[EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’S NOTE: Originally, it was my intention not to cover FB3. The author built her brand on the idea that people should be not abused for who they are, and yet has come to devote her platform to demonizing a vulnerable community. I feared reviewing the movie would be seen as an endorsement and do harm to our LGBTQIA readers and staff.
However, Sarah Moran was invited to a free press screening for FB3, and in order to keep her relationship with the screening promoter in good standing and be invited to future screenings, we are publishing her review.
Kabooooom.com and its staff remain as committed as ever to LGBTQIA equality. We understand that this series means a lot to many people and the question of whether the author can be separated from their work is a subjective one every fan must answer for themselves. If you do decide to see FB3, we would encourage you to consider donating an amount equal to the cost of a movie ticket to The Trevor Project or The Transgender Law Center. Thank you.]
Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore, the third entry in Warner Bros.’ second Wizarding World series after the Harry Potter films, is clearly meant to be a course correction from its disappointing predecessor. There are moments within the movie that suggest this might happen, that it will turn into something good, something enjoyable. But these flashes of promise go as quickly as they come. What remains is a messy, needlessly long, and, worst of all, boring movie that does next to nothing to justify continuing this film series.
The first entry, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is a fun movie with endearing characters and some interesting ideas. While not perfect, the good parts certainly outweigh the bad. Its sequel, however, The Crimes of Grindelwald, is a terrible movie. The plot is borderline nonsensical and its runtime bloated. Those endearing characters from the first movie return, but mostly for reasons that don’t make sense beyond: it’s a sequel. The Crimes of Grindelwald completely upended the Fantastic Beasts series, leaving it to Secrets of Dumbledore to recover what little goodwill remains.
Sadly, for the most part, Secrets of Dumbledore is more of what made The Crimes of Grindelwald such a slog. The story is more sensible this time around, but only just, with it actually being a plot point that things are confusing because that’s how the heroes will keep Grindewald (Mads Mikkelsen) from guessing their next move. That’s right, Secrets of Dumbledore is relying on the old adage “it’s a feature, not a bug” to explain away what doesn’t make sense. Not helping matters is how the movie struggles to pick a main character. Arguably, it should be Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), but then the main thrust of the story is Dumbledore (Jude Law) needing to thwart Grindewald’s rise to power without openly acting against him. That certainly paints Dumbledore as the lead, and seeing as he’s named in the film’s title, would make sense. But then there’s also Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a muggle Newt befriended in the first film and who’s always worked well as the audience insert. And since Jacob’s also the only character who’s ever been any fun to watch, it’d be easy to consider him the lead.
With no clear protagonist, the Secrets of Dumbledore’s story never really gels and the movie instead feels like a succession of events that are just marginally related to each other. It’s also unbearably boring, with even the onscreen confirmation of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s romantic relationship feeling tedious. The movie is obviously struggling to create reasons for more action besides characters traveling and talking—especially anything that involves the fantastic beasts it’s meant to feature. There’s a whole sequence of Newt rescuing his auror brother from a wizard prison infested with crab creatures that serves no other purpose than it’s been a while since anything exciting happened. The requisite visit to Hogwarts serves a similar function, arriving at around one hour, 20 minutes into the movie to jar us into remembering why we’re even putting up with this.
There are, as it happens, a few things in Secrets of Dumbledore that threaten to break up its mind-numbing monotony. Jessica Williams is here playing a delightful witch named Lally. She’s paired mostly with Jacob and the pair have by far the most enjoyable scenes in the movie. She also uses actual spells during the wizard fights, finally bringing some creativity to these scenes. Mikkelsen is unsurprisingly quite good as Grindelwald, imbuing the villain with the charm necessary to dupe people into following him, but he remains an underdeveloped villain overall. The ‘Creedence (Ezra Miller) is actually a Dumbledore twist’ is twisted yet again, and it gives the movie a tiny bit of heart, albeit very briefly. There’s also this scene of Dumbledore meeting with his operatives (Newt, Jacob, Lally) in Berlin, and he’s handing out assignments while pulling items from his hat like a magician as they walk down the street. For but a moment the film feels lively, like Secrets of Dumbledore might secretly be an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist movie. That moment, however, is fleeting and then it’s back to the slog.
The Crimes of Grindelwald was a major misstep for the Fantastic Beasts series, and Secrets of Dumbledore is not righting the ship. It’s another dull entry in this baffling series that’s dead set on giving answers to questions no one ever asked. I’m not even sure who the audience for these movies are anymore. They certainly aren’t for anyone who enjoyed the first movie. It’s definitely not for families because there’s no way a young child is sitting through this. It’s unlikely the Fantastic Beasts movies are creating new fans, but even Harry Potter fans will be hard-pressed to find much to enjoy. Perhaps if their favorite part of the final Potter films was the de-saturated, overwhelming grey color palette, in which case, Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore completely delivers.