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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review – An Albus Affair With Wizarding Warfare

Fantastic Beasts And The Secrets of Dumbledore follows after the events of The Crimes of Grindelwald. It sees Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) entrusting Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his allies on a mission to defeat the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). Meanwhile, Grindelwald masses a formidable gang in his attempt to create a new world order that recognises wizard superiority.

Returning as notable characters like Creedence Barebone/Aurelius Dumbledore (Ezra Miller), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Queenie Goldstein (Jacob Kowalski), among others. Enhancing nostalgia from the earlier fantasy filmswe re-visit Hogwarts with references to Quidditch too. Remember the phoenix which saved Harry in Chamber Of Secrets? Yes, that returns too. These tropes take one down a trip through memory lane.

However, it seems like these features are disjointed within the narrative. Almost as though these have been included to forcibly appeal to HP fans. The creation does not appear to be natural. Because if one watches the Fantastic Beasts films, they seem to create a world of their own within the Wizarding World franchise.

At the centre of the crux is Qirin, a rare unicorn-like creature, who has the ability to recognise the reality of a person. Killing a Qilin is a crime but unfortunately, its blood has life-prolonging properties, much like the unicorn’s. Without Dumbledore’s blood pact vial to protect himself, Grindelwald might be looking to use the critter to extend his life beyond death in his quest for immortal power. But Scamander stops at no cost to save his precious animal.

Seeing the Niffler and Pickett are delightful. Getting to see their mischievous yet heroic antics keep the audiences engaged. Blast-Ended Skrewts, which mirror crabs/scorpions too are comical. This is especially seen when Newt and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) carefully swivel their way through a cave filled with these creatures. The special effects (of these fictitious animals) and of the magic scenes are spectacular to watch.

Like any other movie in the series, the technical aspects here do not disappoint. Even in the prosthetics, costume departments. James Newton Howard’s music is enchanting and the cinematography is visually stunning. Even the camera-work is beguiling.

Fantastic Beasts films take a while to establish the characters and settings. The unhurried pace endeavours to gear audiences up for a major build-up, which appears to be another anti-climax. The direction in which the story pans is quite predictable and overcomplicated.

Even more so is the fact that it is set in several countries with too many characters. I believe this approach makes it difficult for neutral viewers to resonate with or follow the plot. The slowness of momentum makes the 2 hours 23 minutes feel longer, too. The climax is predictable, which spoils the build-up. Plus, I missed Johnny Depp terribly in this film. Mads Mikkelsen does a good job and likewise for the cast too. But there was something menacing yet alluring about Depp’s representation of the antagonist.

Where the picture succeeds is exploring an inclusive and LGBTQIA-friendly plot. The premise is set at the beginning when he tells Grindelwald “because I was in love with you.” This angle is progressive and pays homage to the Hogwarts head-teacher. For fans, it is fascinating to see how a righteous and god-like character as Dumbledore has also witnessed grief from a close lens.

I am particularly intrigued by parallels drawn with Harry Potter. Albus and Newt’s bond reminds one of Harry and the professor. Scenes, where empathy is shared between them, create a father and child-like bond. The understanding the Potter has for Dumbledore. The villain Grindelwald claiming not to be ‘the enemy’ and his motivation for power is reminiscent of Lord Voldermort.

Both dark entities were once close to Albus. Creedence reminds one of Snape. He too is a wronged and misunderstood character whose brushes with darkness was to help prevent destruction. Jacob’s realistic approach and mischievousness, his loyalty towards Newt mirror Ron Weasley and Potter’s bond. Even in the creatures, the gentleness of the Qirin reminds one of Buckbeak the hippogriff. I like how layered these connections and parallels are and these work well for a fan to observe. Just wish that the execution was just as sharp and succinct.

On the whole, Secrets Of Dumbledore is an ode to the veteran wizard and Hogwarts headmaster. As the title suggests, it explores that even the greatest have faced shortcomings. The old-age battle of good vs evil will always be relevant. Here, there is an added value as the story includes homosexual inclusivity. But over time, I think this franchise has been unnecessarily stretched. Nostalgia can drive commercialism for only so long.

⭐⭐⭐ (3/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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