemble a team that will defeat Grindelwald. The racketeering team is a familiar team, made up entirely of characters from previous installments: Newt Buddy (Victoria Gates)’s assistant, Theseus’s brother (Callum Turner), his friend and baker Magel Jacob (Dan) Dan Leta Lestrange’s brother, Yusuf Kama (William). Nadylam) and Professor Charms Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Jessica Williams).
They make a plan with many moving parts, in order to confuse Grindelwald, who can be seen in the near future. If the team manages to overcome the sharp wizard, then, Dumbledore hopes, they will have a chance to save the world. The confusion plan requires the skeptical group, led by a reluctant Newt, to trust each other. Similar confidence is required of viewers, who after two extended doses must trust that this third film will inspire faith in an unstable series.
Compared to the previous two films, The Dumbledore Secrets feels more like a Harry Potter movie rather than a Fantastic Beasts a. While some magical creatures make their appearance – one still central to Dumbledore and Grindelwald – they are by no means the anchor. This dose revolves around Dumbledore, a more interesting character than the supposed hero of the series, Newt. This change focuses on the narrative of the film, but it does not do much for those of us trying to understand the purpose of the series.
His secrets Dumbledore is not without its charm, though. Director David Gates (who directed four Potter movies and all of them Fantastic Beasts so far) returns with a terrific crew including photography director George Richmond, production designers Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont, fashion designer Mark Day, costume designer Colleen Atwood and composer James Newton Howard to recreate the rich, embossed Wizarding World . The battle scenes – slowing down and shooting from different angles – add intensity and showcase the franchise’s technical accuracy and bravery. The magic creatures are carefully crafted and the world inside Newt’s briefcase remains dazzling.
As Newt and his friends travel around the Magi world – a journey that takes them from New York and Berlin to Bhutan – they understand Grindelwald’s influence and the charm of his vision. (His promise that under his reign wizards will be able to live and love freely brought Jacob’s love, Queenie, played by Alison Sudol, to the dark side in the latest film.)
As Grindelwald organizes a campaign to become president of the International Confederation of Magi, he transforms into a fascist figure whose exclusionary attitudes and hateful rhetoric touch and encourage a frustrated mass. But it is difficult to buy the script of Rowling and Kloves, which remains on the surface of this transfer. A viewer who is attuned to the similarity of storytelling to real life may find it difficult to overcome the irony of a writer like Rowling who advertises messages of humanity, love, and radical acceptance, given her recent comments.
If The Dumbledore Secrets has a reason to exist, it is perhaps as proof of coping with frustration. It is difficult to remain in love with the world of magicians when its production is immersed in controversy and its creator often dangerously supports myopic views. This inevitably affects the perceptions of the work, revealing, at least to this critic, how obsessed these films are with the binaries – good and evil, poor and rich, love and hate, light and darkness. But life, like storytelling, is much more complicated and this is a lesson that would be wise to embrace the franchise.