REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ a big step in the right direction for ‘Harry Potter’ film franchise
SALT LAKE CITY — How far the mighty have fallen. At one point in time a movie taking place in the world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling probably would have generated much more anticipation than Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore currently seems to have.
Dumbledore is the third of what was originally planned to be five movies in this particular story arc, which takes places during the younger years of the great wizard Albus Dumbledore, years before Harry Potter was born.
Yet for those fans who have drifted away from the franchise, this movie could give you a little bit of hope that all is not lost.
This new movie picks up where the less-successful-than-the-studio-hoped Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald left off in 2018…with the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald gaining followers of wizards and witches who’d like to go to war with the non-magical humans of the day. Opposing Grindelwald is his former best friend—and as the movie directly references for the first time in the series, more than that–Albus Dumbledore, at this point just a teacher at Hogwarts Academy.
Dumbledore (Jude Law) is bound by a magical pact that he and Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp in the role) created years ago that physically prevents each one from directly opposing or attacking the other. So Dumbledore has been forced to recruit allies and ask them to risk their lives to stop Grindelwald’s quest.
First and foremost among these is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Newt is an expert in magical creatures, aka Fantastic Beasts, and has been Dumbledore’s most important helper so far. He is joined by his brother Theseus and some other powerful witches & wizards, as well as the non-magical guy Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to undertake a dangerous mission that none of them fully understand but hope will stop Grindelwald’s plan.
THINGS I LIKED
I’m happy to say I felt like this movie gets the Fantastic Beasts series back on track. Crimes of Grindelwald was really convoluted, dark and honestly just not very enjoyable. But Secrets of Dumbledore does a great job mixing some humor, heart and fun back into the story, one that I actually became interested in watching again. Actually having the “Fantastic Beasts” play key roles in the plot also helped.
Jacob Kowalski is definitely the movie’s comic relief, but Fogler plays him with such genuine sincerity that he also really is the beating heart of the series. He’s actually helps me as a viewer care about the story and the other characters. Alison Sudol as Queenie, the woman who broke his heart, is also a favorite of mine.
I also think the change from Johnny Depp as Grindelwald to Mads Mikkelsen helped to substantially improve this film. Maybe it’s because Mikkelsen has played an evil wizard before in Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
The special effects were top notch. Magic in the Harry Potter world has never looked better and been more amazing on screen. They’ve really come a long way in 20 years.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is rated PG-13 for some fantasy action and violence. It might be a little intense for 6-10 year olds, but nothing your teens and tweens can’t handle.
If for some reason you really liked Katherine Waterston‘s character in the first two movies, you’ll be disappointed to find out she’s barely in this movie at all.
Secrets of Dumbledore is a bit long, at 2 hours and 22 minutes (including the credits). But the good news is that because there is no mid-credits or post-credits scenes, you don’t have to stay that long.
Whatever you may think about J.K. Rowling’s views in the real world, she’s still a pretty good storyteller. It probably helped that Steve Kloves, who also wrote the first 8 Potter movie screenplays, co-wrote this one with her.
Director David Yates, who’s directed Potter movies in the past as well, also seemed to know what would help get the movie back to the roots of what made the franchise so enjoyable in the first place.
In my opinion, this is how you get the series back on track. Yates has made a movie with more heart, fun, and magic that actually makes me want to see more in the series.
Even if for some reason Warner Bros decides to abandon the Fantastic Beasts series and not make the final two movies they originally planned, Secrets of Dumbledore has an ending that feels like a story arc has been completed, while also not closing the door to any future sequels.
Andy’s final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is playing exclusively in theaters. It likely won’t be available to stream at home until at least Memorial Day, based on Warner Bros. 45-day theatrical window they’ve used with other releases this year.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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