PG Score: 7/10
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore was released in the U.S. on 4/15/22
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the 3rd installment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise and is being released on the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, which introduced millions of fans to the Wizarding World. There were a lot of changes and controversies surrounding The Secrets of Dumbledore. Unfortunately, it affected the end product. Whether it was the real life backlash of J.K. Rowling and her controversial opinions, or the trouble that seems to follow around Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) the story was lacking and there were some severe changes that left the film missing some of the magic of the previous two. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, because I did enjoy the film we got. But I left the theater feeling like something was missing.
Significant Character Changes
There is a big leap in time between this film and the previous one, and with that time jump came a lot of changes. Gone is Johnny Depp (Crimes of Grindelwald) as Grindelwald and in is Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One) to replace him. Both are fine actors, but much like Michael Gambon (Open Range) who replaced Richard Harris (Unforgiven) as Dumbledore, there was a drastic difference in how the characters were presented. Story wise, that could be explained away by the jump in time, as our characters get closer to World War II. But it seems drastic that Grindelwald went from claiming to not hate the no-mag to waging war against the muggles, like he wants to in this film.
The other big difference in this film is the lack of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson). This might have been due to how the story developed or more personal reasons, as it was no secret she has publicly disagreed with some of J.K. Rowling’s opinions. The film makes a flimsy excuse to her absence (she got a promotion), but somehow, as the head auror she was unable to help in the quest of stopping Grindelwald. She does pop up for a small bit near the end of the film, but her reduced role hurts the chemistry the previous two films had. Her and Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) relationship was a focal point and one of the best parts of both previous films. The lack of Waterson (Prometheus) hurts the story as a whole and leaves the film missing the magic that helped make the first two films such successes.
Credence (Miller) also had his role reduced this time around. A major player in the first two films, Credence’s origins were a large focus behind the plot in The Crimes of Grindelwald and set up for big things at the end of that film. He seemed a bit marginalized this go around, though. We found out his parentage pretty quickly, and with only one major scene with Jude Law’s (Cold Mountain) Professor Dumbledore, he remained in the background throughout the rest of the film.
Making their debuts in the franchise are Richard Coyle (Crossbones) as a younger Aberforth Dumbledore and Jessica Williams (The Daily Show) as Eulalie Hicks, a Professor from the American Wizarding school, Ilvermorny. Williams did an admirable job and played a very likeable character, but it wasn’t quite enough to fill the gap left by Waterson. We have met an older version of Aberforth before and Coyle filled in some of the blanks that surrounded the character who has sparsely been used in the Harry Potter series.
Visually, the movie was beautiful; plenty of new sets and locations that give more depth to the Wizarding World. The beasts and creatures that were introduced were realistic and wonderful to see. We were also taken back to Hogwarts and given another glimpse of the amazing castle. The few fight scenes were between wizards were quite impressive, even though they rely a bit too much on spells colliding and battling against one another. But I guess, for the visual representation on screen, it makes more sense than just seeing spells flying past the duelers as they try to dodge them.
The story is okay. The Secrets of Dumbledore seems more like a stop-gap between the last film and the next. The whole franchise is built around Grindelwald’s rise to power, but in this go-around he seems to have a much different philosophy than the prior film. There isn’t anything there to tell the viewer why.
Plenty of Positives
The focus of this review was on a lot of the negatives. That doesn’t mean this wasn’t a fun film. There were a lot of funny moments and it was fascinating to learn more about Dumbledore and his family. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore may be missing some of what made the first two films so special, but it does have its own charm. The returning cast members were all enjoyable, as Dan Fogler (Fanboys) continues to be hilarious and have great chemistry with Redmayne and Alison Sudol as Queenie. While I wouldn’t have you rushing to the theaters to go see Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, it is still worth checking out if you're a fan of the Harry Potter world.