In November of 2016, audiences were taken back to the Wizarding World and introduced to a new set of characters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While it was never embraced as much as the beloved Potter series, the word of mouth and box office proved there was still a desire for this world. A few years later, the follow up film, The Crimes of Grindelwald was released to poor reception from both critics and audiences. Since then, delays and controversy have worked against the third installment but at long last, Dumbledore is set to hit theaters domestically this weekend.
As tensions rise and elections loom within the Wizarding World, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) sets up his army to strike against a familiar face, Gellert Grindelwald (Now played by Mads Mikkelsen). The film also sees the return of Eddie Redmayne as the magizoologist Newt Scamander, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, and Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein. Also added to the cast is Jessica Williams as Eulalie Hicks.
As far as The Secrets of Dumbledore goes, it does have a light at the end of the tunnel sort of hope to it as it proves there’s still some magic left to explore in this world.
Opening to two great character moments, my attention and optimism was quickly heightened. One particularly sweet moment takes place between one of our protagonists, Dumbledore, and the wizard hellbent on destroying the peace between the muggle and wizarding world, Grindelwald. Discussing their past aspirations as well as allowing audiences to understand why it is they are unable to fight one another. Something Crimes of Grindelwald teased on numerous occasions but never fully touched on. We are then taken to a scene with the timid Newt Scamander who gets a scene that adds a layer of compassion to a character who already has a naturally kind hearted personality.
While these are the most impactful sequences in the film, there are moments sprinkled throughout that try harder than the previous adventures to expand and deepen the relationships we are seeing on screen. As far s the characters go, it’s Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski who gets a surprising amount of attention. Not completely unfamiliar with the magic world, his increasing involvement with wizards brings a sense of charm and innocence as he learns more and more about this universe. He’s also given the most comedic lines usually paired with his rapidly expanding involvement in the growing army.
Mads Mikkelsen is also a welcome presence on screen. He taps into the darker side of this character that former Grindelwald actor Johnny Depp didn’t tap into. From the quieter, more intimate moments with Grindelwald and his followers to moments where he has to talk up a whole room, the has a debonair like quality to him that makes this character hard to resist.
As far es the story goes, it is considerably more organized than its predecessor but is unable to completely shake off the lack of any narrative depth that also caused the second installment to crumble. There’s a mostly clear understanding of where this film is headed at the end of the first act but as the story continues, there are scenes throughout that lend themselves to a more emotional impact but are compromised at the expense of a joke or an underdeveloped story element. On numerous occasions in Crimes of Grindelwald, the story would often get tangled up within itself as a result of scattered storytelling and a lack of explanation towards necessary plot devices. While it is to a much smaller degree, Dumbledore succumbs to the latter a handful of times. To prevent spoilers, I won’t go into any detail about these moments however, one pivotal scene feels drastically underwhelming due to a lack of narrative build up.
Tonally, Secrets of Dumbledore hopscotches back and forth from the sillier side of these films to the darker, more intense side of the brewing war. This is by far the most humorous installment in the Fantastic Beasts series and possibly the Harry Potter series as well. In particular a scene that takes place inside a prison. It lasts a bit too long and is interwoven with a much more interesting storyline but as the sequence is unfolding, it does lend itself to multiple effectively comedic moments.
At just over 140 minutes, this is also the longest installment of the “Beasts” franchise to date and at times the runtime does begin to feel a bit stretched, particularly towards the end of the second act and going into the third. A couple scenes feel stretched beyond their limits and throughout the entire duration 10-15 minutes could have been shaved off to create a more nimble runtime.
Verdict: ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’ is a step in the right direction to get this series back on track. However, it is unable to completely shake some of the issues from the previous installments. For the most part though, the third installment proves there’s still some magic left in this world.