Film Reviews

“A Trilogy Of Set-Up”- Film Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

Tim Ovenden

The Fantastic Beasts series can be likened to a wounded, dying beast. Its third entry, The Secrets of Dumbledore, hobbles into cinemas after waves of controversies. Johnny Depp is nowhere in sight, but there’s an even greater stench surrounding it. Cinemas are packed with screenings, yet no one is watching. Will Tim Ovenden put this franchise out of its misery?

As much as I’d like to magic away the elephant in the room, you can’t talk about the Harry Potter franchise without mentioning You-Know-Who. Joanne Kathleen Rowling has made her trans-exclusionary radical feminist views all too well-known, so funding and consuming her work is no longer ethical. Thankfully, when it comes to the Fantastic Beasts series, you aren’t missing much by ignoring its existence entirely.

The movie begins with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), and the newly recast antagonist Gillert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkleson), having afternoon tea. This should be a perfect opener, setting up the pain and love and rivalry between these two figureheads of good and evil. Unfortunately, the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired, and the scene is only saved because of Law’s standout, wonderfully sweet performance.

Mikkleson is far better suited to the role than Depp ever was, but is still disappointing, and not really given anything to do. It is also in this moment that we see a direct reference to Dumbledore’s homosexuality, all of two lines, which were subsequently cut from overseas releases. Hurray for representation!

He’s so likeable that he’s become unlikeable

Is it me, or is Eddie Redmayne an awful choice of actor to build a franchise around? So many of his film characters are iterations of the same archetype, and I think I’ve realised why that’s become grating: he’s so likeable that he’s become unlikeable. It doesn’t help that he’s not a very good actor, and this ‘scrawny bumbling idiot yet genius’ role has been done so much better by the likes of David Tennant as the 10th Doctor. Redmayne is like a Poundland Benedict Cumberbatch, and potentially needs an MCU appearance to re-ignite his career and public image. I genuinely want to know, are there any Eddie Redmayne fans out there?

Ezra Miller is another that we must, begrudgingly, talk about. By all accounts, they seem more unhinged in the real world than any wizarding world, and their restraining order comes at the worst possible time for Warner Bros. The DCEU Flash movie, spearheaded by Miller, has been in development for around a decade, and they are primed to be a key player in the Fantastic Beasts universe. Miller’s new hairdo is clearly meant to resemble Severus Snape, hinting towards their character’s redemption arc, but to me, it screams Swedish rapper, Bladee.

The implications of the plot are, shall we say, worrying. The Youtuber, Shaun, recently made a fascinating analysis of J.K Rowling’s written bigotry and flaws. In it, he quite convincingly proposes that Rowling set these spin-offs before World War Two, to disprove the frequently asked plot-hole ‘why didn’t wizards use time-turners to stop The Holocaust?’ Pettiness at its finest.

Now, some other minor gripes, rattled off in quick succession. I’m not a fan of nostalgia-bait moments in general, but they’re especially egregious here. Anytime something like Hogwarts or a golden snitch appears on screen, Hedwig’s Theme is blasted out at 100 decibels. This is always a problem with prequels, constantly winking to the audience, reminding them of previous, better movies.

Viewers are meant to be on the edge of their seats

Secrets of Dumbledore has some decent moments of slapstick comedy, but it all feels tonally inconsistent and out of place. Finally, one plot point involves a fella named Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), being a mole inside Grindelwald’s ranks, motivated by revenge for his dead sister. Viewers are meant to be on the edge of their seats, debating whether or not he has turned evil, but Nadylam is so emotionally blank, that his story is just confusing and uninteresting, and ultimately completely pointless.

Some interesting character dynamics

It may sound like I absolutely despise this movie, but, for the most part, The Secrets of Dumbledore is a fairly enjoyable spy/heist movie. Every cast member I haven’t mentioned is likeable, there are some interesting character dynamics, and it is probably the best Fantastic Beasts film yet (although that’s not really saying much). Nevertheless, this franchise is three whole movies in, and it still all feels like set-up and sequel bait. There’s no satisfying pay-offs, no conclusive arcs, no secrets to Dumbledore that we didn’t already know. Fantastic Beasts has two more movies to go, if J.K gets her way.

There’s always a chance the sequel could be interesting, but at this point, Warner Bros. should just count their losses and let it die.

Tim Ovenden

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @fantasticbeastsmovie via No changes were made to this image.

In-article video courtesy of @Shaun via No changes were made to this video.

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