Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – Has The Wizarding World Franchise Run Out Of Steam?

fantastic beasts the secrets of dumbledore

The Wizarding World is perhaps Warner Brother’s most lucrative property. In a cinematic climate so dominated by IP, it’s unsurprising that it’s still being milked for all its worth, eleven years after the ‘Deathly Hallows Part Two’ posters promised us ‘It All Ends’. This is now the third ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie, a Potter-verse prequel franchise that, frankly, felt like a cash-grab from the start.

This installment sees Eddie Redmayne’s ‘Magizoologist’ Newt Scamander tasked by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) with stopping Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) from achieving world domination. Among Newt’s allies are Dan Fogler’s befuddled muggle Jacob Kowalski and Newt’s brother Theseus ( Callum Turner).

“This is a series that favours lengthy exposition dumps over characterisation”

Set in the 1930s, the film is clearly drawing a parallel between the populist rise of the muggle-hating Grindlewald with that of Hitler. While there’s an interesting idea in there, it gets lost in a convoluted plot and tedious subplots. There’s a fatal assumption we actually care about the family roots of Creedence Barebone, an incredibly dull character played without charisma by Ezra Miller. To be fair, he’s given very little to work with. This is a series that favours lengthy exposition dumps over characterisation.

Unfortunately, the Big Bad doesn’t fare much better. Mikkelsen seems to be on autopilot, looking entirely disinterested throughout his scenes. It’s a performance that has been compared favourably against previous Grindewald Johnny Depp. Depp’s casting was divisive, but at least he was going for something, hammy as it may be. The only frightening thing about this Grindlewald is how forgettable he is.

Redmayne, thankfully, is game as ever as Newt, a role he’s perfectly cast in, and in one scene, displays a knack for physical comedy. As for the titular Dumbledore, Jude Law can’t help but be charming. But Fogler’s sidekick Kowalski is perhaps the standout, bringing a much-needed dash of humour to a po-faced screenplay (In a way, he’s the closest thing this series has to Han Solo).

Mads Mikkelsen replaced Johnny Depp in the role of antagonist Grindelwald

“The cinematography is drab, a muddy palette of browns and greys”

The film may have ‘Secrets’ in the title, but the real mystery is where the fun of the earlier Potter films has gone. The cinematography is drab, a muddy palette of browns and greys, as if to remind you how seriously you should be taking all of this. With a running time of almost two hours and a half, it’s a flabby beast that could have used a few hundred laps around the Quidditch field. By the time it’s descending into a confusing wash of CGI spell battles, it feels that the film, and perhaps the entire ‘Wizarding World’ franchise, has run out of steam.

A bloated and tedious return to the Wizarding World that lacks wit, invention, and, crucially, a sense of magic. Fantastic? Not so much.

Bruce Micallef Eynaud is the creative director at VSQUARED and is also a filmmaker, working mainly in commercials and short films. He’s also a movie geek with an MA in Film Studies. His favourite filmmakers are Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson and Richard Linklater.