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Sunday, June 23, 2024
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From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ stellar performances underscored by confusing plot

REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ stellar performances underscored by confusing plot

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is entertaining, funny and brings magic back to the screen once more, however, it fails to garner the magical feeling that the original Harry Potter films achieved. The third of five proposed installments in the Fantastic Beasts series has superb acting, good CGI and is still worth seeing, but is overall a let down thanks to its confusing plot, poor writing and lack of fantastic beasts.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), best friend Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates) and Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) try to follow Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) plan and stop Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) from winning a magical political election and taking control of the wizarding world.

Law plays a well-developed Dumbledore whose sexuality is fully embraced in the film. Dumbledore’s identity as a gay man is fleshed out in a way that had never been explored in previous films or in J.K. Rowling’s writing. 

Law’s version of the character is similar to the Dumbledore portrayed in Rowling’s literature and puts a real emphasis on the importance of love and worthiness. However, the film’s expression of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s love feels somewhat forced at times due to choppy screenwriting that lacks a certain flow.

The movie’s recasting of Grindelwald is another strong point when compared with its predecessors. Mikkelsen, who replaced Johnny Depp after he stepped down amid his lawsuit involving ex-wife Amber Heard, is not new to playing the role of a villain and it shows. Mikkelsen does an incredible job playing the antagonist. The addition of an accent to the character brings a sense of authenticity in relation to the film’s source material, and the new visual style of Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald rendered him more threatening and less cartoonish than Depp’s rendition. 

Redmayne’s performance is as solid as ever, but his character deserves room to grow. Redmayne does a great job playing the awkward, lovable Newt but hasn’t received much development over the three films.

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While the actors and actresses' performances shine through, the plot is host to all sorts of issues. The biggest problem stems from the lack of consistency and random subplots that divert viewers’ attention. The film sloppily restructures the original setup and function of the magical government. Moreover, in the second film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Credence (Ezra Miller) is revealed to be the brother of Albus Dumbledore and is tasked with killing Albus in the future. In this film, however, Credence’s plot is shoved to the side and deemed unnecessary; this disregard for continuity is frustrating to the viewer.

Many characters that were in previous “Fantastic Beasts” films do not show up at all in “The Secrets of Dumbledore” or only appear shortly. The near complete absence of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is sure to rile up some negative feelings among fans. The film lazily excuses her because she is “busy at work” and completely cuts out other characters like Nagini (Claudia Kim) with no explanation.

While “The Secrets of Dumbledore” contains some impressive CGI and enough Harry Potter references to welcome audience members back to Hogwarts, there is a startling lack of fantastic beasts in a series that previously introduced multiple new beasts in each movie. While a new species is introduced and some old favorites return, the involvement of magical beasts never develops beyond a subplot, being relegated to the sidelines in favor of duels, a semi-explored love plot and the main characters’ quest.

The relative disappointment that came from the film is understandable as this franchise is held to such high expectations; because of the success of its predecessor, it would be hard to grant every wish a Potterhead could ask for. Overall, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is full of laughs, showcases new forms of magic and contains moments of emotional depth.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” will be released in theaters on April 15.

gdinardo@theeagleonline.com 


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