Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)

Genre: Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 22 min.

Release Date: April 15th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: David Yates Actors: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Richard Coyle, Jessica Williams, William Nadylam, Victoria Yeates, Oliver Masucci, Poppy Corby-Tuech

 


 

A

lbus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) have a considerable amount of backstory together (and some secrets, as the title suggests), but their basic, youthful plan was to reshape the world together. Their visions for accomplishing that mission have diverged over the years, with Dumbledore aiming for peace between magical people and their non-magical (Muggle) cohabitants, while Grindelwald seeks division and destruction. Of course, this is also a completely different Grindelwald, as actor Johnny Depp has been replaced, with the production picking up as if nothing changed, even though the makeup, hairstyling, and costuming have all deviated from Depp’s previous version.

Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) plays around with some new fantastic beasts, while evil wizards and witches tail him to a special dragon-like creature that can be used to see into the future – a major plot point that is so terribly underutilized that it might as well have been Gellert simply guessing as to the heroes’ predictable plans. It certainly helps that Scamander’s pursuers are wicked, but not too wicked, repeatedly leaving him alive rather than shrewdly offing him during one of numerous opportunities. It’s also unusually convenient that Dumbledore just so happens to be bound by a powerful spell (“It can’t be undone”) that prevents him from fighting Gellert, allowing for plenty of sequences of running around in circles rather than immediately accomplishing designated goals.

Within the first few sequences, an abundance of CG overtakes the screen, but it’s all for swirling, hallucinatory, environment-altering spellcasting or bumbling beings that don’t amount to much in the way of true spectacle. It’s visual convolution without purpose – and decidedly without excitement. Along with the various journeys and interactions, following intermittent instructions without a sense of an overall plan, this third chapter in the “Fantastic Beasts” series is just as haphazard as before, seemingly made up on a whim to stretch things out far beyond the limited amount of source material (and an absence of fresh ideas from author Rowling herself). In one scene, a character asks where they are, to which Dumbledore responds, “The room we require.” The screenwriters are hoping that audiences won’t question how flimsy the procession of events are; there’s no predefined arc, other than good against evil for the salvation of humankind, and the story is an incredibly formulaic concept of wait-and-see when it comes to Grindelwald. That could have been entertaining nonetheless, but the premise here once again finds the protagonists exasperatingly outnumbered and outmatched (“We don’t stand a chance”) – though they’re fortunate enough to clash with antagonists who refuse to actually hurt anyone, instead resorting to dawdling, brooding, and spouting threatening words, making everyone here weak and ineffective.

“No one can know everything,” says a supporting role, putting into motion random, unorganized subplots that keep audiences out of the loop as well. One of those spontaneous, irrelevant narrative threads involves an election, overrun with collusion and corruption, employing bureaucracies and red tape and obvious crimes, which curiously mirror current political circumstances around the world. It may appear timely and relevant, but it’s hardly a desired topic in a fantastical universe of sorcerers and monsters. And outside of the political upheaval, not much else takes place in the way of action or combat; the filmmakers are so positive that fans will love anything related to the Wizarding World that they won’t notice pacing issues or a lack of adventure. Even the couple of duels here are brief and uneventful.

At least there’s a vein of humor running throughout much of the picture, which helps the general quiescence feel moderately less tedious. But it’s still evident that virtually everything that takes place in this middle chapter is trivial, with a forced, spontaneous creation of tiny predicaments and tiny solutions, since real substance and conclusions are presumably set aside for the final film. It may be amusing to revisit familiar characters from the previous films (including Katherine Waterston, who for the second time has almost no scenes), as well as recognizable places, bits of magic, and the one or two moments the monumental Harry Potter theme music plays, but the story – and its significance to the resulting history of Scamander and Dumbledore – couldn’t be more meaningless.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10