FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBELDORE
REVIEW: FANTASTIC BEASTS 3
Running Length: 142 minutes
Release Date: 8th April 2022
Directed by: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler
Written by: J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves
Cinematography: George Richmond
``an exercise in misery``
It’s a case of diminishing returns for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (or, “I can’t believe it’s not Potter”).
Fantastic Beasts 3 moves the action on a few years from the mid-1920s to the 1930s. Good wizard Dumbeldore (Jude Law) has assembled a team of other good wizards to stop bad wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, taking over from Johnny Depp [because… well… you know] who took over from Colin Farrell) from rising to power in the Ministry of Magic and trying to wipe out all the non-wizards from the world.
See, Dumbeldore and Grindelwald used to have a good thing going. But when they were an item, Dumbeldore made a blood pact with Grindelwald, which means that now he’s prevented from trying to harm him (sort of like a magical pre-nup. “Expecto Divorceo”). Because magic. And now Dumbledore’s using Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and a bunch of other randomers and replacement characters to upset the bad wizard’s plans for world domination. Or something.
Let’s start with the positives before things get nasty. Fantastic Beasts 3 looks gorgeous. The art direction and production design are immaculate. And I will always appreciate the choice of using practical sets over green screen. Regardless of whether you loved them or hated them, the Harry Potter movies were always good in that respect. Mikkelsen is a good villain. He’s compelling without appearing to try too hard (a talent that Depp can only dream of). Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald is more grounded and less panto. And some of the set pieces are not bad. To an extent, Fantastic Beasts 3 is an improvement Fantastic Beasts 2.
But… I’m sorry to say that the rot that began to set in in Fantastic Beasts 2 has now spread, and the problems in this franchise have become even more pronounced.
While not exactly a fan, I genuinely enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie. It was charming, it had a great story, great characters, it was well-paced, it didn’t get bogged down in world-building, and it didn’t feel like a cash-grab. Most importantly, Redmayne’s appeal had yet to wane. Beginning with part two, the boredom set in. These movies are now full of characters tracing their ancestral bloodlines and talking about things that are going to happen at some point in the future. There is a palpable sense of timewasting, the wheels are spinning but the story isn’t going anywhere. This franchise is really struggling to maintain any sense of momentum or vitality.
The major problem with Fantastic Beasts 3 is that, after three movies, we still haven’t been given a single character to really care about. There’s no real central protagonist here. There’s no character that you can single out and describe as “the hero”. Whose journey are we on? Whose story are we following? These are fundamental questions that even the most bog-standard of screenwriters should be able to ask and answer. Beginning with Fantastic Beasts 2 and continuing here, Redmayne’s role has been diminished to the point where he now just sort of hangs around like a bad smell. Scamander doesn’t really serve any purpose anymore. Thank god for Dan Fogler, because his character is the solitary source of levity. Otherwise, Fantastic Beasts 3 is an exercise in misery.
The previous two movies spent a significant amount of time setting up a relationship between Scamander and Katherine Waterson’s Tina Goldstein. This has now been completely abolished, because Waterson has been completely abolished. Without spoiling anything, if you’re expecting to see any Goldstein/Scamander chemistry, you’re going to be disappointed, because Waterston’s screen time here amounts to mere seconds. Early doors, Goldstein’s absence is clumsily explained when we discover that she’s been promoted. Obviously, “promoted” is Rowling-speak for “taken to the woodshed”. Coincidentally, Waterston was one of the few actors who spoke out against Rowling for her batshit crazy views on Trans rights. I wouldn’t be surprised if more actors are “promoted” in part four, and Rowling brings in Graham Lenihan as a co-writer.
Hateful pricks, the pair of them.