“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” exceeded my very low expectations but only marginally. The film was enjoyable but could have been a lot better, especially in comparison to its predecessors. While I could never really dislike a movie that dives back into the Wizarding World (I’ve adored the Harry Potter franchise since I was little), author J.K. Rowling is less than likeable and has opinions on matters outside her series are starkly different from mine.
The first five minutes of the movie surprisingly hooked me and managed to leave me teary-eyed. It began with the assembly of a team in a fashion akin to that of a heist movie. Following this scene, though, the movie took a nosedive. While the film had a talented cast, it was too abundant and scattered, leaving most characters without a proper arc. Newt Scamander hardly had any screen time, which is strange considering that he’s meant to be the main character.
The recasting of Gellert Grindelwald was jarring at first but turned out okay enough. The character was played by Johnny Depp in the previous two films but was recently recast to Mads Mikkelsen after a series of events involving Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard that I heavily disagree with — but won’t get into here. Mikkelsen fit his new role as Dumbledore's past lover well and with his own unique talents, playing him in what is certainly a bit of fan service.
Casting aside, the film was advertised as another account of Newt and his travels with his fantastic beasts. However, there was a sheer lack of new species of beasts in this film. There are two new main beasts introduced: Ditto Qilin, a frankly adorable scaly deer creature who captured my heart (and was the reason behind many tears) and a cave full of creatures which I’m theorizing might have been Blast-Ended Skrewts.
Even with the distinct lack of new beasts, the scene with these (maybe) Blast-Ended Skrewts was most definitely the funniest scene from all three movies combined. Newt does a little dance, which includes an adorable hip wiggle, to survive the beasts, showcasing why I love his character so much. He is an awkward Hufflepuff (the best house and also my own house) who just wants to be allowed to find and help creatures. Instead, he keeps being pulled into Dumbledore’s convoluted schemes.
Near the end, the movie tries to tie up most loose ends while still leaving enough for what is seemingly meant to be two more films. This is where I think the franchise fails. Three movies would have been perfect, and this movie had the ideal setup to end the franchise. However, the ending made it seem like the directors forgot there were meant to be two more movies and went, “Oh wait, we can’t wrap this up quite yet” and ruined the end of it for me.
Complaints aside, I loved the pure nostalgia I felt while viewing the film. Returning to Hogwarts, magic, portkeys and even the wonder herself Minerva McGonagall popping up (they could even simply get rid of Dumbledore and give me only McGonagall) was such a joy to see on screen. I am a sucker for nostalgia, Easter eggs and callbacks to previous films, and this movie is filled with all three of them.
At the end of the day, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” had its triumphs and failings, but if you are looking to be transported back to the Wizarding World for nostalgia and fun, the film is perfect for you. If you are hoping for a solid plotline (or a lot of magical beasts) though, this one might be a skip.
Elizabeth Secor is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @esecor2003 or at email@example.com