We found ourselves very torn about whether we should even see “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” Growing up a lifelong “Harry Potter” fan, it broke our hearts to see JK Rowling continue to spout her bigoted views. Trying to take that aspect out of it, the “Fantastic Beasts” films are an anemic spinoff at best.
The latest film is a slight improvement over the previous entries. Eddie Redmayne continues to play Newt Scamander. We’re not saying every protagonist has to be brash and brave like a Gryffindor. However we find Redmayne’s Scamander a milquetoast lead incapable of carrying a franchise. It’s a performance we’ve seen out of him time and time again and it’s getting old. The series seems to try to compensate by jamming these films with peripheral characters. None of whom get motivations that are intriguing enough to make them stand out. Instead there’s a cacophony of side stories that distract.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” relies on an audience’s affinity (and knowledge) of Dumbledore. Once again played by Jude Law – who we still have so many questions about what happens to Dumbledore to make him age into Richard Harris level old in a span of only a few years according to the film’s timeline. Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald, the big bad, has been replaced with Mads Mikkelsen. We are HUGE fans of Mikkelsen, but even he can’t save this series. Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Victoria Yeates, William Nadylam, and Katherine Waterston all return. If you’re asking yourself “Whooooo are all these characters?” – that’s the correct response. One of the few shoutouts we’ll give is to newcomer to the franchise Jessica Williams as Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, an American wizard.
Overall, the film doesn’t trust its audience. There are plot points that come out of complete left field. The overly simplified “good vs. evil” plot feels tired. The beasts are shoehorned in in an attempt to probably sell more merchandise.
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We are guessing that the addition of original film franchise screenwriter Steve Kloves is responsible for this film being a slight improvement over the past two. Rowling single handedly wrote “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”. As much as we now dislike her we acknowledge she was great at worldbuilding, and characters. However sometimes plot or actual dialogue was not her strong suit. Also screenwriting is a whole different skill set than writing a novel, and not automatically transferable.
At the end of the day we wish this had been an HBO series or something of the like. Too much time passes between the theatrical releases. The films haven’t felt compelling enough to justify rewatching between each entry.
While you can go into this one cold (assuming you have an existing knowledge of the Harry Potter universe), we don’t recommend it. If you find yourself so morbidly curious that you have to see it we recommend waiting until it inevitably comes out on streaming.