OF SECRETS, MAGIC, POLITICS,
AND AN IMPERFECT ADVENTURE
In 2016, five years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 concluded the “boy who lived” cinematic adventure saga of witches and wizards, J.K. Rowling returned to her magical “Wizarding World” for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel / spin-off endeavor to the eight-part Potter films. The feature, which was directed Harry Potter alum David Yates and starred Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Alison, Colin Farrell, and several others, focused the introverted protagonist character of Newt Scamander, a magizoologist wizard, who travels to New York City (circa 1926) and accidentally releases some of his creatures loose in the city, while stumble upon a larger threat that sees to expose the wizarding community to the non-magical (i.e. No-Maj). While they were some skeptics and critics out there, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ultimately was a success, finding its audience who enjoyed the feature (the movie was well-received positive reviews) and the film did collect $814 million at the worldwide box office against its $175 million production budget. The success of Fantastic Beasts proved that moviegoers (around the world) were still hungry for more adventures in this spin-off series in Rowling’s Wizarding World, with the studio (shortly after the film’s releases) expanded upon the idea of future installments from three Fantastic Beasts installments to five installments. Two years later, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released and further expanding upon this new spin-off series within The Wizarding World by ways and means of showcasing a continuing adventure of Newt and his friends as the sinister dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald escaped from captivity and looking to cause mayhem upon Paris, France. This sequel, while production was again solid and a great cast assembled (most of which reprised their roles from the first film), struggle to find the same type cinematic caliber that its 2016 movie was able to achieving, with many (critics and moviegoers citing the feature’s script and convoluted story. Still, The Crimes of Grindelwald manages to be a box office success by generating over $650 million worldwide; further stating that people were once again still interested in the Wizarding World. Now, four years after the release of the 2018 sequel, Warner Bros. Studios and director David Yates present the third installment in the Fantastic Beasts saga with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Does this latest entry in Rowling’s Wizard World find sequel success within critics and moviegoers or has the franchise of witches and wizard lost its magic?
Since making his presence known in Paris, France, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is looking to claim dominion over the Wizarding World via an upcoming election, working with his followers, including Credence (Ezra Miller) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), to seize the control of the Qilin, a mystical creature capable of whose powers are revered by all. While Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) remains bound a by blood pact oath to not take up arms against with his former lover, he sees the Grindelwald’s plans begin to unfold, with the Hogwarts professor recruiting a team of wizards to embark on a mission to disorient the dark wizard’s glimpses of premonitions and stop his plans from reaching fruition. This includes the magizoologist wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Ilvermorny Charms teacher Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Jessica Williams), French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), and the American No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Coming for the heroes is Grindelwald, who’s magical foresight keeps the group on their toes as new challenges arises rather quickly, while Albus struggles to remain sidelined in the fight, with his brother, Aberforth (Richard Coyle) coming to the realization Credence’s lineage birthright.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I’ve stated previously in my other Fantastic Beasts movie reviews, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. Yes, I’m part of “Potter” fandom as absolutely love the Rowling’s book as well as the eight cinematic installments that told of Harry’s journey from start to finish. And…I’ll admit that it was kind of a bittersweet when I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in theaters, saying goodbye to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest as well as Rowling’s cinematic Wizarding World that had enchanted us (the viewers) for almost a decade. Thus, you can imagine how I must have felt when I heard Rowling (and Warner Bros.) announced that they were planning a new prequel / spin-off in the Harry Potter World. Like many, I was skeptical about this movie series, especially since it was “away” from the already established world of Harry Potter and his time at Hogwarts. However, I was still very curious (and eager) to see what this new sage would bring. Luckily, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did not fail in being a celebrated return to Rowling’s Wizarding World. The movie, which was also inspired by Rowling’s 2001 book of the same name, was an opportunity for us (the viewers) to glimpse back into Rowling’s world of witches and wizards, but from a different perspective, with the movie set away from the previous saga (i.e. another time, another place, new cast of characters). It was fun, enjoyable, and still had the sometime silly nature that the Potter films were known for as well as its thematic adult / dark tones that add to the epic grandeur of this magical world. The Crimes of Grindelwald was (to me personally) a good sequel, which continues the adventures of this new Fantastic Beast saga as well as introducing some new elements; broadening the Wizarding World lore, history, and mythos beyond what the Potter books. I do think that the script for the feature needed improvements as the narrative was too convoluted and exhausting. Yet, despite that, I felt that the Fantastic Beasts sequel was good enough and kept me interested fully, with the film’s ending making myself eagerly waiting for the next chapter in this magical Wizard World franchise.
