Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Jessica Williams, Callum Turner, William Nadylam, Jessica Williams, Victoria Yeats
The third instalment of the Fantastic Beasts series is the bleakest chapter of the ‘wizarding world’ since 2010’s ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Pt 1’.
The dark mood is established in an opening sequence, easily the film’s best, as Professor Albus Dumbledore (Law) confronts estranged acquaintance and renegade wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp stentorian Brit camp with a real sensuous menace) in early 30s London. Over tea, they discuss their shared past while Dumbledore attempts to persuade Grindelwald to abandon his plans for wizard supremacy.
Cut to a mysterious forest where Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne) is helping a deer-like Qilin to give birth, before Grindelwald’s henchmen turn up and kill the mother and steal its fawn. It’s a genuinely shocking scene.
Meanwhile in Queens, New York muggle/human baker Jacob (Fogler) is still pining for his mind-reading witch ex-girlfriend Queenie (Sudol) who seems to have thrown her lot in with Grindelwald after Jacob refused to marry her. Jacob is visited by witch Professor Eulalie Hicks (Williams, with an accent pitched somewhere between Mae West, Blanche DuBois and British) who persuades him to re-join the fight against Grindelwald - characters insist throughout how essential Jacob is to have on their wizarding team without exactly explaining exactly why. She whisks them off to Hogwarts where Jacob is reunited with Albus and Newt and they make their plans to stop Grindelwald.
Their first stop is Berlin (cue heavy-handed Nazi symbolism) where Grindelwald is trying to rig the elections and seize control. A shoehorned line about the necessity of hearing other’s viewpoints, even when you don’t want to, is presumably a nod to the Original Author’s supposed ‘cancellation’.
While some of the CGI animation of the titular beasts can be a little wanting, particularly when they’re interacting with the real cast, Colleen Atwood’s costumes are exquisite and the production design is tip-top, the Berlin interiors in particular are beautifully rendered.
The plot, which is as fussy as the title, feels like it’s been cobbled together from other genre films: Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s philosophies - plurality and accommodation versus domination - very closely mirrors Professor X’s and Magneto’s in the ‘X-Men’ films, while wayward child and powerful young wizard Credence (Miller) has a very similar backstory and trajectory to Star Wars’ Kylo Ren – he even looks like him with his strong features and dark curtain tresses. Plot convolutions often feel like going through the laborious motions, and the twists can be seen a mile off. The cumulative effect is that at this point the saga is more about commerce than storytelling.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released on 8th April
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