Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Don't you just hate it when you and a hundred random people are trying to hold a totally legitimate election for President of Earth on top of a mountain and then Zombie Bambi gets to decide the outcome on its own?

I imagine this is what the later Harry Potter movies feel like to people who haven't read any of the books – just an onslaught of haphazardly introduced fetch quests disguised as plot points, whose actual relevance to the overarching story is established (if at all) with little more than opaque hand-waving. But whereas those movies are at least adapting material that requires condensation and shorthand, this is, for all intents and purposes, an original story, so there's no good reason for this to ever get this murky. The only thing that even comes close to a narrative arc here is the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, no thanks to the terminally muddled script, and exclusively thanks to Jude Law (whose accent somehow manages to sound fake?) and Mads Mikkelsen's combined charisma.

Also, leave it to Rowling to undo even the last remaining shreds of nuance and thorniness of her world: that she effectively beatifies Dumbledore on a ludicrously literal level, when much of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows' substance stems from having to confront that character's profound and troubling imperfections, almost feels spiteful – like she is actively trying to excise the part of the fanbase that wants to read her work critically.

And then there is, of course, the way The Secrets of Dumbledore engages with history. There are no surprises here, at least no pleasant ones: 1930s Berlin plays host to a magical recasting of Hindenburg welcoming Hitler into government. Much of the previous film's reasoning for Grindelwald's dictatorial ambitions (such as, um, preventing the Holocaust?) gives way to run-of-the-mill "evil guy is evil" posturing. The wizarding world's democratic crisis standing in for the end of Weimar Germany offers no insights into the roots of fascism other than a vague sense that angry protests (rendered as being devoid of tangible motivation apart from partisan zeal) are bad, no matter who they're in support of, and the reassurance that there are no systemic flaws and that one must simply install a good leader to stave off dictatorship.

And in the middle of all of that, this movie is also about magical animals sometimes. It's cute in places, I guess, but even when the script finds the flimsiest of excuses to have the titular fantastic beasts actually mattering in terms of plot – such as by making them the Electoral College choosing the President of Earth – Newt Scamander can't help but feel like a painfully superfluous presence. It also doesn't help that Eddie Redmayne's characterisation of him seems to be getting more confused by the movie.

Honestly, I think Warner Bros. should take the money and run, i.e. scrap the whole thing. Nothing about this franchise is working. None of these ever-changing new characters look like they have any staying power, short of maybe Jacob. The producer and sole ideas woman behind this franchise has deteriorated into a single-minded Twitter troll who's spent the last few years, including the run-up to this movie's release, mainly ranting about and harassing trans people online. I even have a slight suspicion Warner Bros. are keeping that door open, seeing how the final shot here would lead neatly into the opening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I know it'll end up being wishful thinking, but hey, I need to find my magic where I can get it.

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