REVIEW – “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”

More like “Fantastic SNOOZE”

Fresh off the hot success of the critical and commercial success of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, four years later we are finally getting the most anticipated sequel of our generation. All jokes aside, I actually found myself looking back fondly on the first Fantastic Beasts film before walking into this one. While it was clearly rough around the edges, it was a fun magical romp in a world I didn’t realize I’d missed. However, any and all excitement I had was snuffed out by its previously mentioned sequel, and after countless controversy and COVID delays, I found myself once again thinking about that first film, and how good we had it. “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is not by any means an awful film, but a bland and boring film. Lacking any style or identity, this latest installment is a lifeless corpse. A film that begs the audience to invest in a story they care little about with characters they care less about. At one point I leaned over to my girlfriend and whispered in her ear, “The best thing for us would be to fall asleep”.

David Yates has done this franchise well in the past, delivering some of the highest highs the Wizarding World has ever seen. But, that being said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim he’s lost a step. Unfortunately, I just think his moves are getting old. Nothing new happens in this film, and it often feels like an echo of the past glory. Sequences often feel like re-treads of previous entries and characters feel remarkably flat. I can’t place this all on Yates, as he is able to deliver brief moments of energy and entertainment, but these are few and far between. This bland-ness largely falls on the script. Penned by J. K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, they uh… needed to write another draft. The story for this sequel just feels dead on arrival. With an unclear narrative direction and poorly conceived sequence after poorly conceived sequence, it’s clear that Rowling has no real sense of cinematic storytelling. Often times a scene will play out and the progression of events feels incredibly clunky and award. Even down to the finale of the film, it feels like things just happen because the plot needs them too. Characters will just appear out of nowhere or do things for the sake of the plot. It’s a hard disconnect to describe, but it feels like Rowling and Kloves know what they want, but aren’t sure how to get there. An example for any viewer would be Jessica Williams’s character introduction, which seems like a fun gag, but falls apart if you think about it for a second.

Speaking of the cast, they almost save it. Fantastic Beasts has amassed an ever-changing cast, but one that adds a great deal to the franchise. It breaks my heart to see great actors like Eddie Redmayne and Mads Mikkelsen act their asses off in something so undeserving of their talents. Once again Dan Fogler almost steals the show and Jude Law delivers yet another great performance. Law, being one of my favorite actors, is just one of those guys begging to be put in something truly great. The previously mentioned Jessica Williams is a great addition to the cast and the presence of Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol are greatly missed. Both are criminally underused in the film. Ezra Miller gives the worst performance in the film. While I know it’s popular to hate on the guy with his name in the papers so much, he has almost nothing to do in this movie. The character of Creedence has been dramatically reshaped to almost a background character. I think Dumbledore’s brother has more screentime than who was thought to be the main villain. He just stands around looking sick and sad for the whole film.

Technically speaking, Fantastic Beasts has a surprising amount to offer. The digital effects are fine enough, but nothing we haven’t seen from the franchise before. The score is very similar in that regard but suffers from Star Wars syndrome, where you’re just waiting for the OG theme to play. The cinematography is the most interesting part of the film, as it alternates between being absolutely gorgeous to incredibly bland and basic.

In short, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is like a dead horse that still needs to be put down. 2/5

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