Of course, this brings me back to talking about Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, a 2022 fantasy adventure film and the third installment in the Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise. While The Crimes of Grindelwald faced mixed reviews, it did make a big splash at the box office, which kept the overlords of WB invested in further continuing Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise in the form of the Fantastic Beasts series. Thus, the third entry was greenlit, and the production of Fantastic Beasts 3 soon began. However, the road to getting that movie “off the ground” took some time, especially with The Crimes of Grindelwald being heavily criticized by Rowling’s sole work on the film’s script, which probably WB to examine the author’s writing capability in screenplay writing, while the accusations of actor Johnny Depp against Amber Heard loomed large in the public / media eye. This, of course, lead to Depp, who played Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts films, being recast for this upcoming follow-up sequel, with actor Mads Mikkelsen now stepping into the main antagonist role of Grindelwald. This, as well as Rowling’s social media opinion editorials on transgenders, which drew ire from the Potter fanbase, distracted and lessened the excitement of the upcoming release. Although, the marketing campaign for Fantastic Beasts 3 remained strong, with the film’s various promos and movie trailers began to appear and produced a strong stance on “returning to the magic” of the Wizarding World. From the trailers alone, I was pretty excited to see this movie, but still had a few minor reservation about it. How would it fare at the box office? Where would the movie end? How would it tie into the already established franchise? Would Mikkelsen be good as Grindelwald? So many questions. I did get a chance to see Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore during its opening weekend, but, due to my work schedule and back catalogue of playing “catch up” with some of the movie reviews, I delayed getting this particular review done. Now, I’m finally caught up and ready to give my personal “two cents” on Fantastic Beasts 3. And what did I think of it? Well, both good and bad…. but more good. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a slightly improved sequel in a few key areas, but draws its flaws in a several areas. The continuing adventure of Newt and Dumbledore against the villainy of Grindelwald is an enjoyable and fun ride, yet still has room for improvement on its dark / ambitious outing into Rowling’s Wizard World.
Returning to the Wizarding World director’s chair is director David Yates, who previous helmed the first two Fantastic Beasts movies and the last four Harry Potter films. So, it goes without saying that Yates is pretty familiar and well-equipped to direct the latest entry into the cinematic franchise of the Wizarding World and does so with this latest Fantastic Beasts sequel. Much like the Potter installments (both the books and films), Yates approaches The Secrets of Dumbledore with a more mature sense for this particular outing by building upon what was established in the previous endeavors and showcasing a more darker narrative that is more layered with slightly more transitioned adult themes, some edge, and dramatic ambiance. Yates continues that notion in The Secrets of Dumbledore, especially with visual and atmospheric undertones and thematic storytelling that utilizes of the darker undertones to make the entire film adventure have a bit more gravitas within its narrative and characters. This, naturally, makes the movie have a more engaging story to tell, especially because it deals with larger issues in both its world building aesthetics, but also within the various characters (both major and minor ones). That’s not to say that Yates makes the sequel so dark and dreary that it becomes a melancholy viewing experience as the feature still retains a lot of the comedic and lighthearted moments and sequences that both the Harry Potter films, and Fantastic Beasts movies are known for. So, the combination transition between both light and dark moments are spread throughout the feature’s runtime, Yates compliments each one for a more complex storytelling in The Secrets of Dumbledore as well as in its visual aesthetics.
