It’s been four years since the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and it’s been quite a troubled four years for many of the key players of the Wizarding World including J.K. Rowling, Johnny Depp and Ezra Miller. Nonetheless, the latest instalment – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – is finally arriving in cinemas, transporting us back to the Wizarding World and Hogwarts once again to find out what secrets Dumbledore has been keeping.
Gellert Grindelwald – who now looks miraculously like Mads Mikkelsen despite looking rather like Johnny Depp in the previous film, and Colin Farrell in the film before that – is still set on raising pure-blood wizards to rule over the muggle world. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) has to assemble a team of wizards including magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to put a stop to Grindelwald’s evil scheme and to keep the peace between the magic world and the world of the muggles.
After a very disappointing previous instalment, The Secrets of Dumbledore manages to set the franchise back on track and even though it never manages to fully replicate the magic of the Harry Potter franchise, Secrets of Dumbledore is an entertaining adventure that’s actually enjoyable to sit through. One thing that The Secrets of Dumbledore explores really well is the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. We get to witness first hand Dumbledore’s love for Grindelwald, and this becomes a really compelling aspect of the film and provides for a lot of the emotion driving the film.
However, despite their relationship guiding the film along, Law never fully convinces as Dumbledore. The writing captures the spirit of his wisdom and the learnedness of Dumbledore but seeing Jude Law on screen, it just doesn’t feel like the Albus Dumbledore that we know and love in that same way that it did for every second that Richard Harris and Michael Gambon were on screen as the Hogwarts headmaster. But despite having his name in the title and being on the forefront of all the marketing materials, it’s not just Dumbledore’s film and it’s as much about Newt as it is about Dumbledore.
And it’s not just about Newt, as the titular fantastic beasts are making a return after a lack of beasts in The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s nice to see this franchise actually delivering on some fantastic beasts rather than it being solely about Dumbledore and Grindelwald. The beasts are an important part of the Wizarding World and they help make this film so magical. It’s something the last film severely lacked but Secrets of Dumbledore thankfully ups the magic for an enjoyable watch.
There is, of course, the unnecessary fan service you’d expect from a franchise film like this, as we meet younger versions of characters we’ve met before in the Harry Potter franchise. We do also take a rather unnecessary trip back to Hogwarts purely because, well, it’s Hogwarts and we all really love seeing the castle – but it wasn’t really all that necessary.
Katherine Waterston’s Tina, one of the main characters from the previous two films, is notably absent from the vast majority of the film. There’s a scene in which a character specifically asks where she is only to be given the response “Tina’s not available” because she’s been given a fancy promotion. Whether Waterston’s character was written out most of the film because of her speaking out against J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans beliefs – we can’t know for certain – but otherwise it seems like a very odd move to make.
The cast that do appear in the film all fill the world with magic and charm, with Redmayne once again being a great choice for the Hufflepuff magizoologist and Dan Fogler playing the lovable muggle Jacob Kowalski – bringinf so much charm and a lot of the humour to the film. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as always, although he’s not trying to replicate Depp in any way and he’s very much going for his own take on the character.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore makes for the most exciting entry in the Fantastic Beasts series yet. It never quite lives up to the heights of any of the Harry Potter films, but it is nonetheless an exciting – if not slightly overlong – adventure through the Wizarding World.