Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
(Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, et al / PG-13 / 2h 22m / Warner Bros. Pictures)
Summary: In Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before.
Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.
Verdict: While perhaps the best Fantastic Beasts film, The Secrets of Dumbledore remains a dour movie with lots to say but not enough imagination or understanding to say it well. Fascists, in this world, are recognized by their outfits.
We can tell a character is redeemable because she swaps out black for dark pink. An assassin is clocked by his eyeliner. The film provides a cartoon of fascism, an idea of what the dangers of bigotry must seem to people who don’t understand how bigotry actually works.
Mads Mikkelsen’s version of Grindelwald (the third) brings a weightier and more seductive presence as Dumbledore’s ex, but he’s woefully underused. The same can be said for most of the characters, as development is constantly sidelined to focus on riot imagery.
Previously central characters like Ezra Miller’s Credence have devolved into plot points. Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski remains a bright spot, but his romance has become difficult to root for—unless you’re willing to forgive a foray into fascism with a hug.
While the magic is mostly unimaginative, there is a nice moment with Eddie Redmayne’s charmingly awkward Newt dancing with a swarm of scorpion creatures, where we see a glimpse into a series that might have been. It’s usually unfair to compare spin-offs to originals, but the film relies so heavily on Potter nostalgia that the original is hard to ignore.
Perhaps it was the filmmakers’ hope that fans would sit through the slog to point at the screen for a few moments, saying, “Hey! I recognize that from the movies I actually like.” Unfortunately, those callbacks don’t help Secrets of Dumbledore, but instead remind you of movies that actually felt worth your time. [TB]