Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
Albus Dumbledore assigns Newt and his allies with a mission related to the rising power of Grindelwald. Out in cinemas now.
After the previous two films from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, my expectations were pretty low. Can you blame me? A cacophony of too many characters, most of them rather bland and all revolving around one of the most convoluted plots of any family-oriented film.
While this is still not quite at the level of any of the Harry Potter movies, I thought it was an improvement on the previous chapters. J.K. Rowling, probably coming to terms with some of her weaknesses as screenwriter, is now paired up with Steve Kloves, whose experience in Wizarding World is second to none, as he’s written seven of the eight “Harry Potter” movies (he only missed out on the fifth).
Gone are some of the many peripheral (pointless) characters and the central plot too seems to be a little bit more focused and slightly clearer this time around (though on the way out of the cinema I still heard people talking to one another asking about some of the slightly more obscure subplots and being utterly confused).
The first most apparent difference is of course in the casting of Mads Mikkelsen as the evil Grindelwald (replacing Johnny Depp only a week before production, following the former star’s libel case against the Sun).
While a choice was forced on the film, as opposed to being organic development, this last minute decision was an inspired one and it might very well have saved the series. Mikkelsen brings a whole new layer of menace to the role. His presence alone is truly terrifying in a way Dep never was and his chemistry with Jude Law is possibly one of the best things about the film.
Director David Yates takes it all very seriously, possibly too much (lighten up mate!), keeping the laughter down to a minimum, while preferring to keep the tone of the film dark and veeeery moody: an innocent deer-like creature is slaughtered right in front of our eyes, bodies are being torn apart by unseen monsters with tentacles in a sequence which seems straight out of an Alien movie and the parallels with Nazis as the Second World War gets closer to the timeline are now a lot more pronounced.
All of this takes us further and further away from the cuddly magic of the Potter films and from some of the most child-friendly imagery from the first Fantastic beasts, which makes me wonder whether JK knows who these films are actually for.
The Secret of Dumbledore is still too long, or at least it feels that way, as Yates seems to be so in love with close-ups of characters staring out at each other in “meaningful ways” for very long periods of time. Not to mention that “multi-ending syndrome” that many films these days suffer from, which seems to be alive and well here too.
As ever I’m using my son as a judge-o-meter for these types of films. He was a bit restless in a few scenes half-way through and at one point he even asked me how long was the film going to be. But he did find his grove during the most entertaining sequences, including the above mentioned monster with tentacles and an army of scorpion-like creatures (which also received possibly one the biggest laughs of all three films), and a fun diversion with some identical suitcases.
I’m still not particularly in love with this franchise (who is?), but at least this third film has not turned me off completely from seeing the next one. Three down, two to go.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is out in cinemas right now.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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