Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review
Let’s talk about Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
I wonder if Warner Bros just wanted to give up on this film at some point. Why would they give up on it? Well it feels like most of the people involved in it have been engulfed in a controversy. The creator of Harry Potter and screen writer for this film J.K. Rowling is widely hated for her views on transgender rights, Johnny Depp’s bitter divorce with Amber Heard has wrecked his career and now Ezra Miller has been on a mission to get kicked out of every bar in Hawaii. The PR officer for this film must never sleep. But despite all of these controversies, and the fact the second film in the series underperformed both critically and financially, here we are with the third Fantastic Beasts film.
Grindelwald continues to rise in popularity with his mission to make all of the muggles serve wizards due to them being lesser beings. Dumbledore therefore sends Newt and his friends on a mission to try and stop him before he changes the wizarding world forever.
So let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Out of the three controversies which cause the PR officers behind the film to have hourly aneurysms, only one saw any action taken. Johnny Depp, who had played Grindelwald in the last two movies, was removed from the role because of the domestic abuse allegations against him. This created more controversy because of how messy that whole situation with Amber Heard is, but this is not the place to discuss it. Now Depp’s performance as Grindelwald wasn’t exactly beloved, so in terms of the quality of the film it shouldn’t matter too much. Especially as he’s been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen who has a much better track record in recent years than Depp does. And Mikkelsen does give a good performance. It’s just pretty unremarkable. This is the sort of villain performance Mikkelsen can give in his sleep and it doesn’t really rank anywhere near his best roles. Whether that’s because he wasn’t bothered or because the script gave him very little is another matter.
But onto the actual meat of the movie, which is Dumbledore’s plot to try and stop Grindelwald from getting to start his war against the muggles. So what is the plan? This is where a lot of films get lazy and have a MacGuffin, some object of importance that the heroes need to get or else the villain will win. This film is so poorly plotted that it really does need a MacGuffin just to give it some focus. Newt and his friends go on this very vaguely drawn plans which are just there to fill time. There’s so little plot and it just feels like there were some set pieces planned, some certain scenes they wanted and then they just wrote whatever they like to try and fill in the gaps and make this over two hours long, because God forbid any Harry Potter property have a short runtime. Without having any focus, you just feel lost and you slowly become more and more disinterested.
Often, the only bit of plot progression is Grindelwald’s. For reasons which are never explained, Grindelwald is suddenly pardoned of all of his crimes and is no longer on the run. That is already a baffling but then, he is suddenly entered into the election to be the Minister of Magic which is just a few days away. Maybe it’s just because I’ve worked in politics and I know how much of a pain in the arse it is to do the paperwork to be able to run for election, but this did send me mad. This happens so that we can get a little jibe of ‘We need to let the people to have a chance of voting for him so when he’s defeated their movement can be defeated’. That would be fine if wizards actually got a vote in this election but they do not. The election is instead decided by a magical creature called a chillan who only bows for the most pure hearted of people, basically the people who should be leaders. So how can the people have a say when they don’t, it’s an animal picking it! And let’s be honest, magical deer bowing in front of prospective candidates is no basis for a system of government. There’s more of the plot that if you just think about it for a bit, the film starts to fall apart.
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked much about fantastic beasts in this film called Fantastic Beasts. This is a bit unfair because unlike the second film which completely forgot about its origins, this one does seem to remember that the whole selling point of the first film was that it would be an adventure with fun magical creatures. And just like in the first one, which was really fun when it was having a romp with the magical creatures and was dragged down anytime they moved onto a dark wizard plotline, this film is at its best when it is doing scenes with the magical creatures. The best scene in the movie is when Newt is rescuing his brother from a German wizard prison. There are hundreds of crab like creatures which don’t attack unless Newt, and then his brother, are doing a weird dance. So yes, the crab dance is in this movie. The danger though is there’s a weird scorpion type creature in the pit which consumes any prisoner the light goes off on. So you have this nice combination of kooky humour alongside some general peril. It’s really entertaining and you miss this sort of thing elsewhere in the movie. Also the reason I didn’t say the names of these creatures is because the film doesn’t name them either for some stupid reason.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is not worth all the hassle it has been having. After of all of those controversies regarding its stars, what we get is a weak blockbuster that has as much focus as a seven-year-old in a boring geography class. For around two hours, this film spins its wheels waiting for the climax to happen and the few plot bits that do happen have the stability of a bridge built with broken rubber bands. The climax is fairly good admittedly and there are some scenes which really work like anything which focuses on a magical creature. But if the Wizarding World is to continue to be a popular franchise, it needs to change tack quickly or else Warner Bros are going to end up killing their most profitable line.