Starting under the most unfortunate circumstances possible Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore The best of the three parts of the “Harry Potter” spin-off about Newt Scamander so far. And this time too, this is the least interesting aspect of the story. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (UK/USA 2022)
Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows that the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) wants to take control of the magical world. Since he can’t stop him alone, he sends the magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and an intrepid group of wizards, witches and a courageous Muggle baker on a dangerous mission in which they meet – and with – fantastic beasts old and new Grindelwald’s growing following clashed. But how long can Dumbledore stay in the background when so much is at stake?
Although many large-scale film projects have had to struggle with production difficulties in recent months – often as a result of the corona pandemic – hardly any big-budget film started under such gloomy auspices as the third part of the “Harry Potter” spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series. Above all, two personalities made life difficult for the makers, especially the film studio Warner Bros., in the run-up to the start of “Dumbledore’s Secrets”. First of all, there is the “Johnny Depp case”. His engagement as supervillain Gellert Grindelwald for the predecessor “The Crimes of Grindelwald” was viewed critically by many due to his controversial War of the Roses with fellow actress Amber Heard. For part three his role was now with Mads Mikkelsen (“The Rush”) newly occupied. The fact that this decision was to be followed by an even more violent controversy only became clear in the past few weeks and months from the background noise of social networks, as the “Harry Potter” author and “Animal Creatures” (screenplay) writer and producer JK Rowling once again expressed her transphobic views. In the author scene, Rowling has long been considered “persona non grata”. After their further derailments, however, with increasing reach, it was not just them who called for a boycott of the recently released “Harry Potter” video game and “Dumbledore’s Secrets”. It somehow fits that the box office forecasts for the new “Animals” film are darker than ever before – and the film series, which was originally divided into five parts, suddenly seems to be on the brink.
Director David Yates brings the magical world of Harry Potter to life again – just without Harry Potter.
After its predecessor, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” which felt like a link within a longer story, but by no means an independent film, was received with average reception, and the experienced “Harry Potter” director David Yates (who has been directing since “The Order of the “Phoenix” every film from the Hogwarts universe) this time put a lot of effort into bringing together the countless open plot threads in order to then let them move energetically across the screen. Again this tells about JK Rowling and Steve Kloves (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) wrote the script “a little bit of everything”. There’s a little something to see from the world of magizoologist Newt Scamander (the opening alone, in which a whole series of his… Fantastic Beasts are used, lives up to the fictitious nature textbook basis). Then again, the film shows fragments from the lives of various other supporting characters; including Newt’s friend and muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the eponymous Albus Dumbledore and, last but not least, Gellert Grindelwald and his followers. The fact that, according to the name, the later Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore should be at the center of the events, but ultimately it is primarily about Grindelwald’s crimes, primarily shows the interchangeability of film titles and only gives limited attention to the content Qualities of the individual films conclude.
“The opening, in which a whole series of Fantastic Beasts are used, does justice to the fictional nature textbook basis.”
The decision to push the “Fantastic Beasts” further and further into the background over the years is just as meaningless. You have to look pretty closely at the poster for “Dumbledore’s Secrets” to see the origin of the adventure. This is not the only reason why you get the impression that the further the “Animals” saga progresses – completely detached from any written basis, the book itself is after all just a kind of encyclopedia – the deeper it delves into the actual Hogwarts cosmos. But instead of dealing with the everyday life of magicians aspirants like in “Harry Potter”, the “Animal Creatures” films provide a glimpse of “what lies behind”. “Dumbledore’s Secrets” sees the magical cosmos as a global entity that has its representatives in different places on earth, some of whom want a war against everything non-magical, while others advocate peaceful coexistence. The predecessor has already indicated which side Gellert Grindelwald is on. In the third film, the (also political) dimensions of his terrorist villainy existence are revealed when his ice-cold fantasies of omnipotence and his attempts to enforce them awaken frightening memories of actually existing characters in the story.
Mads Mikkelsen inherits Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald.
Although the absence of Johnny Depp is painful for the sake of continuity: Mads Mikkelsen would hardly have been a better successor to portray the cool, calculating Gellert Grindelwald. Depp already managed completely without the eccentricities that were typical of him at times. Mikkelsen’s piercing gaze and stoic calm, even when carrying out the most heinous crimes, make your blood run cold. His performances have a power that the actual main characters in “Dumbledore’s Secrets” can hardly counteract. Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) For the third time in a row, Newt Scamander remains a rather pale Newt, who thrives especially in the interaction with his 3D-animated animals, but drowns far too much next to his colleagues. And that Jude Law (“The Nest”) When he is supposed to portray the younger Albus Dumbledore, he occasionally flashes his warm-hearted, mischievous facial expressions, but for the fact that the film title bears his name, his character remains all too passive for long stretches. Oliver Masucci scores as a surprising new addition (surprising since it wasn’t announced anywhere in advance). (“Enfant terrible”), from whom you can take away your Grindelwald allegiance at any time. The casting here fits like a glove. By the way, it’s not the only appearance by a fellow countryman: “Toni Erdmann” lead actor Peter Simonischeck also has a small role as a prison guard.
“Although the absence of Johnny Depp is painful for the sake of continuity: Mads Mikkelsen would hardly have been a better successor to portray the cool, calculating Gellert Grindelwald.”
Speaking of eyes: David Yates uses all kinds of magic tricks – in the truest sense of the word – and often hits the right note. While the post-production exaggerates the soft focus more and more as the running time increases, the visual tricks are pleasing in their playfulness and simplicity. The well-known and new animal creatures are simply sweet. And when Jude Law and Ezra Miller (“Justice League”)) as an unpleasant family member suddenly duel on the streets of Berlin and then the perspectives rotate and change several times, then some spectacular panoramas are created (camera: George Richmond). In general, one of David Yates’ strengths is to breathe the magic of the “Harry Potter” universe into the exuberant hustle and bustle on the screen. Sometimes the familiar sounds of James Newton Howard are enough, other times the legendary sight of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is enough. So far, no “Beasts” installment has felt more like a return to this world. It’s just a shame that due to the lack of compelling characters, much of it will hardly be remembered.
Conclusion: “Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” is by far the best part of the series and has a lot of the typical “Harry Potter” magic, but without comparably charismatic main characters. Before the background noise of cute animal creatures, the character with the strongest profile is, of all people, the villain Gellert Grindelwald, embodied by Mads Mikkelsen as usual. After all, you can hardly get enough of it, while you don’t learn enough about the others to be able to root for them intensely. Above all, Newt Scamander is only of limited use as the leader of a group of heroes.
“Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets” can be seen in USA cinemas from April 7, 2022.