Building upon that notion, Yates utilizes the film continuation of magical creatures within the Fantastic Beasts franchise, with plenty of new magical beasts that are littered without the movie’s narrative. While may not as much as I would the previous two entries, The Secrets of Dumbledore still has a good healthy dose such creatures, with some old familiars popping in and out of the narrative as well as a few new ones that are great to see, including one that plays an important part of the feature’s story. Yates knows how to incorporate such beings into the movie and, while the larger narrative takes a bit of center stage in this new movie rather than the “fantastical beasts”, the result is something that brings a sense of wonder and mysticism to behold in this magical world of witches and wizards. This, of course, plays into the film’s action, with Yates balancing the film between action, comedy, and drama, and (again), while not as powerful as it was during the first Fantastic Beasts endeavor, the end result is something that still works and provides plenty of thrills, chills, and excitement to the proceedings.
While the first two Fantastic Beasts installments were solely credited to author J.K. Rowling, most of the feature’s narrative criticisms derive from the unbalanced nature of the story’s shaping, with many stating that Rowling needed a co-script handler. Thus, in The Secrets of Dumbledore, Rowling returns to handling the movie’s script, but it also overseeing by writer Steve Kloves, who has adapted all of the Harry Potter movies from Rowling’s novel. The result is something a bit bumpy in a few areas (more on that below), but, for the most part, creates a more focused and a bit more straightforward narrative adventure for the various characters to play around in instead of the meandering narrative threads found in The Crimes of Grindelwald. There are a few muddy areas that both Rowling and Kloves can’t overcome and doesn’t fully write the narrative trajectory for the planned final two Fantastic Beasts installments, but it’s a step in the right direction; finding the sequel providing plenty of new elements, old familiars, and more livelier journey for Newt, Dumbledore, and their companions bounce around. There is also a sense of “playfulness” to the main plot of The Secrets of Dumbledore; finding the group of main characters offering unusual team-up pairings (i.e. Newt and Theseus, Jacob and Lolly, Dumbledore and Jacob, etc.), which can offer some great character dialogue moments as well as bring up some comedic / action scenes that still have that “Potter” magic.
Another interesting aspect that the Yates and his team (as well as Rowling and Kloves’s script) present in The Secrets of Dumbledore is politics; something that is a bit uncommon in the Wizarding World. Sure, it is mentioned a little bit in the some of the latter Harry Potter movies, but it isn’t brought to the foreground as much as it done in this particular feature, with Grindelwald amassing influence and political position to make his villainous plan come to fruition. This particular narrative aspect also showcases more of the Wizarding World, with nation delegates, elected officials, and other “ministries” to offer a little bit of a more broader sense that the entire Wizarding World is fully realized and fully developed across the globe…. not just the Britain’s Ministry of Magic and America’s MACUSA. Thus, it’s kind of a somewhat new element to bring, but I do appreciate the attempt and adds a more complete and complexity to Rowling’s world than (again) has been developed beyond the Hogwarts and “the boy who lived” story arc. In addition to this, The Secrets of Dumbledore has the chance and opportunity to address the lives of both Dumbledore and Grindelwald and their relationship that they have with each other. While Grindelwald may be a little straightforward villain (maybe saving his “big moments” for the next two entries), the former character gets much more screen-time and further delves into backstory of the Albus in way that is compelling and fully realized. This, of course, brings up his relationship with Grindelwald, which is mentioned and is handled in a good way…. touching his love for Gellert and how he (Dumbledore) truly did care for him, while Grindelwald might have seeing this as a way of using him. This is showing during their several interactions with each other and almost shows a narcissistic / one-way relationship that Dumbledore wrestles with throughout the picture. All in all, I’m glad that the movie presents this particular narrative thread into the movie and brings to the forefront of the viewer’s attention, which is the bases for Albus and Gellert’s relationship.
