FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
THREE AND A HALF STARS Will Dumbledore's secrets be enough to stop Grindelwald's plans to exterminate non-magical people? FANTASY ADVENTURE US/UK #SECRETSOFDUMBLEDORE
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law
This third instalment in the FANTASTIC BEASTS franchise (a back-story of sorts to the adventures of Harry Potter) has finally found its feet. Some would say the franchise always knew where it was going while those less-forgiving would say it took something of a sharp right on realising that box-office magic still lay at Hogwarts and wasn’t going to found in some magical zoo. Thus a younger Dumbledore (Jude Law) was pushed to the front, aided by his good friend Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in mounting a fight against the evil plans of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (formerly Johnny Depp, now Mads Mikkelsen).
While the excellent David Yates is still in the director’s chair working from another script by J.K. Rowling, the pair have partnered with long-time Potter scriptwriter Steve Kloves. Absent from Parts 1 and 2, his influence is felt in the way SECRETS is a more cohesive, clear-headed film. It feels that BEASTS is finally travelling in the right direction with a sense of purpose. It knows what it is, and where it’s going. About time.
After a formidable amount of branch-stacking, Grindelwald is poised to take over the magical world as chief wizard. All he needs is the approval of a fantastic beast which bestows that honour upon the purest candidate (clearly not Grindelwald, but he can fix that with a reanimation curse). As commander in chief, he’ll then launch his vicious plan to rid the world of non-magical muggles. But there’s a problem, a blood-bond he has with Dumbledore who no longer shares his former friend’s ambitions and has pulled together a ragtag team to put a stop to the madness. With wands at 20 paces and a lot of digital carnage to follow, the forces of good battle those of evil.
The Nazi-themed art direction given to Grindelwald’s rallies is not by accident. Fundamentally this is a story about the perils of autocracy, unchecked power and the danger that follows. It’s a timely one at that. Whilst Rowling and Kloves don’t hammer the message too hard, their intentions are clear and it’s an obvious fit for BEASTS’ 1930’s sensibilities.
Once again, Yates has crafted an eye-popping world of magical danger and adventure laced with a sprinkle of comic relief (Scamander trying to outwit a plague of scorpions is a hoot). Law remains something of a revelation - if asked in POTTER what a young Dumbledore would be like, it would be just like this - while Mikkelsen is an excellent choice to take over from Depp, bringing an elegance and gravitas to his villain. His cool, smarmy demeanour is exactly that of a dangerous, psychopathic, wand-wielding maniac with ambitions to destroy our world. Beware!
SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE does a good job of reshaping the franchise while living up to its title - there are more than a few treats for fans anticipating the big reveal. While it’s overlong at nearly two and a half hours (younger viewers are likely to fidget), older fans who have been here since Harry was a boy will be thoroughly entranced.