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The Secrets of Dumbledore’ – Manila Bulletin


Jude Law in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’

For those who have been living under a rock since the start of this century, the Fantastic Beasts film franchise of JK Rowling is her way of extending her Harry Potter universe, and keeping David Yates employed – after all, he directed the last four Potter movies, and helmed the first two Beasts. And this 3rd installment, the Secrets of Dumbledore, has a lot of pre-publicity generated via the fact that one of the central characters, Grindelwald, has Johnny Depp being replaced by Mads Mikkelsen. 

Delayed by the COVID pandemic, we finally get this third installment, which I read is a part of five planned – and the question that nags me is whether it’s worth the wait. It’s definitely watchable, but it never gets near the greatness of the Potter films. Plus, this one feels overstuffed, with so many strands of narrative that had emanated from the first two films, plus new strands, all being thrown in the air like some juggling act. And yes, we’re enthralled with the act, but there are too many ‘balls’ dropping to the ground.

Primary to note is how this film is as much about power, politics, and family, as it is about magic and the beasts of the title. In an election year here in the Philippines, I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh, observing that central to the plot of this installment is rigging an election. Sure there’s the use of a qilin (pronounced as chillin’), one of the fantastic beasts presented here, but one of the major narrative strands had to do with Grindelwald ensuring that the aforementioned mythical beast would choose him as the elected leader of the magicking world. Ok, and brownie points for those who noticed the discrepancy of talking election and democracy, while also employing a beast to choose the anointed one. How that’s reconciled is never really explained.

At the heart of this pseudo-spy thriller is Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law); and its thanks to Law and his strong portrayal of Dumbledore that we still enjoy much of this overburdened storyline. Much more than Newt (Eddie Redmayne), who this first film took pains to establish, it is Dumbledore providing the gravitas to this film. It’s funny to note, but along with Jacob (Dan Fogler), it’s Newt who now provides the lighter moments of this installment. We fully expect that from Jacob, but watch the scene when Newt saves his brother from imprisonment and encounters Scorpio-type creatures and you’ll see what I mean.
The Jacob and Queenie love saga continues in this film; and it would seem that along with relegating Newt to comic relief, we’ve also jettisoned the interesting Newt-Tina relationship, as she’s practically Missing In Action in this film. We’re constantly reminded about herm and there are precious moments on screen; but I’d say she’s an afterthought in this film – and I fully expect that to be rectified in the forthcoming installment (if it gets the proverbial green light). 

Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is certainly going to be one of the hot topics surrounding this film. And there really isn’t much to say beyond the fact that Mikkelsen is as good as ever, and is finally utilized in a manner akin to how European films use him. In Hollywood, it seems they just don’t know how to give Mikkelsen meaty roles. It’s like how they’ve wasted the talent of, say, Mark Rylance – saddling the two with one-dimensional roles or mere cameos. 

Credence (Ezra Miller) is underutilized; and that’s funny to observe, as he was such a driving force of what made us continue to watch the franchise – the whole who is he and why does he possess such power. It is answered here, but honestly, when it comes, it’s such a underwhelming revelation. 
There is much to enjoy here, and it is very watchable; but it just doesn’t create enough magic – an irony when you consider the world it’s trying to conjure up. The beasts are still fun to anticipate; but it’s the backstories and plot developments that now seem to be burdening the film’s development into something akin to what we experienced in the Potter universe. 

 

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