Review: Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets by David Yates

Review: Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets by David Yates

by Manuel Sao Bento
April 12, 2022

When it comes to movie franchises, it’s common to see moviegoers struggle to be honest with their thoughts on the respective sagas, especially if they don’t like them like most fans. Fortunately, Harry Potter was and remains special to me and to almost all of the viewers who let themselves be carried away by this massively acclaimed magical place. fantastic beasts emerged in 2016 and nostalgia filled our hearts. A surge of emotions quickly became overwhelming, resulting in an almost uncontrollable hype that was eventually reversed by the first two films. However, despite many problems, the new film Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets exceeds all expectations and becomes the first solid work of the now trilogy.

Considering the many production issues that plagued this project, it’s truly a miracle that the end result turned out so well. From Johnny Depp’s replacement for Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald, to the hiatuses and delays caused by the global pandemic, not to mention the dispute between franchise creator JK Rowling and the actress. Catherine Waterstonwho plays the “absent” Tina in this series, Dumbledore’s secrets generated hundreds of controversial topics that I not only won’t discuss, but had no impact on my opinion. In fact, most forced changes end up contributing to a much more intriguing story than the predecessors.

It is precisely with the scenario that Dumbledore’s secrets surprises the most, mainly in its central narrative, as well as the themes that emerge from it and the characters brought to the fore. Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude’s Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (played by Mads Mikkelsen) take the reins of the saga which now focuses entirely on their mysterious romantic relationship. Assuming I’m not the only fan in the world ignorant of Dumbledore’s sexuality, the truth is that considering background information from 2007 as a spoiler for a movie released 15 years later is a bit absurd. Especially when author JKR herself revealed it and even mentioned that the fantastic beasts saga was going to study this side of the most powerful wizard in the world.

Dumbledore’s secrets begins exactly with the first explicit dialogue about Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s love for each other, and it is from this scene – a bit too fast for a “new” Grindelwald – that JKR and Steve Kloves develop a truly captivating story. Each time the film focuses on these two characters, whether it explores the complicated and dark past of the Dumbledore family or follows the strong motivations of Grindelwald without ever separating their relationship from the center, it manages to capture the eyes and the hearts of the public like neither. previous installments did. Law and Mikkelsen go a long way in connecting viewers with their characters, delivering performances that deserve attention in their own right. The antagonist has a more powerful and frightening presence than Depp and Colin Farrel – performances that I also appreciate – while the first sets the bar impressively compared to the somewhat bland portrait of Crimes of Grindelwald. The palpable chemistry between the actors makes for extremely tense dialogue and a long-awaited climactic action sequence.

However, it’s really Dumbledore’s past and family that brings shocking revelations to the wizarding world. Questions that have haunted fans for years are finally answered through some very heartwarming moments shared between Albus, Aberforth (Richard Coyle), Newt (Eddie Redmayne), and even Credence (Ezra Miller). The best narrative element of Dumbledore’s secrets is the analysis of Albus as a flawed character. All viewers remember the great magician from the HP franchise, but it was the mistakes and bad decisions of the past that brought him to such a spectacular level. The grief and guilt he still carries, the love he still feels, and the family issues he still faces are handled brilliantly throughout this film.

Review Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore's Secrets

Unfortunately, this rather sudden change in thematic and narrative orientation causes several setbacks. the fantastic beasts saga initially begins with Redmayne leading the new tale with Where to find them, where Dumbledore is not seen and Grindelwald only “materializes” at the end. Fast forward to Crimes of Grindelwald, and the balance between the different scenarios and characters is so out of control that the spotlight is left pointing blankly. Finally, here Dumbledore’s secrets and, after all, it’s the romantic relationship between the characters that caption this latest and the previous film that matters most in a world that began as a magical adventure in America with animals and a magizoologist.

This lack of structure and solid foundations results in Dumbledore’s secrets fix several plot points set in the other works and create new arcs for once important characters. The first half of this movie is mostly about saving the boat from sinking and setting it on a completely different path than previously planned, which ends up partially damaging the other movies, as well as the respective characters. Newt goes from the undisputed protagonist with a love interest and a clear mission to a mere pawn in the complex chess game between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Redmayne is phenomenal, and Newt is indeed a good protagonist… but to lead another saga.

by Ezra Miller Faith was developed as a key element in the last two films but receives a somewhat odd treatment during Dumbledore’s secrets, despite having an incredibly meaningful arc that ends up being cast in a disappointing few seconds – arguably the most wasted character in the entire saga. Curiously, the one subplot that proves consistently engaging throughout all three episodes is the relationship between Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein, hilariously portrayed by Dan Foger and Alison Sudol. Most viewers will remember the laughs they got at the expense of these two, but the intense drama caused by the constant obstacles in front of them lends some seriousness to their proudly giddy love.

This first half also needs time to introduce new and recurring characters and throw them on random missions, most without any narrative impact, affecting the initial pacing, which is too slow for a movie that doesn’t care about those secondary adventures. Additionally, since one of the main premises of The Secrets of Dumbledore is that Dumbledore is, in fact, a wizard full of secrets who never explains everything, viewers are forced to follow characters trying to follow instructions whose ultimate goal and direction are entirely unknown. Jessica Williams acts as the saving grace as she portrays Lally Hicks, demonstrating that she was born to play a part in this magical world, giving a charismatic performance.

On the one hand, writers JKR and Kloves – particularly the latter, as his return brought about a drastic improvement in writing quality – create a layered storyline that is best seen in a repeat session, but regardless view count, anything but Dumbledore or Grindelwald is practically insignificant until the third act. Ironically, the positive exception turns out to be something that has always been a core issue in other films: fantastic beasts. For the first time in the entire saga, Dumbledore’s secrets living up to its main title, shifting enormous emotional weight to a particular “monster”, ultimately managing to effectively merge the animal world with human storylines.

Technically, director David Yates is able to demonstrate greater creative control over this film as he also had in later HP films, although he played it safe on several occasions where more risks could/should have been taken . To top it all – by James Newton Howard the score has never been better in this franchise, successfully balancing unforgettable Hogwarts themes and music from fantastic beasts. With the natural evolution of visual effects, Wizard Showdowns could easily be a lazy mix of magical effects, but genuine care surrounds imaginative and entertaining sequences that will no doubt leave viewers spellbound.

Final Thoughts

Fantastic Beasts: Dumbledore’s Secrets is an important improvement on its predecessors, proving that Steve Kloves really can work miracles – JK Rowling still has a lot to learn. By completely shifting the main focus of the franchise to the romantic relationship between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, as well as exploring the imperfections of the former and his family’s tragic and complex past, it gains an emotionally powerful and genuinely compelling narrative component. . The superb performances of Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen largely contribute to this. Too bad the first half suffers from the saga’s constant tweaks, taking once-important characters through irrelevant side-adventures and mending plot points established in earlier installments, seriously undermining previous films and negatively affecting the pacing of this one. The boat is no longer sinking, but the damage is perhaps too great to continue sailing…

Manual Note: B (on the AF scale)
Follow Manuel on Twitter – @msbreviews

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