Here I sit, eating mini Lindt Easter eggs and trying to figure out where The Secrets of Dumbledore went wrong. If you’ve read my previous reviews of The Fantastic Beasts films, you’ll know that I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and actually gave The Crimes of Grindelwald a higher rating than the original, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! As you can see from my rating of 6.5 for The Secrets of Dumbledore, it wasn’t all bad – in fact – it had so many great elements, I honestly can’t put my finger on exactly why it fizzled out into disappointment.
As with all Harry Potter related films, the nostalgia and magic kick into gear as soon as the opening scene begins and you can’t help but feel a surge of excitement. I was amped and ready to love this film as much as it’s predecessors. But the nostalgia and magic could only carry my enthusiasm so far, before general confusion and disappointment started to deflate me little by little. Somehow I came away at the end feeling detached from all the characters I’d gotten to know so well in the first couple of films and a little bit like the film was insulting my intelligence.
In saying that, there was still a lot that was great in The Secrets of Dumbledore. Changing out your main villain three movies in is a flippin’ risky move. Sheesh. But honestly, Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald, was one of the stronger elements of the film. Where Johnny Depp’s embodiment of Grindelwald had carried his trademark unhinged vibe, Mads Mikkelson brought an even darker, scarier sanity to the role. He is perfection in the role, and I hope no one makes him feel otherwise. There’s SO much more I want to say about him, but it all wanders into the murky spoilery waters. As a fan of the German time-travel series, Dark, I was really excited to see Oliver Masucci take on the role of Anton Vogel, the German minister of magic. Disappointingly his character didn’t end up with much depth, which unfortunately seemed to be the case for many of the characters introduced through out the film. None of the characters really get much of a chance to do more than drive the plot along, albeit very slowly and confusingly. There are so many frustratingly non-sensical details dotted throughout the plot and so many blindingly obvious details which are treated as big “wow, bet ya didn’t see that coming” moments, that I almost felt a bit offended.
This film leans more into the bromance between Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his actual brother, Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), which is a great call and probably was responsible for most of my emotional responses to the movie. I love Newt, but I think I came out loving Theseus almost as much. That fact is probably more indicative of the fact that Newt’s character didn’t really get a chance to shine in this film.
Neither did his quirky little beasts Pickett and Teddy who are given a few token appearances, but mostly seem forgotten this time around. While the plot does still revolve around the magical beasts in the Harry Potter universe (most of the movie revolves around one creature in particular), they somehow aren’t as captivating as I remember them. Haha except for one creature which was definitely inserted for some comic relief. I won’t say any more than that. Except you’ll probably laugh and then hate yourself for laughing and then be like “ah well” and laugh some more.
The visual elements of the film were stunning. From scenery, to epic wizard battles to some very tasty easter eggs, I could not take my eyes off the screen. The CGI, Cinematography and costuming, in my eyes, can not be faulted. Which demonstrates why the script is so vital and in this case, unfortunately, lets down the rest of the film.
I choose to believe that The Secrets of Dumbledore is serving a greater purpose of setting it’s audience up for what’s to come. Hopefully the next Fantastic Beasts instalment will return, full of the same charm, humour and emotional weight of the first two, and we’ll be able to understand why The Secrets of Dumbledore had to be the way that it is. Even though I feel like I’ve been pretty harsh overall about this movie, it’s purely because of how high my expectations were. I did still really enjoy myself and learn a lot more about the Harry Potter universe, the motivations behind certain character’s actions and, of course, Dumbledore’s secrets (sorry, I had to).