Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore movie review (2022)



Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander, the magizoologist who’s been our conduit into this wizarding world that predates the Potterverse by about 70 years, isn’t even the main character here. He’s a flitty and fidgety cog in the machinery of Law’s young Albus Dumbledore, who hatches schemes within the cozy warmth of various vests and scarves. Dumbledore’s bad romance with burgeoning villain Gellert Grindelwald (Mikkelsen, taking over for a troubled Johnny Depp) eventually bursts because, well, Grindelwald has some questionable ideas about how to deal with Muggles: He wants to eradicate them entirely. “With or without you, I’ll burn down their world, Albus,” he tells Dumbledore over an otherwise lovely tea. The racism of such purebloods, which emerged as a theme in “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” becomes more pronounced here, especially given the setting of 1930s Berlin.

Now, Dumbledore must stop him with the help of Newt, Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Newt’s assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Newt’s Muggle baker friend Jacob (Dan Fogler, once again a crucial source of kindness and comic relief), and the poised and powerful Hogwarts professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams, a welcome addition). The tasteful, art deco train where they lay out their plan is a great example of the consistently impressive production design from Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont; the Lower East Side street that contains Jacob’s bakery is another. But nowhere in here is Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein, supposedly the love of Newt’s life; her eventual time on screen is so brief, she may not even have bothered visiting the craft service table. Dumbledore also recruits the French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), half-brother of Leta Lestrange, to infiltrate Grindelwald’s band of young, elegantly dressed fascists. Like so many characters here, his role feels underdeveloped, but he is at the center of perhaps the film’s most heartbreaking moment.

Also wedged in is Ezra Miller as Grindelwald minion Credence Barebone, whose true identity is, ostensibly, one of the secrets of Dumbledore. (The other is that … Dumbledore is gay? Which was hinted at in the second film, and will remain a secret to viewers watching this movie in China.) But significant stakes remain elusive, even in a film that runs well over two hours. Miller brings the requisite unsettling vibe to the role, but his presence is an unfortunate distraction, given the reports of his recent disturbing, off-screen behavior. It’s just one more problem for this bland, Covid-delayed series, which supposedly has two more entire films in the works. It’ll take a great deal of powerful magic to pull those off successfully.

Available only in theaters starting tomorrow, April 15th. 



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