Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Image courtesy of The Guardian

By Joe Frederick


Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third film in the Harry Potter franchise spinoff, was released on April 15 to mixed reviews. It was given a 6.9 on IGN, 47% on Metacritic, and a 67% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The new movie, tied up in the bureaucracy of the world, focuses far too much on the magical universe’s politics and the structure of the International Confederation of Wizards, or ICW, elections. Despite Grindelwald being an international criminal, the German Minister of Magic drops all charges that the German Ministry had on him, and he is then able to run in the election. There is no mention of the crimes he committed in various other countries as witnessed in previous films and the magical world just accepts it. This glossing-over feels like a plot choice made so that the movie can progress. Jacob, a muggle, is also framed for trying to assassinate Grindelwald, which fuels the hatred the wizarding world has for muggles. This eventually leads him to be tortured at the final act of the film. When the election happens, after the seemingly disconnected plot points end, they end up deciding to use the magical creature, called a chillen, who can see into the soul of a person, to decide the winner. 

One narrative decision that did not quite resonate was who would be chosen by the chillen after Grindelwald is revealed for what he really did. Throughout the  entire movie, J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, the screenwriters, hint and foreshadow that the “pure of heart” person is Jacob by making comments about how good of a person he is, when everyone else is claimed to be inherently flawed, and how the Chillen reacts to them before the final confrontation; however, it is revealed to be another character. If it had been Jacob, it would amazingly contrast Grindelwald’s philosophy that muggles are inherently terrible people and no better than animals. It would also show that the wizarding society was always doomed to fall into the discrimination we see in the main Harry Potter books and films. Instead, the magical creature chooses Dumbledore because it serves as a plot device to confirm that Dumbledore is Grindelwald’s foil. While I understand this choice, it shows the root problem of a lack of creativity and nuance.  Mads Mikkelson was a great choice for Grindelwald, formerly played by Johnny Depp, but does not seem to fully show the character’s malevolence or gravitas. While I think he will get there in future Fantastic Beasts films, he is too new to the role. Audiences are too used to seeing Depp’s distinctive look for Grindelwald and it will take time for people to get used to Mikkelson in the role. If you want to just see a movie and want to be entertained, this movie might be for you, however, if you are a fan of Harry Potter this might have you disappointed and you might want to avoid this movie.

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