In the presentation category, The Secrets of Dumbledore is top-notch and is probably one of the best-looking (from a visual standpoint) Wizarding World movie to date. Despite the flaws that the movie offers, Yates and his team is further pushes the boundaries of Rowling’s Wizard World and expanding upon this magical world of witches, wizards, and fantastic creatures. From new locations and magical abilities to the mystical creatures and magic spells, the visual effects for the feature do truly standout and are quite impressive to behold in almost every scene. The “fantastic beasts” elements, though downplayed a bit (as mentioned above) are still terrific to sight to see, with some new beings that are both majestic and powerful; creatively rendered in such a unique way that only Rowling’s imagination could dream up. Everything else from character attires, set layouts, and hair / make-up are also another cool marvel that these movies have always being able to present in a such a visual feast for the eyes and do so again in this sequel; offering up a wide array of appeal from bright colors to muted tones. Thus, the feature’s “behind the scenes” key players, including Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont (production design), Anna Pinnock (set decorations), Colleen Atwood (costume designs), and the entire art direction team, should be praised for their work on The Secrets of Dumbledore in making such a vivid and organic alive world through the usage of background aesthetics and setting nuances. In addition, the film’s cinematography work by George Richmond is thrilling to watch by creating several cinematic elements to make the feature’s larger / grander moments that much more appealing to visual see. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by James Newton Howard, is cinematically sublime. Of course, hearing several familiar melodies and sweeps from the past soundtracks, including the Hedwig theme, is always fantastic to hear, but Howard delivers an all-around solid musical composition that has plenty of dramatic moments that are epic and resonate beautifully.
Unfortunately, The Secrets of Dumbledore ends up being the least memorable entry (so far) in the Fantastic Beasts installment of the series, with some problematic areas that the feature can’t overcome. How so? Well, for starters, the movie faces is the actual runtime and the pacing problems that the picture struggles to overcome. With the project clocking in at 142 minutes (one hour and 22-minutes) in length, The Secrets of Dumbledore is the longest of the Fantastic Beasts installments and it kind of shows in a few particular areas. What do I mean? Well, why the narrative beats are bit more focused on what needs to be, the actual “splitting up the main characters” can cause a few snags in the overall execution of the motion picture. Exploring the various narrative threads, on separate strands, personal obstacles to overcome, character developments, and tying it all up in the end can be a daunting task and now splitting up the characters in several branching pathways might be good for TVs and novels, but not so much in the film. Thus, a great bulk of The Secrets of Dumbledore has all its main heroes going off on directions paths, with some being more fully realized than others. Thus, the frequent shifting back and forth between each of these story threads can be a bit jarring, especially since some aren’t fully fleshed out. Maybe it’s because there are too many characters involved in the movie (and their own personal story arcs), which creates several pacing problems in several crucial areas, which is most apparent during the second act of the feature. It all does come together in the end, but (again) some elements and narrative cogs aren’t fully realized as much as they should be…..dragging through a very confusing and ambiguous story that could’ve been more refined.
This also hampers the characters themselves, with the movie struggling to balance them all in a well-mannered composition, with both the director and script handling can’t make cohesive narration. All of it is there, but it feels a bit disjointed. In terms of the script, there’s a sense of unbalanced and keeps the story quite ambiguous in a few areas, which offers up clunky narrative pieces that aren’t as smoothed out, which naturally feels a tad abrasive in several parts. Certain characters that are supposed to be important are push aside, certain plot elements that were established in the previous entries are slightly abandoned, and the story itself feels a tad incomplete. Well, let me rephrase that last part, the story of The Secrets of Dumbledore feels like one unfinished part of a giant story and, while that can be good in several famous film trilogies or series to help build tension and momentum for the next one, but the ending of this sequel kind of completes the story; leaving very little reason beyond one or two exceptions to further continue this new saga. Also the movie itself does feel fragmented and easily could’ve been expanded upon or (at the very least) beefed up in the script handling for a more robust and adventurous experience.
