Basically: A switch in focus to Dumbledore and his battle of wits with his muggle-hating ex.
J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world has had such a significant impact on pop culture. But now it’s in a weird place within that culture because of its creator. The Fantastic Beasts franchise started so well yet, due to some of the people involved, it has a cloud hovering over it. I almost thought the franchise might be dead as it had kind of sunk under the radar. But here we are with a third chapter, although who knows if it will still go to five movies.
The Secrets of Dumbledore focuses on Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) work to stop Grindelwald from his new plan to overtake the wizarding world’s government and subjugate no-maj humans. As some might know, Johnny Depp is out as Grindelwald AKA the big bad and former lover of Dumbledore. He has been replaced by the always great Mads Mikkelsen, who brings such a charismatic ominous presence to the role that Depp was never able to bring. Different vibes and all.
The story is reminiscent of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as Dumbledore gathers his most trusted groups of wizards and witches, including Newt Scamander, to work in magical spycraft to thwart Grindelwald’s plan. Eddie Redmayne is back as Newt but he’s not the focal hero as much this time. Instead, Dan Fogler is my guy Jacob Kowalski who gets dragged back into some wild magic adventures. Callum Turner returns as Newt’s brother Theseus. Jessica Williams plays a new witch who teaches at the US wizarding school Ilvermorny, while William Nadylam returns as Yusuf Kama (honestly, a character I forgot about).
The Secrets of Dumbledore directly follows The Crimes of Grindelwald and doesn’t do much to catch you up, I like how it gets right into it. Most of the movie follows the team splitting up to do little missions they can’t tell each other about. They keep everything secret so Grindelwald can’t figure out their plan to stop him because of some magical psychic thing he obtains.
The dynamic between Law and Mikkelsen can remind you a bit of Professor X and Magneto in the X-Men films, but they also pull off a former lover relationship on screen. It’s something you never really got from Law and Depp with their limited screentime. The film tries to navigate their story by tying in the destabilizing times in 1930s Europe with what Grindelwald does to the wizarding world. I do feel they don’t go far enough—if you show me German wizards who kind of look like Nazis, just go all the way and make them Nazis (like Hydra in the MCU).
A large part of the plot is about Credence’s (Ezra Miller) true backstory and how he’s a critical factor in turning the tide in the war. Still, you can see Ezra is pretty bored and, honestly, I don’t know how well he’ll be liked in the film due to his recent actions in the real world. That being said, he doesn’t have that much to do, it seems like this movie is just a way to wrap up Credence’s plotline.
The spectacle is still here but its lighthearted flair is missing and doesn’t feel as important to the plot. As I stated earlier, Newt isn’t the main hero anymore. A young Dumbledore is like seeing a young Obi-Wan in Star Wars; he takes over and changes how everything feels. The two previous Fantastic Beasts films felt like Rowling and director David Yates were making a magical version of Doctor Who featuring Newt as the quirky, non-violent, brilliant hero with a box that is larger on the inside than it looks on the outside. He also has a nice scarf, Jacob is his companion, and Grindelwald feels like a Master analog. Yet the Doctor doesn’t really have a mentor—he is the mentor—and with Newt pushed to the backseat, it feels a bit off. Even if this movie is better than the second one overall.
The story does work well by paralleling the relationships of different characters to show positive vs. adverse outcomes based on their actions, which I found interesting. Yet I also feel it was too long and that some characters get lost a bit, like Kama and Queenie (Alison Sudol). The Secrets of Dumbledore also misses something by not having Tina (Katherine Waterson) as part of the main story. She’s referenced but, again, it’s an undeniable hole in the hero dynamic. It ends in a way that doesn’t really feel completely fulfilling…but I would also feel fine if this movie was the last one. However, I was still entertained so it did do something right.
In the End: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore will probably play the best with Potter fans but it’s still a decent big movie to see on the big screen.