Written by Becca Johnson
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the third instalment in the Harry Potter prequel series, has finally hit cinemas. This time around, with Grindelwald attempting to seize control of the Wizarding world, Dumbledore entrusts Newt Scamander and his team of wizards, witches and a muggle baker to stop him. With Dumbledore unable to move against him himself, how will Newt and his friends cope when clashing with Grindelwald and his legion of followers?
Similarly to the first two instalments, the performances given are fantastic. Eddie Redmayne is great as our shy yet knowledgeable lead Newt Scamander. Dan Fogler is charming as ever in the role of Jacob Kowalski, a worthy muggle who is trusted with his own wand and the secrets of the wizarding world. It's Jude Law who shines brightest in this instalment, through his portrayal of powerful wizard Albus Dumbledore. He not only brings a polished, refined and gentlemanly air to the character but manages to match the energy of his two predecessors perfectly; he is undeniably Dumbledore. That being said, the performance viewers were waiting for was that from Mads Mikkelsen, as he takes the reigns from Johnny Depp in the role of Gellert Grindelwald. Luckily, Mikkelsen manages to steal every scene he is in, his screen presence being particularly commanding.
As good as the performances are, the characters are lacklustre and severely underwritten. There are simply too many to focus on, meaning no-one gets a decent amount of screen time or development. As compelling as Mikkelsen's Grindelwald may be, he barely gets anything to do besides give a couple of powerful lines and stare at his enemies in a menacing manner. The same can be said for Ezra Miller's character Credence Barebone, who's arc was the focus of the previous movie but has now been lost. He not only gets minimal screen time but barely utters a line, his role largely being reduced to collapsing, sulking and looking lost. Alongside Newt Scamander, Porpentina Goldstein was introduced from the get-go as a main character, but The Secrets of Dumbledore script manages to drop her entirely, claiming she is too busy to help her friends due to a recent promotion. The addition of Albus' brother Aberforth and Charms Professor Lally Hicks were great and their roles served a purpose, yet it shifts the focus from previously introduced characters including legilimens Queenie, Newt's brother Theseus and Yusuf Kama, half-brother of Leta Lestrange.
The Crimes of Grindelwald was largely criticised for its chaotic and messy storyline, which is luckily improved upon this time around. The Secrets of Dumbledore is much more focused, giving us a look at the politics of the Wizarding World, the rise of Grindelwald's following and more importantly, a proper dive into Dumbledore's psyche. He is a character that fans have been divided by since the original novels, making it interesting to learn more about his time before becoming a renowned Headmaster. The script also clears up some questions we had after the previous instalment, such as the true nature of Dumbledore and Grindelwald's relationship, and the origins of Obscurus Credence Barebone. It is good to see that such mysteries aren't being dragged out until the fifth and final instalment of the series, allowing room for different arcs. The script was hilarious with most of the comedy landing, but it also turned much darker with the stakes becoming higher. It may just be a Wizarding World trait to turn things darker in the third instalment.
The storyline isn't without its faults. The beasts that made this franchise so likeable get as much screen time as possible, but this world is just far too big for them now. We spend virtually no time in Scamander's case which is a great shame, though we do meet a couple of new creatures along the way. The trailer was also a little misleading, as it appeared that we would be spending more time at Hogwarts than we did. Finally, although we are expecting two more movies until the spin-off draws to a close, the climax was a little rushed and underwhelming. There was a lot of dialogue and problem solving throughout the runtime, so a more intriguing climax would've increased the payoff a little.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a worthwhile, fun and magical addition to the Wizarding World franchise. The characters are charming, the production design is beautiful, the storyline is growing by the minute and any time spent in this universe feels special. David Yates has and will always treat this world with a certain amount of love and spellbinding enchantment that sucks its audience in. However, these movies are clearly struggling to balance the large amount of characters and plot points, massively hindering enjoyment and leaving almost every area underdeveloped. Secrets of Dumbledore was a step in the right direction, so hopefully a more focused storyline in the next instalment will create a more cohesive saga.