Director David Yates is back with the third episode of the Fantastic Beasts series, The Secrets of Dumbledore. This time, Harry Potter veteran Steve Kloves joins JK Rowling for screenwriting assignments. Although there is an improvement over the last post, even their experience still fails to quite capture the magic of the beloved wizarding world.
With the efforts of the wizard and the muggle worlds getting higher and higher, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and their staff must find a way to stop Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). Grindelwald begins to play his game for world domination, gathering more and more wizards and witches to his side. Because of his ability to perceive the intentions of others, Scamander and the company must use the art of confusion, including enlisting the help of the smuggler Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). But will they manage to do so in time to prevent Grindlewald from making a play for the position of Minister of Magic?
In this third film in the series, there is some improvement from the previous film. Yet there is still a sense of two-dimensionality and a need to establish characters, even with the addition of Kloves to tidy things up. Most of them still do not feel lived out, despite opportunities for the characters to connect emotionally with the audience, except for Redmayne’s Newt Scamander. Scenes that could have been used for this sit more like strangers in a room with nothing to say to each other. Some do not seem to have a reason to be there other than to give reference to something mentioned in the Potter films. These together create some very boring moments that make the film limp. All the actors are adequate, with Fogler standing out from the rest, but the script does not have them enough to work with. Even Mikkelsen, the replacement for Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald, is more cartoonish than creepy. What’s worse, Grindelwald’s followers may as well have been faceless stormtroopers in a forgotten Star Wars movie.
The cinematography during scenes with both new and old creatures is terrific and mixes CGI with live action in a believable way. Unfortunately, it is not as comfortable in action scenes where the camera often moves faster than the eye can follow. This creates a dizzying array where too much is going on to fully understand, which reinforces the impression of sights over substance. The soundtrack is the one consistent thing about the film that encourages humorous and dangerous moments and everything between the two. The gloomy scenery also sets the mood for the dark situation in which the characters find themselves.
Even though it’s better than the previous movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore still does not reach the quality of the beloved Harry Potter series. Hopefully, with this third section, the authors will finally accept that they have enough main characters and develop both them and the story into something worth searching for.