SPOILER REVIEW: The Secrets of “Secrets of Dumbledore”
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
(If you don’t want to be spoiled, check out our spoiler-free review.)
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore opens with Dumbledore on the London Underground. It’s the 1930s, and he is on his way to dinner.
The scene that follows has already appeared in trailers and TV spots. Dumbledore and Grindelwald meet to discuss their blood pact, and there is an undeniably direct affirmation of their romantic relationship. Their conversation ends with the restaurant in flames; however, because action sequences in this film take place in a separate landscape (reminiscent of Marvel’s Mirror Dimension), the destruction is not real. We then cut to Newt, who is deep in the jungle looking for a qilin that is about to give birth. This creature is key to the unfolding plot, and so, the adventures begin.
In an approach to storytelling often found in heist movies, Secrets of Dumbledore uses its ensemble cast to have one story arc with many interlinked parts. Grindelwald must be stopped, and everyone has their part to play. The characters aren’t always aware of each other’s missions, but Dumbledore is the puppet master of it all. This approach works wonders and helps bring in different side adventures while retaining a core focus.
Considering the cliffhanger from the previous film, the “who is Credence?” question is answered quietly yet effectively. The story told is more satisfying than any possible alternative explanations and allows the film to concentrate on stopping Grindelwald, thus moving the series along. The inclusion of the elections for the Head of the International Confederation of Wizards provides a natural climax point for the film. It also gives us an exciting look at the global wizarding world. As well as Berlin and Bhutan, we have glimpses of other unexplored wizarding communities, including Brazil and a snowy land that could be Norway, through what can only be described as a wizarding version of Zoom.
As for the characters themselves, the focused plot gives space for them to shine.
It only takes the first few moments of the film to realize that Mads Mikkelsen is an excellent Grindelwald. He balances the charisma of a popular leader with the dark and twisted fanatic beneath. A brilliant mind also cuts through a certain charm that one could easily see turning a young Albus’s head.
Despite the series’ move towards a war against Grindelwald, Newt Scamander continues to be a wizard who really cares about his magical creatures. Although he is becoming more comfortable with his role in saving the world, Newt’s unassuming nature is still present, and Eddie Redmayne continues to deliver a stellar performance as our reluctant hero.
Jessica Williams’s Eulalie Hicks is a breath of fresh air and is by far one of the most powerful magical people onscreen. Thankfully, Victoria Yeates’s Bunty has moved slightly away from a character pining after Newt, and we hope that her character continues to develop as the series progresses.
Sadly, as fans feared, there is little Tina Goldstein in this film, and the reason for her absence is not lingered on. Her appearances (outside of a photograph) are watching the candidate election on Wizard Zoom and arriving at Jacob’s bakery for a very cute Newtina moment that makes the most of James Newton Howard’s tender theme. We hope this means good things for her involvement in the future.
Similarly, we knew that Nagini (Claudia Kim) would not appear in this film. The approach to this narrative problem is to not refer to the character at all. It saves us from unconvincing explanations, but we wonder what the reasons for her return will be.
Of course, what is Fantastic Beasts without the beasts? Teddy and Pickett are scene stealers. While not recognizable as the creatures of myth, the manticores make for a scene that impressively manages to flicker between great amusement and genuine threat and peril. The qilin evokes Bambi at all times, and we hope it finds a nice home in Newt’s suitcase.
Secrets of Dumbledore combines all the things we love about the Wizarding World and gives the series a clear path to move forward. We can’t wait to see where these characters go next.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore hits theaters in the United Kingdom on April 8 and in the United States on April 15.