“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” proves that until the “Fantastic Beasts” series reaches its finale, it will continue to lack appeal.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” released Friday, was the third installment in the ongoing “Fantastic Beasts” series of “Harry Potter” spinoff films. Raking in $43 million on opening weekend with a budget of $200 million, the movie proved to be the strongest installment in what still appears to be a dying series.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” follows Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and their team of witches and wizards. The unlikely group attempts to prevent the rise of the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), who aims to take over both magical and non-magical worlds by provoking a war between “muggles” — or humans — and wizards.
With the return of “Harry Potter” screenwriter Steve Kloves, many expected the writing of this movie to supersede that of its predecessor: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Although this is accomplished, that is not saying much, as there is a clear struggle to deliver a meaningful build-up to the hinted-at battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, which is expected to take place in the fourth or fifth installment of the series .
Additionally, the writers did not seem to have any interest in patching up mistakes of the previous film or addressing some of its discarded subplots. Instead, they allowed this movie to be its own story — which proved to be a good decision, as this plot was easier to follow despite several hiccups.
There are still plenty of good things to be said about this movie, however, as it proves to be a fun watch and return to the Wizarding World. Mikkelsen does a terrific job of portraying Grindelwald in his new role, and the resting look of disgust on his face does justice to the character. Additionally, Dan Fogler continues to bring a much-needed comedic element to the series as Scamander’s muggle friend Jacob Kowalski, and his well-delivered one-liners offer much to be appreciated.
Composer James Newton Howard delivered a score that elevated not only the high-action fight scenes, but the film as a whole. Musical scores have gone hand-in-hand with the success of the “Harry Potter” franchise over the years, and Howard’s decision to incorporate past scores from the original series into the soundtrack was much-appreciated fan service.
Despite its improved acting and solid score, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” shows the “Fantastic Beasts” series is not sure what it wants from itself or for its audience. The relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore is the sole focus of the film, and although there is an interesting story to be told there, the plot too often caters to other ideas.
Whether it be Scamander’s story as a whole or the relationship complexities between Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein’s (Alison Sudol) muggle-and-witch relationship, the series has established too many side plots to successfully deliver a coherent story within the framework of a 142-minute movie. There is little to no explanation for the new nuances within the Wizarding World introduced in this film, and audiences may find themselves confused at a lack of continuity.
Although there is still a lot of good within the movie, it will not do well to expect a perfect product. Instead, audiences should enjoy the film for what it has been made to do: bring people back to the Wizarding World through new stories and characters. The movie lacks a genuine story but manages to expand boundaries in the world with unusual creatures, a return to Hogwarts and the darkest tone in the “Fantastic Beasts” series yet.