Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore movie review: A trick that has far outlived its big finish

Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore movie cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Ezra Miller
Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore movie director: David Yates
Fantastic Beasts The Secrets of Dumbledore movie rating: 3 stars

The problem with a film that calls itself The Secrets of Dumbledore is that it should have some secrets to tell. Admittedly, that can be difficult for a venture that is the 11th movie in the wizard film franchise, and third in the Fantastic Beasts series. However, this JK Rowing-David Yates endeavour almost rushes through that one big secret which this series has been building up to.

Oh yeah, Dumbledore and Grindelwald once “loved” each other, even wanted to go away with each other. That forbidden love could not have been easy, but more than secrets, this enterprise is about fantastic beasts. And it leans heavily towards that side, giving us many magical moments but increasingly seems like a trick that has far outlived its big finish.

The non-magical truth also is that the film’s most wonderful moments lie in the interactions between its human characters in very muggle ways. The most special of those are between Dumbledore, played to statesmanly and kindly perfection by Jude Law, and Grindelwald, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who is a soothing relief from Johnny Depp’s mannerisms in the role. In the brief encounters between them, there is the ache of a lost time, the pain of age, and the rancour of a lasting love.

But The Secrets of Dumbledore is more about the two wizards than the two men, and hence in the diverse corners they occupy — one to capture the world and the other to save it — the film is full of side characters. The repeat ones include the still painfully awkward Eddie Redmayne as Newt, and the reliable Dan Fogler as his friend Jacob. Among others, Callum Turner as Newt’s brother Theseus is the most impressive, bringing an assured confidence to the role, that is a good foil to Newt.

Another indication perhaps of the waning magic is the film’s reliance on the real world to propel its story. The setting in Berlin, the talk of impure blood and its mixing, the threat of a dictator rising via the route of democracy are all tropes that belong to a movie less sure of its own world.

Plus, this ambition is given up for an easy, and not necessarily right, resolution that the film itself underlines is not a choice that the real leaders make.

Still, when The Secrets of Dumbledore unveils the full wand of its magic, it’s hard not to be bewitched. Watch out for the “limbic mimicry” to deceive a swarm of lobster like creatures guarding a prison. And the battle of spells leading to an escape on a sheaf of pages.

Fantastic Beasts, secrets of dumbledore A still from Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. (Photo: Warner Bros)

However, even in those moments, it’s hard to shake off the knowledge that we are still in the middle of a very long, very successful commercial franchise that has long put behind where it all started.

“Where there was a before, now there is an after,” Dumbledore says once, by way of hope.

But how about when you are banking on a before before (the Harry Potter character) and after after (the Harry Potter films)?


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