"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Katherine Waterston, and Mads Mikkelsen. Releasing on April 15, 2022, the film has Newt Scamander and his allies teaming up with Albus Dumbledore to battle Gellert Grindelwald.
The film is directed by David Yates, who also directed films such as "The Tichborne Claimant", "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", "The Legend of Tarzan", and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them". It is the third installment in the Fantastic Beasts film series. You better dust off your magic wands, ladies and gentlemen. The Wizarding World franchise is finally back with another spellbinding adventure of Newt Scamander and his magical allies. This franchise has had a messy journey recently regarding the "Fantastic Beasts" films. While they offer the same amount of magic and mystery that made the Harry Potter movies successful, "Fantastic Beasts" has been unfortunately overshadowed by mixed reviews and controversies surrounding writer J. K. Rowling and Johnny Depp. As of now, we should probably add Ezra Miller to its list of concerns. Despite the shortcomings and a couple of delays, the studio behind the franchise, Warner Brothers, attempts to keep the magic train going with the latest installment that seeks to course-correct the franchise following the disappointing "Crimes of Grindelwald". While I enjoyed specific moments from the previous two films, I can admit that the second movie was a mixed bag regarding the execution. So I'm hoping that this third installment would at least provide something worthwhile to keep the series relevant. With that said, let's travel back to the world of Hogwarts and see if the film is good enough to bring the magic back to the franchise.
The story takes place in 1932, five years after the events of "The Crimes of Grindelwald". Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a magizoologist, is recruited by Hogwarts teacher Albus Dumbledore (Law) to protect the world from the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen). Newt and Albus are joined by Newt's brother Theseus (Turner), Eulalie "Lally" Hicks (Williams), Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), and No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Fogler). While Grindelwald sets up his new plan to rid the world of No-Majs, Newt and his allies must use every trick in the book to stop him. Meanwhile, Albus struggles with his history involving Grindelwald while destroying the blood pact that prevents them from battling each other.
Like its predecessor, "The Secrets of Dumbledore" ditches the creature-hunting element from the first film in favor of a traditional good vs. evil scenario from the Harry Potter movies. While the new direction was fine enough to make "The Crimes of Grindelwald" watchable, it suffered from its desire to tease specific information for future films and make its plot more complex than exciting. With director David Yates and writer J. K. Rowling back at the helm once again, along with "Harry Potter" writer Steve Kloves, the latest installment hopes to compensate for the previous film's mistakes to maintain our interest in the Wizarding World. If its changes don't affect our views on the franchise, that is.
The previous two "Fantastic Beasts" films have struggled to capture the same experience as the Harry Potter installments when it comes to the narrative. While they did manage to represent the magic, world-building, and wonder that made "Harry Potter" iconic, "Fantastic Beasts" couldn't provide stories and characters that cast the same spell as those elements. "The Secrets of Dumbledore" is no different, as it offers a plot that's far from fantastic yet not as convoluted as the previous installment.
The movie appears to have gone back to the straightforward narrative strategy showcased in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them". Sadly, it still ditches the creature hunt plot from the first film, but that doesn't mean they don't play a big role in the storyline. Instead, "The Secrets of Dumbledore" has a story that involves Albus forming a team of rebellions to prevent Grindelwald from becoming the new Supreme Mugwump. Because of this change, the story becomes a bit easier and more interesting to follow for those who aren't into the previous film's plot that much. More importantly, it follows up on the elements introduced in the second film and brings them full circle instead of planting unnecessary teases for the future. It's straight to the point, and it feels more like an actual structure. While it still has some problems from the previous installments, such as its weak emotional depth and sluggish pacing, the film marks a magical improvement over "Crimes of Grindelwald" regarding its enjoyability and political elements.
Part of the enjoyability was due to the characters. They're far from memorable regarding their arcs, but they have enough moments to make themselves likable. The main focus is on Newt Scamander yet again, which I still didn't mind due to his soft-spoken and heartfelt personality. However, the real deal of the entire movie is, of course, Albus Dumbledore and his relatives. It's called "The Secrets of Dumbledore" for a reason. While Newt's journey is fun to watch, Dumbledore's arc has plenty to offer in his relationship with Grindelwald. Again, it lacks the strong emotion needed to make a more significant impact. Still, it delivers a different side of Dumbledore that we rarely see in the franchise, which I welcome wholeheartedly.
The actors portraying the characters are still good in their roles, including Eddie Redmayne as Newt. Jude Law shines again in his performance as Albus, whose role is more significant than in the second film. Jessica Williams is a nice addition to the cast, thanks to her portrayal of Lally, a Charms teacher who joins Newt. She's basically the replacement of Tina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston, who only appeared a couple of times. Regardless, I enjoyed what Williams brought to the character, and I hope we see more of her pretty soon. Dan Fogler as Jacob will heavily depend on how you feel about him in the previous films. If you like him in the first two movies, you'll probably like him in this one. I'm one of the people who liked Fogler's performance in the films due to his humor, and I would say the same about him in this movie. He's funny in specific scenes, but he doesn't shy away from providing some dramatic heft into Jacob's character. Fogler is part of the humor that kept "The Secrets of Dumbledore" from being an immediate snoozer. It may not be for everyone, but it managed to put a smile on my face with its charming moments, including Newt's adorable little companions.
Now, I would like to address the elephant in the room before moving forward with my review. The elephant, in particular, is none other than Mads Mikkelsen, who replaced Johnny Depp as the villainous Grindelwald due to…reasons. Before you get out your pitchforks and torches or flood the comment section with harsh words, whichever works, allow me to explain. I thought Mikkelsen did a splendid job portraying the subtlety of Grindelwald's menacing persona compared to Depp. My actual problem with the character, which might go down as one of the worst nitpicks in film review history, has something to do with his appearance. Depp's Grindelwald looked like someone who's left out of the sun for years, while Grindelwald in "Secrets of Dumbledore" resembles…well, Mads Mikkelsen. The cause for this change in appearance hasn't been explained at all, even with the five-year gap between the two installments, and I found it to be pretty irritating. It felt like the studio didn't try to capitalize on the replacement onscreen as much as they did behind the scenes. As mentioned earlier, Mikkelsen is remarkable in the role, but the lack of explanation for the character's plastic surgery will annoy me for the next couple of weeks.
One of the core strengths of the "Fantastic Beasts" films is Yates' vision of the Wizarding World. Ever since "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", David Yates has been pretty successful with bringing J.K. Rowling's magical world to the screen. Fortunately, his vision in "Secrets of Dumbledore" is no exception. Regarding the settings, visuals, and direction, Yates continues to be confident in how this universe works and provides plenty of engaging sequences and magical vibes to keep the plot engaging. In addition, the visual effects still look exceptional, mainly for the creatures and the spells the characters cast in the film.
Overall, "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" casts a satisfying spell that improves upon the previous installment and provides a glimmer of hope for the Wizarding World. Like the last two movies, the film's magic isn't as strong as Harry Potter's regarding its pacing and emotional grasp. However, it has enough moments in its visuals, story, and characters to deliver another early summer blockbuster for audiences. If you enjoyed the previous "Fantastic Beasts" movies and the "Harry Potter" installments, you might enjoy this one as well.