From a director’s perceptive, Yates tries to juggle a lot in this Fantastic Beasts sequel endeavor and, while he tries to right the ship from the criticism he faced in The Crimes of Grindelwald and he gets some things right, but he just struggles with the overwhelming film narrative that he hast to tackle in The Secrets of Dumbledore. Thus, this makes the movie have a bit less “pizzazz” and that special “IT” factor that some things say the first Fantastic Beasts was able to capture, with this particular feature feeling like a middling chapter…. neither beginning nor ending correctly and clear shows that the franchise is starting to show its wear and tear. I, for one, will love to see the franchise to finish on a grand finale, but, given the reception of The Secrets of Dumbledore has been receiving, it shows that the Fantastic Beasts saga is starting to lose a tad bit of its “wizarding” magic and Yates, who clearly knows how to make a Wizarding World movie (given his track record), is starting to show ambiguity.
Lastly, there is (of course) the matters of all the allegations, accusations, and problems that happened during the film’s production. While this may not exactly be a direct problem with the film’s overall execution, it does put a very poor (almost negative) spotlight on The Secrets of Dumbledore. Thus, it is kind of hard to shake off all the various problems surrounding both the movie and the franchise while watching this movie and they somewhat slight diminish stigma it has on it. This didn’t fully bother me as much as some have with it as I can somewhat separate the two (the movie and real life), but it’s still there when I watched (and probably when I rewatch) the movie.
The cast in The Secrets of Dumbledore is particularly up to the task for this latest Wizarding World outing, with some familiar faces returning to reprise their Fantastic Beast character roles, while newcomers join the franchise in the film. Yet, despite the likeable acting talents involved on the project, some of the characters (even the important ones) gets sidelined in the overstuff narrative of the movie; causing them to have either less screen time or less character development. Leading the charge in the movie is actor Eddie Redmayne, who returns to reprise his character role of Newt Scamander, the one and only magizoologist in the entire Wizarding World. Known for his roles in The Danish Girl, Pillars of the Earth, and The Theory of Everything, Redmayne has been considered a very versatile actor that has played a wide range of characters over the years, with some being Oscar-worthy. Thus, having such a gifted actor at the helm of the Fantastic Beasts series is a great asset that these movies utilizes and Redmayne is up to the task in bring this character to life in these movies, with a character of such endearing love for animals and personal quirks / eccentricities. Thus, return to Newt for this movie is quite an easy process for Redmayne, who easily slides back into the role, with all the inane traits and personal idiosyncrasies that make Newt so memorable. Yet, despite the notion that the Fantastic Beasts franchise is Newt Scamander’s big adventure series to play around with (similar to how Harry Potter is the equivalent in the Potter entries), it almost like he gets pushed aside slightly in The Secrets of Dumbledore by making more room for both important characters (Dumbledore and Grindelwald) or the various other characters in the film. Still, for better or worse, Redmayne is still quite fantastic at being the eccentric yet famed magizoologist of Newt Scamander. Continuing down the Scamander family line, it’s great to see that the character of Theseus Scamander, the brother to Newt, gets more screen-time in this film and plays a larger part of the main narrative than he did in The Crimes of Grindelwald. Plus, I believe that actor Callum Turner (War & Peace and Emma.) continues to play such a compelling character in the role of Theseus.
Perhaps who actually shines the most in the movie are the film’s (or rather the overarching) hero and villain of the Fantastic Beasts franchise is in the characters of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, who are played by actors Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen. Naturally, Law, who is known for his roles in Closer, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Sherlock Holmes, is quite a talented actor and has had a great list of films that has he’s appeared in his career; creating memorable roles in and out of various genres as both a leading man and in supporting roles. Of course, Law has appeared in the Fantastic Beasts movies before, with his small supporting performance in The Crimes of Grindelwald as the younger iteration of Albus Dumbledore and was a terrific involvement in the feature; perfectly encapsuling the character in a much more vibrant and livelier self, yet still offering up wit and charm that fans will love. Thus, in The Secrets of Dumbledore, Law is given a larger platform to spring off of and has more screen-time allotted to him, which allows him make Dumbledore has a more large impact on the story. There’s a sense of loneliness and fractured soul that Law allows the character to have in the movie, which makes that much more compelling, especially when examining his relationship with Grindelwald. Plus, Law has a rich sounding voice that makes his interpretation of Albus that much more enjoyed as well as having the trademark moniker of being witty and charming. All in all, I think that Law is fantastic as the younger Albus Dumbledore and is great major player in the film.
