Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE
Boy, Grindelwald sure looks different, doesn’t he? The years seem to have changed him since Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
It probably wasn’t an easy decision to replace Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald for the third film, but undoubtedly the controversies surrounding his divorce made attempts to keep him on board untenable at best. With the decision made to re-cast, veteran actor Mads Mikkelsen was selected to take the role over, and after seeing The Secrets of Dumbledore, I couldn’t be happier with the decision.
Eddie Redmayne reprises his role of Newt Scamander for the third time, tracking down a Qilin, a rare animal that has the ability to look past a person’s appearance and determine their character. Unbeknownst to him, Grindelwald’s cohorts are also searching for the Qilin, as they plan to use it to manipulate the upcoming election of the Supreme Mugwump and ensure Grindelwald is elected after he is acquitted of all charges pertaining to his role in the first two films.
Aware that Grindelwald is up to something, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) assembles a small team to try to stop him. Complicating the issue is a blood oath that he and ol’ Gelly made when they were young lovers preventing them from attacking one another. Joining him again is Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the bakery owner with a heart of gold who provides most of the comic relief in the film. Distraught by the fact that his love Queenie (Alison Sudol) has pulled turncoat and joined Grindelwald’s side, he’s determined to win her back and finally marry her.
I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect going into the film (I haven’t watched the first two movies since they came out in theaters, so I can’t say I remembered a ton about them), but Secrets turned out to be a pretty pleasant diversion; I’d say “quick” but at just under two and a half hours, it’s anything but quick.
But rather than make a 2.5-hour action slugfest, Secrets turns out to be a fun counter-espionage romp. Knowing that Grindelwald will be able to anticipate their moves, Dumbledore and Co. hatch a plan of deception meant to keep Grindelwald and his crew (and the audience!) second-guessing what’s going in, and it’s surprisingly effective. I’m probably not the target audience, but I found myself engaged, trying to figure out the ending ahead of time.
Still, the film wouldn’t be nearly as effective if they hadn’t found a viable replacement for Depp, and I think they hit a home run with Mikkelsen. He’s charismatic yet brooding; he’ll say all the right things and do the worst when he thinks nobody’s looking. He’s an excellent counter to Law’s Dumbledore, a troubled yet altruistic leader who is looking out for the best for everyone. The rest of the cast is viable, but it’s hard to outshine Mikkelsen here. I know in theory Redmayne’s character is meant to be at the forefront of the movie, but at this point, it’s Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s franchise, and Newt is just along for the ride.
But it’s a fun ride, and I barely noticed how quickly time went by. It isn’t a perfect film (some of the dialogue just falls flat, and once you get to the climax, it becomes rather predictable), but it’s entertaining, and a step up from the previous entries.