Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

With the wizarding world about to commune at the Berlin Ministry of Magic in anticipation of choosing a new leader, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," affecting) must do everything in his power to prevent Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, a welcome replacement for the scandal-plagued Johnny Depp), who has been whipping up support from within the system, from attaining it.  Prevented from directly attacking Grindelwald because of a decades old blood oath, Dumbledore enlists his favorite magizoologist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"), and a team of witches, wizards and Muggle baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald") to confront bald faced evil in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.”

Laura's Review: C+

One really must wonder how director David Yates (of four Harry Potter films and the prior two "Fantastic Beast" movies) and writer Steve Kloves (the Harry Potter franchise, cowriting here with J.K. Rowling) can still summon any enthusiasm for these movies.  While this outing is better than the last, it still feels like a franchise being milked for all it is worth and one with significant scandals surrounding it to boot.  The only reason for this film to exist is to fill in some detail on Dumbledore’s past (his sister, his blood oath with his former lover, his Phoenix), fold Trump into its anti-Fascist theme and give Redmayne and Turner a little comedy bit dealing with one of the two new beasts introduced. 

After a prologue in which Albus meets Gellert, who informs him he intends to ‘burn it all down’ with Albus having just admitted to having been in love with him, the action switches to Newt, attending to a glowing horse/dragon hybrid about to give birth.  But the newborn Qilin is immediately endangered by a group of Grindelwald emissaries led by Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller, recently arrested for assault).  This most rare fantastical beast can determine the purity of a human’s heart and was to be used in the choosing of a new global wizarding leader.  Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"), who broke Jacob’s heart by going over to the dark side in the last installment, watches in horror as Grindelwald slits the delicate creature’s throat, using its pooling blood to divine the future.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, a forlorn Kowalski’s bakery is flagging, but he’s not above going to the rescue of a strange woman.  She turns out to be Lally (Jessica Williams, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"), a witch sent to procure his services for Dumbledore.  Joining them will be wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald"), Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald") and his assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald").  Tina Goldstein, we are told, was promoted to head of the American Auror office, and will not be seen until the film’s concluding minutes (because Katherine Waterston was too outspoken against Rowling’s anti-trans stance?).

Their first stop is to visit Anton Vogel (Oliver Masucci, "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit"), the head of Germany’s Ministry of Magic, and the pre WWII fervor is evident.  With talk of a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ (look for a prominently displayed newspaper whose headline featuring ‘Triumph’ has been folded to say ‘Trump’), Vogel ignores Dumbledore’s advice to ‘do the right thing, not the easy thing,’ by announcing that Grindelwald will not only not be indicted for his crimes, but that he may run for the position along with two others.  The evil wizard’s henchmen and women are everywhere and Theseus is kidnapped.

The group will splinter, Newt remaining in Berlin to rescue Theseus (and having an amusing run-in with Scorpion-like Manticores while his ever-resourceful Bowtruckle Picket saves the day), the rest retiring to Hogwarts where Albus will attend to family matters, including revealing a paternity.  They’ll all meet up again in Bhutan to play a game of which suitcase is which, Bunty having had six replicas of Newt’s made in Berlin.

The craft on display is of the usual high quality with Potterworld touchstones like animated photographs and flying snitches.  But one must question a narrative which implies a wizarding leader will be chosen by vote when that isn’t the case at all and which leaves questions hanging with no compelling reason to have them answered.  

Warner Brothers opens "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" in theaters on 4/8/22 in the UK and 4/15/22 in the U.S.