Fantastic Beasts – The Secrets of Dumbledore

Written by J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves

Directed by David Yates

USA/2022/142mins

Rating: 2 out of 5.

You would think that following the messy and contrite issues of The Hobbit, Warner Bros would recognise the murky waters which lay ahead with their subsequent prequel series – Fantastic Beasts. It appears not.

This third instalment of the Harry Potter spin-off franchise attempts to shift itself onto two tracks almost entirely parallel to one another. On the one hand, the subtitle of Secrets of Dumbledore ties directly into the original realms of the child-centric Wizarding World, as the other leads to the opposite – a political drama at the onset of World War II, where the less than subtle analogies of returning antagonist Gellert Grindelwald’s Muggle (Non-Magical folks) eradication comes to fruition.

From the words of series creator J.K Rowling and co-writer Steve Kloves, it’s perplexing that there appear to be two vendettas at work – one of nostalgia and original property, another of advancement away from the original film’s screenwriter’s charm. It’s just a shame little feels inspired, least of all James Newton Howard’s recycled film score or the lacklustre and emotionless action sequences. And where one romantic thread has some authenticity and relevance, the troublesome but engaging romance of Muggle and Witch (Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol) is wasted throughout.

Where the film borders passable, is where it finds an ounce of Yates’ direction or Klove’s original magic, even for the shortness of these select moments. While the plot splits itself into several of its own Horcruxes, the clarity of the film series’ initial premise of Eddie Redmayne’s interactions with the mystical and mysterious creatures will stir those nodding off, and credit is due both for the Mads Mikkelsen’s charismatic (if reserved) performance, and Jude Law – where even the most uneventful film can rest on the glitter of their ability.

It can’t be helped but recognise studio interference – to offer cheap nods to lines and characters fans will recall, but in doing so conjuring a nightmare of continuity abandonment. For a compendium of magical creatures, a portion of Fantastic Beasts has a revolting let-down of effects, with even the most minimalist of designs CGI’d to within an inch of recognition. And much of the cinematography is slapped around; pastel lights fire back and forth across bland darkness with no urgency or even thought behind the action – a far cry from the still remarkably impressive duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore from Yates’ earlier Order of the Phoenix.

A notch above its predecessor, The Secrets of Dumbledore still commits the cardinal sin of being filler – as this third piece of an inevitable continuing series seems to spin off in broader strokes than any of the tie-in media of the Wizarding World. Its inadequacies of storytelling, particularly within its own doctrine, are enough for Potter fans to snap their wands over – but for an unassuming regular audience dishes it out nothing of substance to bind imagination and investment.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in cinemas now

Review published for The Wee Review

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