Review by John Dugan
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (David Yates, 2022) is the newest installment within the Fantastic Beasts series, following the clash between the two most powerful wizards in the world, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), as they struggle for the fate of both the Muggle and Magical worlds. After the birth of a magical beast with a mysterious power, Dumbledore creates a team in order to prevent Grindelwald from using this creature to start a war between the worlds.
There are few films I have felt conflicted about paying to watch, but with the recent transphobia from the producer, this would have been one of them. Especially after Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (David Yates, 2018) I was prepared for another plot heavy, character dense, convoluted film. While these expectations were somewhat met, the film did manage to surprise me by balancing new characters and content with what was previously established.
However, it was by no means a perfect film, or a strong installment in the series. One of its strangest aspects compared to the previous films was in its tone. Where The Crimes of Grindelwald could be described as dark, The Secrets of Dumbledore felt almost silly, at some points breaking my sense of immersion. The film was clearly trying to capture the same magic of the Harry Potter series. This did work in the film’s favor to some degree, but with the more mature tone set in the previous Fantastic Beasts films, it ultimately took away from The Secrets of Dumbledore in both plot and tone.
This leads into another major issue with the film: pacing. The film constantly jumps between scenes and characters, with a noticeable lack of establishing shots or breathing room. The plot itself, and the numerous plans which characters are attempting to carry out feel arbitrary, under the excuse that not everyone can or should know the overarching plans behind certain decisions. This discrepancy became especially noticeable in the final act. Events which the series had been building to in previous films, and ones which should have been integral to the story fell flat, being resolved in a few minutes of screentime.
Another related issue stemming from this is the few character arcs in this film remain surface level. There is a distinct lack of depth or time given to understand the motivations of any characters besides Dumbledore. Character journeys which had been central to the previous films are distractingly sidelined to give more time to the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.
Frankly, the film appears to be written and intended as filler until the next films are released. While this franchise will most likely continue regardless, The Secrets of Dumbledore has cemented itself as an entertaining, albeit convoluted watch.