Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 22 minutes, Director – David Yates
With Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) now free, with a growing legion of followers, and attempting to take supreme power over the wizarding world, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and co. to stop him from launching a war on the muggle world.
It’s been said by many that Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore, the third in the Wizarding World prequel series, could be the film that solidifies the fate and future of the franchise. Up until this point the previous two entries have been somewhat underwhelming (including somewhat when it came to the previous entry’s box office performance), although they do have their fans, providing little development; previous instalment The Crimes Of Grindelwald ending in very much the same place we arrived at the start of the first film. While this third entry does continue the idea that this franchise is two, maybe three, films stretched into a planned five there is at least some slight development across it and something more of a narrative arc gradually formed throughout – even if we do arrive at the inevitable dead-ends and circling again.
With Grindelwald (now taking the form of Mads Mikkelsen) now free his followers grow, putting him in good stead to seize the upcoming election which could give him supreme power over the wizarding world, being able to launch war on the muggles. While he can’t do anything himself in attacking and effectively taking down Grindelwald, due to a blood-bound spell, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law – who truly rocks his character’s hat, and occasionally coat, and beard) enlists the help of returning Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Alongside Newt are returning faces such as ministry-working-brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Professor Eulalie Hicks (Jessica Williams – who brings a welcome deal of charm to her few scenes), muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and more – a number of whom feel like new faces due to the faded memory of the previous films, an event which may happen again due to the little screen-time such figures get here.
In many ways The Secrets Of Dumbledore plays out like the previous two films, although sending its various characters in different directions of different locations in order to confuse the future-seeing villain. The narrative certainly feels somewhat stretched with a handful of tangents and extended sequences that don’t overly have a great deal of effect. This being said there certainly feels to be less sequences of could-be-silent ‘action’ dotted here and there. Dialogue appears to play more of a part within this film and the course that it takes, mostly coming into effect and prominence in the second half once the elements have been properly built up towards – it certainly makes for a third act that flows rather well with the progression that it displays compared to the rest of the story. Perhaps this is down to the fact that J.K. Rowling, who penned the previous two films alone, is joined on this screenplay by Steve Kloves – who wrote the screenplay for each of the Harry Potter adaptations, excluding Order Of The Phoenix. Pushing the dialogue forward, particularly as the film goes on, and simply adding that built more detail to the narrative.
The narrative as a whole doesn’t completely develop much, neither do many of the elements, but at least it feels as if something happens within this film. Those elements may not have much to do with the alleged secrets of Dumbledore, Albus or – as we learned at the end of the previous film – Aurelius (AKA Credence Barebone, AKA Ezra Miller), or even Aberforth (Richard Coyle), but they at least allow for a brief, singular arc for this film to unfold, particularly in the later stages where some of the best content lies, because of the feeling of flow that’s introduced. Otherwise, it is the titular beasts that somewhat steal the show. They offer brief moments of silliness – particularly an extended moment involving mimicking, scorpion-like creatures – that stick out from the sometimes lacklustre drama that the rest of the piece attempts to conjure.
There’s a mixed bag within The Secrets Of Dumbledore. Three films in to this series and there still feels like little overall development, but at least within this particular outing there’s something of a slight arc, particularly coming into effect in the engaging flow and movement of the third act. It perhaps comes down to the more present dialogue that puts into effect the unfolding set of situations, and the Grindelwald-based one that’s most core to the film, or at least seems to be. It may still suffer from the slowness and tangents of the previous two films, but at least there’s still something relatively serviceable and watchable before the more entertaining bursts and strand leading up to this latest non-bookending.
Certainly displaying more of an individual arc than before, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore still has the extended tangents that have lengthened this series so far, but is slightly lifted by the more dialogue-led nature which helps form the effectively engaging flow of the third act after another slightly middling outing.