The flip sided coin to Law’s Dumbledore is in the character of Gellert Grindelwald, who is now being played by actor Mads Mikkelsen. This is probably biggest and most interesting point to make in this review, especially because revolves around a new actor playing the character of Grindelwald. Naturally, as many know, actor Johnny Depp had previous played Gellert in the previous two Fantastic Beasts installments, but, due to the accusation by actress Amber Heard, WB Studios decided to remove Depp from Fantastic Beasts franchise and find a new actor to play Grindelwald in The Secrets of Dumbledore. Thus, actor Mads Mikkelsen, who is known for his roles Casino Royale, Hannibal, and Doctor Strange, was finally casted in the role of Grindelwald and fans were a little bit spilt, with some finding him to be a good choice in the part of Gellert, while others still believe that Depp was the better choice. Nevertheless, Mikkelsen was cast in the role as the main villain in the Fantastic Beasts series; making his debut as the character of Grindelwald with this movie and I do have to say that I really liked him. Of course, Depp made the character really interesting and brought a lot of his thespian acting talent to make Grindelwald unique and memorable. Yet, Mikkelsen brings something special to Gellert and something that Depp can’t quite touch upon, with a more subdued performance that has a menacing, coldness to him. To that end, Mikkelsen is fantastic as Grindelwald and brings a lot of nuance to the character without really emoting a lot, which seems to be to the actor’s strength. Like in The Crimes of Grindelwald, the character of Gellert is further expanded upon in the movie and gives a bit more insight into his personal relationship with Albus and (much like I said above) shows how uncaring and aloof he was towards Dumbledore; displaying the narcissistic side in his affection. He is a bit of a straight-forward villain in a few regards, with The Secrets of Dumbledore showcasing Grindelwald’s plan of amassing power and control in the Wizarding World, yet it is still a great performance because Mikkelsen imbues Gellert with subtle, gravitas, and a gaze that can speak volumes. While Depp introduced the character in the previous films, I believe that Mikkelsen’s Gellert Grindelwald is the better of the two and I personally can’t wait to see what he does with the character in the future Fantastic Beasts sequels.
In the more secondary characters, The Secrets of Dumbledore has a few ones that do actually shine the feature, with two primary examples of this being the return of Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj American baker / frequent companion of Newt, and the introduction of the character of Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, a respected charms professor from Ilvermorny. Much like Redmayne, actor Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury and Fanboys) has become one of the main staples of the Fantastic Beasts saga as the loveable and good-natured non-magical person, who keeps on getting swept up in the magical world through a series of events. There’s a sense of an endearing nature whenever Jacob is on-screen, and you just can’t help but root for him in whatever he does. Thus, his involvement in the movie is indeed a great one and definitely has some of the best comedic moments as well as ones that have the most heart. As for the character of Lally, she is definitely a welcomed addition to the Wizarding World film series and even to the Fantastic Beasts saga. Played by actress Jessie Williams (Love Life and Booksmart), the character has a certain type of intellect and playfulness that is wonderful to see whenever Lally is on-screen. Plus, Williams is a delight whenever she appears and relishes the chance to make Lally fun, inviting, and almost like a “breath of fresh air”. I personally loved her in the film, and she made a great companion character as Newt / Dumbledore’s friends, and I really do hope that she returns in either of the final two Fantastic Beasts movies.
