Director: David Yates | 2h 22mins | Fantasy, Adventure
To stop Grindelwald’s rise to power in the Wizarding World Dumbledore hatches a plan to thwart him. Enlisting the help of Newt Scamander and his friends, the group must stop Grindelwald before he becomes too powerful.
While it’s no secret the Fantastic Beasts films struggle to live up to the hype set for them by the original Harry Potter films, some of the hate they receive is often unwarranted. At their best, they act as blockbuster fantasy of the highest order that sweeps you off your feet with its great production design and moments of magic, but at their worst they very often feel bloated add-ons to the Potter world without ever feeling like a permanent fixture.
Secrets of Dumbledore often finds wonderful pockets of entertainment throughout, one in which Newt and his brother have to emulate dancing creatures to escape from magical prison, as well as Jacob Kowalski (played wonderfully by Dan Fogler) having his muggle moments which allow us to really experience the small moments of wonder that the whole series loves to create.
The film takes an interesting political direction with its plot as Grindelwald, who is now played by a much subtler Mads Mikkelsen, aims to create a Muggle vs. Magic war by assuming power of the wizarding world. Although the film does half-heartedly deal with its politics it still continues to do what the Fantastic Beasts films do so interestingly, which is explore the different wizarding eco-systems in various cities across the world.
The fantastic beasts are also on full show and unlike Crimes of Grindelwald, which used creatures on the side of its disjointed plot, creatures feel integral to the story. But for all its small victories the film does still feel like the franchise trying to find its feet. There is no doubt that visually the film is exciting and the production design still remains a standout, but its use of storylines and motivations still feels odd, as if there is no real direction for any of the stories to go.
With Newt partially relegated while Dumbledore becomes the central character, Yusuf Kama (who played a vital role in the previous film) teeters on good and evil without ever really having anything to do and the biggest surprise was to see Creedence (Ezra Miller) becoming so unimportant. For two films we’ve seen Creedence elevated to look like an important figure in the story’s eventual finale, but with very little screen time his arc has become foggy and the film questions what relevance he now plays. It may not affect the entertainment value, but for those who appreciate a little coherence and pacing this feels like an odd change.
Secrets of Dumbledore, like the rest of the Fantastic Beasts films, very often delivers on product design and moments of magic while occasionally feeling lost as a prequel, unable to feel like a true part of the Wizarding World. But, the entertainment factor is high and even in the midst of some odd pacing and story choices the film still finds time to offer popcorn entertainment of the highest value.