Fantastic Beasts Secrets of Dumbledore review: Lack of magic – Worst yet | Movies | Entertainment


Secrets and lies, a tragic gay love story and a world hurtling towards unimaginable horrors, that’s what we were promised. The previous film, The Crimes of Grindelwald, was admittedly rather messy but provided a great spectacle. It left us all gobsmacked on a cliffhanger when the evil wizard told poor Credence (Ezra Miller) that he was actually a Dumbledore and had been cruelly abandoned by his family. It was thrilling as Grindelwald looked like he was about to start unleashing hell, manipulating Credence’s staggering destructive powers to do so. The stage was set for dramatic revelations that would tear Dumbledore apart as the wider wizarding and Muggle worlds burned around him. It sounds totally, ahem, magical. Sadly, not much of that happens in this tedious, shamefully stuffed filler of a film.

To be clear, Law looks great as the world-weary Dumbledore, his secret grief over his childhood love for Grindelwald etched on his face. He’s the powerful center of this movie and commands every scene he’s in, even when his Michael Gambon-esque Irish blunder drifts. Likewise, Mikkelsen is fascinating as Grindelwald, a far more menacing and ruthlessly sinister presence than the previous incarnation of Johnny Depp.

Their scenes put together pack a real punch, even if the writing (as elsewhere) is relentlessly pedestrian. They deserve better. And let’s not forget an unfortunate early exchange when they meet in a restaurant and Grindelwald glances at Dumbledore’s body then says, “Show it to me.” The chuckles spread through our preview audience. Yes, it refers to their blood pact pendant, but clumsy handwriting instead marred a powerful and important on-screen acknowledgment of their gay relationship.

As for that pendant, without spoilers, all I can say is that when it reappears at the end, the timing is terribly faked.

The film’s thrust revolves around Grindelwald’s attempts to disrupt and then potentially steal the election of the wizarding world’s next world leader.

A fantastic new beast, a Qilin (sometimes Qirin), is the key to everything. The “Asian Unicorn” has the unique ability to see a person’s true soul and can also see glimpses of the future. Grindelwald, understandably, has very bad plans for the adorable newborn.

And that’s about it. There are foiled assassinations, capture and rescue that serve no purpose except to flesh out the film and introduce the humorous (but deadly) Blast-Ended Skrewts. It’s another comedy moment for Newt (Eddie Redmayne) doing silly dances and it’s perfectly entertaining, if too long. But we’ve seen it all before.

What was charming and whimsical in the first movie quickly becomes tiresome as we wait for the plot to actually go anywhere. A tough question when so much of this plot is about making nothing make sense, so Grindelwald can’t predict what they’re going to do.

Elsewhere, Credence struggles with what he’s been told about his family and we find out if it’s true or not. But this central, fascinating and complex character (and equally good actor) from the first two films is woefully underutilized in the third, and his script falls apart as the story progresses.

Meanwhile, the ever-watchable Jacob (Dan Fogler) provides tremendous heart and humor, as usual, and even gets his own wand. His main mission is to try and get his beloved Queenie (Alison Sudol) back from Grindelwald. The Divided Lovers is more compelling than ever, though Queenie’s “choice” to follow the dark leader has never been more compelling in the first place and provides little real drama this time around.

New character Lally (Jessica Williams), professor of charms at Ilvermore, Hogwarts’ American counterpart, is a welcome and feisty addition to the cast. Again, however, the script rarely provides enough for her to really engage.

In fact, there’s little real sense of context, texture, depth, danger, or consequence throughout the film. The potentially interesting secondary characters remain decidedly two-dimensional, with every conflict and clash ultimately resolved far too easily. We’re all huge Dumbledore fans, but he quickly becomes seemingly omnipotent and omniscient, despite being well-equipped with killer knitwear and trilbys. Without the blood pact that binds his hands, Grindelwald never really seems to be his match.

The major battles between Dumbledore, Credence, and Grindelwald are also rather confusing to watch. While much of this big-budget blockbuster looks brilliant, surprisingly some of the widescreen CGI panoramas, particularly a long shot of Hogwarts, are rendered poorly.

To be clear, the movie still looks great and the performances are universally strong. It’s not even a problem that the whole series is theoretically based on a thin textbook. The larger story of the wizarding and Muggle worlds sliding into fascism over personal dramas is beyond fascinating.

It’s just that this film doesn’t bring anything new to the plots, it goes around endlessly and the script frequently sags. So many characters from the international wizarding world are briefly introduced but never explored. But neither do the centrals. It’s frustrating and, worst of all, it drags.

It’s starting to look like those three ridiculously drawn-out Hobbit movies. And no one, muggle or otherwise, wants that.



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