Hogwarts and Harry Potter have an extraordinary place in the hearts of many people all over the globe, and the third installment of Fantastic Beasts brings the audience right back into the world they know and love. Through magic, storytelling, and fantastic beasts, this movie allows its viewers to dive into the wizarding world without being held back by the original films and allows nostalgia to play a vital role.  Due to the pandemic, this film had some pushback but finally hits theaters on April 15th. I was fortunate enough to see it early and was delighted but not completely satisfied.  

The following review will contain some minor spoilers, so do not continue reading should you want to wait until seeing the film.  

The Long Wait and Where We Left Off

This is the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, following 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald.  It was delayed due to COVID and the recasting of Johnny Depp’s character Gellert Grindelwald.  However, despite some setbacks, audiences finally get to see the third chapter titled The Secrets of Dumbledore.  In the second installment, we see Credence (Ezra Miller) and Queenie join forces with Grindelwald, and Credence learns his identity as a Dumbledore.  Hence the beginnings of his creating a force that would threaten muggles all over the globe.  

JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore and EDDIE REDMAYNE as Newt Scamander

This film picks up where the last one left us, but a bit in the future.  Jacob’s pastry business has fallen on hard times, reflecting the era going into the Great Depression.  Queenie is away with Grindelwald, Dumbledore is at Hogwarts, and Tina Goldstein is currently working as an Auror in the Magical Congress for the United States of America (MACUSA).  Newt opens the film rescuing a baby, Qilin, who has just been born.  He is met by a team of wizards trying to kidnap the baby on behalf of Grindelwald.  I will not reveal the importance of this creature in this review, but it plays a big part in the fate of the wizard and muggle worlds alike.  On orders from Dumbledore, Newt reunites and creates a team of wizards to go up against Grindelwald, creating the plot for this third film.

Slow Start But Gets Better

ALISON SUDOL as Queenie Goldstein

One of the problems people had with the second film was that it felt like a sequel and did not have an ending that felt resolved, but instead to set up for the third film.  Due to its criticism, starting this film slowly felt like a minor misstep in advancing the plot.  This film almost felt like two films in one.  The first half is a bit rough to get through in this regard, but once we get past the first act, it does improve.  My other concerns with the first act were the fight between Credence and Dumbledore. 

The CGI pulled me away from the action, and it did not seem to be as strong as prior fight sequences in the first two films or even later in the third film.  One reason for this is that it had the visual aesthetic of Doctor Strange but was not as successful.  Although the first act is slow, we get some major character revelations in this film that have been speculated for a long time within the Potterverse.  A critical revelation is the relationship between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald and why defeating him will be tricky.  This is mainly due partly to his ability to predict the outcomes of their actions.  We also get answers about Credence’s parents and, as the title states, much info about the past of the Dumbledore family.   

Nostalgia and Returning to Hogwarts

This film follows the trend that many franchises have taken advantage of this past year: nostalgia.  It is known that Albus is the headmaster of Hogwarts, but up to this point, we have yet to see Hogwarts in the Fantastic Beasts franchise.  That is no longer the case because, after this installment, the team must go to Hogwarts to meet with and pick up Dumbledore in their preparation to defeat Grindelwald.  As the camera pans to Hogwarts, the theme song made famous by the Harry Potter films plays, and it is instantly emotional to a Potter fan. 

We then see the Great Hall once again, filled with students in robes.  They also reference Newt and his brother’s time at Hogwarts, and Dumbledore says the words “3 points to Hufflepuff,” which will have any Harry Potter fan smiling in no time. (Especially us Hufflepuffs).  We also see younger versions of other characters we know and love from the Harry Potter stories and a return to Hogsmeade.  With a film of this nature, fans will always compare them to the other films, and I think it’s worth mentioning that Jude Law does a great job at further becoming the Dumbledore we all know.  He took care in establishing some of the traits that we all know Dumbledore to be later in his life.  

Returns From Fantastic Beasts Past

DAN FOGLER as Jacob Kowalski, JESSICA WILLIAMS as Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, EDDIE REDMAYNE as Newt Scamander and CALLUM TURNER as Theseus Scamander

When mentioning nostalgia, I also feel it is worth referencing the factors from the other Fantastic Beast films that transfer to this one.  We see the return of most of the characters we have seen thus far and of Niffler and Picket.  There is a delightful scene with Newt dealing with creatures in a dark dungeon that, in certain moments, resembles Lord of the Rings and other scenes where the main character must get away from a giant scary creature.  One negative of this is that these films are supposed to have fantastic beasts, and it seems that the aspect of beasts is lost in this film.  We only got a handful of moments with the creatures Newt loves.  

Act 3: Magical, But A Bit Anticlimactic

In the final act of the film, we see how Newt and Dumbledore’s plan unfolds, and in some ways, it is where the film finally picks up and improves.  In other ways, it does not have the payoff that audiences may want, much like the second installment. The action sequences in the film’s third act felt more faithful to the wizarding world we have seen before and did not seem to look as bad as the first fight scene in the movie, but when we finally get to see the showdown, against Grindelwald, it falls short.  Harry Potter usually has epic battles at the end, and this film did not have that. 

It left it open-ended for more films, which is not always bad when done well, but I do not think this film succeeded.  It felt unfinished.  I wanted to have a better response to this movie, but aside from getting answers to some previously unanswered questions and nostalgia, it was a bit under-satisfying and long.

MADS MIKKELSEN as Gellert Grindelwald

Final Thoughts

Even though this film fell short in many ways, it still has the magic and heart that makes a wizarding world film so timeless.  I would give this film a 3.5 out of 5.  It has beautiful costumes and production designs. It is filled with nostalgia and wonderment, but it does not quite tick off all the boxes when it comes to payoff.  Mikkelsen is a fantastic actor and was an excellent re-cast for Johnny Depp, but it still felt weird having someone else in that role.

Eddie Redmayne still contributes a delightful performance as Newt and truly brings to life the qualities of loyalty that Hufflepuffs are known to have.  He has a charisma and charm that truly makes watching him on screen worth the time.  This film deals with the topics of prejudice, family, love, loyalty, and magic, which is worth watching at the end of it all.  We can use stories full of magic, more than ever during this time, and they added a sense of realness and relatability to it that we can all feel something from.  If you go into this film wanting to have fun and get lost in another world, check it out!

JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore and DAN FOGLER as Jacob Kowalski

You can catch Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore in theaters on April 15th

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