Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review

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Of all the Fantastic Beasts movies, The Secrets of Dumbledore does the best job integrating the magical creatures into the plot. Although this series stemmed from a guidebook, the films have always seemed disinterested in the fantastic beasts themselves. They play more like conspiracy/political thrillers with wands and kleptomaniac platypuses. The beasts serve a greater purpose this time around with one creature deciding the outcome of an election. While more focused than The Crimes of Grindelwald, Fantastic Beasts still can’t decide who its main character is supposed to be.

Being entitled Secrets of Dumbledore, one might assume that Jude Law would take center stage. Law continues to shine as a young Albus Dumbledore, whose charismatic charm masks a lifetime of regrets. One of those regrets is making a blood pact with the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. While I never hated Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Grindelwald, it felt like watching an actor performaning. Mads Mikkelsen slips more naturally into the role, creating a Grindelwald who’s intimidating yet subtle. You not only believe that people would follow Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald, but you also buy that Dumbledore would fall in love with him.

The film opens on a high note with the two former friends/possible lovers meeting at a restaurant, reflecting on their past, present, and future. This is what the whole movie should’ve been about. Faster than you can say, “Leviosaaa,” though, we shift to Mr. Boring himself, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). To his credit, Newt serves a more integral role here. Grindelwald’s master plan involves a deer-like creature known as a Qilin, making Newt one of the few wizards who can thwart him. There’s also a fun prison break sequence involving Newt and crab/scorpion creatures. Throughout three movies, however, Newt has yet to evolve beyond a bland social introvert whose most interesting attribute is his blue coast. At least Ezra Miller’s Credence, whose personality is equally dull, has an intriguing backstory.

With two more Fantastic Beast movies in development, it may be time for this franchise to ditch Newt. The series already forgot about Claudia Kim’s Nagini while Katherine Waterston’s Tina is restricted to a cameo for reasons Deadpool would describe as “lazy writing.” It’d be much more interesting to see a buddy picture between Dumbledore and Jacob (Dan Fogler). Granted, it’s questionable why these wizards keep bringing a muggle on their dangerous missions, but Jacob always provides a fun standpoint. After all, we’ve all imagined going on an adventure with Dumbledore. Jacob’s exchanges with Dumbledore are some of the film’s best, showing that even an ordinary baker can find common ground with the world’s most powerful wizard.

Between Law, Fogler, and Mikkelsen, there’s a solid movie in Secrets of Dumbledore. David Yates also delivers a more visually pleasing film than Crimes of Grindelwald with several festive set pieces. The highlight involves a collection of identical suitcases overflowing with mayhem. However, it’s time for this series to cherry-pick the elements that work and leave everything else behind. We don’t need Newt or several other characters whose names nobody can even remember. Just give us the Dumbledore origin story we all want. For now, Secrets of Dumbledore is a decent stepping stone to what’s hopefully something more fantastic.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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