Albus Dumbledore assigns Newt and his allies with a mission related to the rising power of Grindelwald.
The latest (third!) movie in the Harry Potter prequel series, ‘Fantastic Beasts’, has had a troubled route to screen between the pandemic and the controversy that led to lead antagonist Johnny Depp being replaced with Mads Mikkelsen. The good news is Mikkelsen is possibly an upgrade on Depp’s performance as Grindelwald, the bad news is the rest of the film is barely less messy than its predecessor ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’. This entry, subtitled ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’, focuses on Newt (Eddie Redmayne), Dumbledore (Jude Law) and a host of others attempting to foil an attempt by Grindelwald to cheat his way to an election win. Set in the early part of the 20th century, there’s a not so subtle veiled metaphor for fascism and the rise of the Nazi party, but the story itself is a bit mundane.
What this movie does have going for it is some good performances, namely from Mikkelsen and Jude Law who I really wish shared more screentime together. Law is brilliant as Dumbledore, and Mikkelsen is one of the finest actors working today – between them they elevate some pretty ropey material and add extra weight to moments that would be lacking without them. The plot of the film centres on Grindelwald acquiring a magical creature that can help him see into the future, requiring his enemies to form a convoluted plan to avoid him working out their intentions. I can see how this might have sounded quite fun on paper but on the screen it’s pretty scattershot and leads to too many uninteresting characters running about in their own (mostly dull) side plots.
That’s part of the overall problem – ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’ lacks the magic that underpinned Harry Potter and even the first film in this series, and at times it feels its straining for that feeling without putting the work in (a couple of scenes at Hogwarts, an introduction to some familiar characters in their younger years). I also struggled a fair bit with the mechanics surrounding the election that underpins much of the story, finding it didn’t make a lot of sense which meant I didn’t really care how it played out. I actually quite liked the first film in the series, but the 2nd and 3rd have both been very forgettable and it already feels like a ‘franchise’ running on fumes. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how this does at the box office and whether they’ll make a 4th, but some good performances aside there isn’t many reasons to return for it.
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston, William Nadylam, Victoria Yeates, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Richard Coyle and Oliver Masucci