Also, actor Richard Coyle (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) does a good job in introducing us (the viewer) to the younger version Aberforth Dumbledore. Perhaps the only downside is that the movie doesn’t fully explore the character, who has an important key component in the main narrative, enough, but Coyle still provides plenty of nuance to make the character memorable. Lastly, the character of Bunty Broadacre, Newt’s trusted and indispensable assistant, returns from her small appearance in The Crimes of Grindelwald and has a large part to play in The Secrets of Dumbledore. While considered to be more of secondary player in the film’s grand scheme of things, actress Victoria Yeates (Call the Midwife and Discovery of Witches) is plays the character with such great nuances to make her sum parts of the feature quite enjoyable to watch…. almost endearing.
Unfortunately, The Secrets of Dumbledore has several characters that don’t get much to shine within the movie and are underdeveloped in the movie and / or reduced. Perhaps the weakest character in the entire film would have to be the character of Credence Barebones / Aurelius Dumbledore, with actor Ezra Miller reprising the role as the trouble wayward young man. Known for his roles in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Miller has been periodically appearing in several high profile feature film endeavors, with his involvement with the Fantastic Beasts series being one of them. However, Miller’s character doesn’t get much to do in The Secrets of Dumbledore, which is quite odd, especially since he’s supposed to be one of the driving forces in both this particular movie as well as the Fantastic Beasts franchise. His appearance in Secrets of Dumbledore is one of the perplexity, with the character getting sidelined for large chunks of the feature’s narrative / screen-time, despite having some more important elements in the story. His reduction and overall importance is definitely felt in the movie, and it seems like the script should’ve been more focused on him. In addition, Miller’s recent public incidents didn’t help the film (nor his character) in a favorable light. In the end, Miller’s Credence ends up being minimal character in the third Fantastic Beasts entry, with the character being somewhat forgetful in the feature, which is quite disappointing.
Continuing in the supporting roles, I do have to say that Goldstein sisters (Queenie and Tina), who I would consider to be main players in the Fantastic Beasts series (thus far), are disappointingly undercooked in The Secrets of Dumbledore, with their involvement both sidelined and rather limp in the feature’s screen time and narrative. Talking about Queenie, who is once again played by actress Alison Sudol (Dig and The Last Full Measure), doesn’t have much to do in the feature, with her character popping in and out in a few scenes. This, of course, is disappointing because there was so much emphasis on her character in the last film; setting her up to “joining the dark side” of Grindelwald’s ambition. In The Secrets of Dumbledore, however, her character gets pushed aside. Sudol is still solid in the role of Queenie, but she isn’t given much to play around with her particular character, which is disappointing, for there’s so much potential in such a character, who is struggling with her position of good / evil. Again, it just seems like an afterthought in otherwise overstuffed narrative. Likewise, Tina Goldstein, who is played by actress Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice and The World to Come), gets a serious reduction screen-time in the film, with her character of Tina being absent for most of the film’s story. Naturally, an excuse for her character’s absence is given, but it’s a bit limp….in my opinion. Like Sudol’s Queenie, Waterson’s Tina was one of the major characters in previous Fantastic Beasts movies, and seeing her character sidelined for the bulk of The Secrets of Dumbledore is quite disappointing. She’s basically only in one scene in the film and, while her interaction with Redmayne’s Newt is great, it’s just unfortunate that her screen-time in the picture. In truth, the real reason behind Waterson’s Tina being reduce is kind of mystery and ambiguous. She could’ve been busy with other projects during the time of shooting The Secrets of Dumbledore and would’ve created scheduling conflicts of doing both. Waterson has also voiced her opinion on against Rowling’s personal social media opinion posts, which might have had her involvement on the project reduced and to not be much associated with the Rowling as much because of it. Whether it was one of those two reasons, or something remains elusive, for both Waterson nor WB Studio has made official remark on it. Regardless, the absence of Waterson’s Tina Goldstein is greatly missed in this new Fantastic Beasts and another disappointment in my opinion.
Another character who is pretty much the most unmemorable in the film is the character of Yusuf Kama, a French wizard who is a descendant of old wizarding family and who joins up with Newt’s team to disrupt Grindelwald’s plans. The character, who was introduced in The Crimes of Grindelwald and once again played by actor William Nadylam (Parlement and Stillwater), is pretty much a bland side character in the film, with Kama’s involvement in the movie’s story to be almost non-existent. Yes, he’s involved in a few machination plot points, but it’s almost inconsequential to the overall story arc in The Secrets of Dumbledore. Heck, the character could’ve been removed from the narrative altogether and it probably would’ve remained the same. Even worse, the character growth of Kama seems less important in the movie compared to the previous entry, which doesn’t give Nadylam much to play around with. Thus, the character of Yusuf Kama in the film is lackluster and utterly forgettable and throwaway character.
The rest of the cast, including actress Corby-Tuech (Harlots and The Collection) as Grindelwald’s loyal right-hand follower Vinda Rosier, actress Fiona Glascott (Brooklyn and Episodes) as the younger version of Professor Minerva McGonagall, actor Oliver Masucci (Dark and 4 Blocks) as the current Supreme Head of the ICW and the Minister of Magic for Germany Anton Vogel, actress Valerie Pachner (A Hidden Life and The King’s Man) as Vogel’s attaché Henrietta Fischer, actor Dave Wong (The Death of Stalin and The Rezort) as the candidate for the post of Supreme Head of the ICW and the Minster of Magic for China Liu Tao, and actress Maria Fernanda Candido (The Traitor and Edge of Desire) as candidate for the post of Supreme Head of the ICW and the Minster of Magic for Brazil Vicência Santos, are delegated to minor supporting players in the film. A few return to reprise their roles from the previous film, while others are introduced in the film specifically. Collectively, I had no problem with any of these roles, with the acting talents involved giving what their respective characters are called for in the film’s narrative.
As Gellert Grindelwald amasses his followers to gather to him, Albus Dumbledore sends Newt Scamander and a team of trusted companions to undermine the dark wizard’s masterplan in the movie Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Director David Yates’s latest film sees the return of Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts narrative; expanding upon the tale of good and evil within the Wizarding World in this prequel Potter adventure. While the film struggles to find focus in a few areas (pacing issues and storytelling) as well as having a problematic areas within overstuff / under developing several characters, the movie itself is still quite robust within its fantasy frivolities and blockbuster visual aesthetics, thanks to Yates’s direction, a solid presentation, and some of the main cast (including Redmayne, Fogler, Law, and Mikkelsen). Personally, I thought that the movie was good and entertaining. There are problems in the film that I can’t overlook, but it’s not as disastrous or terrible as some critics / viewers are making the movie out to be. To me, I that the feature is probably the weakest entry in the Fantastic Beasts franchise (thus far), with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is being the best at what this series has to offer. That’s not to say that The Secrets of Dumbledore is bad, it’s just needs to be further developed in a way that’s more focused on its own identity within the Wizarding World. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is a solid “recommended” for the diehard fans of Harry Potter and of the expansion of Rowling’s Wizarding World dominion. That being said, the causal moviegoer might be a little bit dismayed by the fantasy blockbuster, which is why I would say that might an “iffy choice” for some. As mentioned, the film’s ending closes off a lot of plot narrative threads, with the exception of one or two, which does leave room for potential planned two future installments in the franchise. However, the ultimate endgame of seeing those two chapters of the Fantastic Beasts series depends on the success of The Secrets of Dumbledore; another ambiguous notion. I, for one, would love to see the fourth and fifth movie materialize in the future and would be beneficial (to all) that the script / story shaping should more be sharpened and refined to bring the closing chapters of this series to a grand (and hopefully satisfied) finale. In the end, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is an entertaining (yet imperfect) continuation to the Harry Potter franchise, with the third outing of fantasy adventure proving that, while rough around the edges and some need future fine tuning, can still cast a spell of magic within the Wizarding World of heroes and villains.
3.8 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)
Released On: April 15th, 2022
Reviewed On: June 28th, 2022
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is 142 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some fantasy action / violence