Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Empty Storytelling
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore both feel like they could have done with being condensed into one movie. The plot follows on from the second one with Dumbledore requesting the help of the Scarmander brother and a cobbled together heist crew of returning characters. In fact that's the best way to describe this movie, a cobbled together heist movie except there isn't really a heist or at least you won't really know what the heist is until the end.
The nature of a heist style movie meant that we got less individual screentime for Eddie Redmayne as the ever bumbling Newt Scarmander this time round, but he continues to be one of the better parts of this series of films despite the slightly limited role in this one. Dan Fogler, Callum Turner, and Jessica Williams were all pretty good in their supporting roles too, none of them really added to the plot but at the very least their characters are likeable. The real standout yet again is Jude Law as Dumbledore, Dumblelaw if you will, he was easily the best part of the last film and continues to shine here with a much bigger role to play. Mads Mikkelsen does a fine job as Grindlewald, he doesn't really get as much to do as you might like but all things considered he does a good job at making the role his own in a film that really needed him to do just that.
Visually Secrets of Dumbledore is a bit confusing, it feels like two different films at times. At times it employs the same hideously grim and grey colour pallet that was seen in Crimes of Grindlewald, but at other times it's the best looking film of the whole Wizarding World franchise. Films with a dark colour pallet have the potential to be beautiful, I'm a big fan of the cinematography of directors like Zack Snyder, Matt Reeves and Denis Villenueve who all often employ a darker tone in their filming, but when a film just looks a bit horrible and grim and difficult to see that's always a bad thing. If you combined the three Fantastic Beasts movies and separated them into their core colours about a quarter of the pallet would be filled with a wonderful varied, selection of colours and tones and the other half would be filled with the most boring blues and greys you could pick out. It gets to the point where you will actually struggle to work out what you're seeing, there's one scene near the beginning in which Newt is running through a forest that is just so needlessly difficult to see because of the weird muted foggy colouring. It would be understandable if it were in place to mask poor CGI or sets but as always in these films the CGI and sets are some of the best around so to me it makes absolutely no sense for it to be this way.
The plot is kind of just there, I think that's the best way to put it. It isn't plotless, the plot follows Dumbledore and his suicide squad trying to stop Grindlewald from getting elected as the leader of wizards. You'd think that just the sheer amount of murder and crimes he comitted in the last one would disqualify him (not that that sort of thing stops people from getting elected in real life) but sheer plot convenience means that he can run for Wizard president and it's up to our band of heroes to stop him. I won't go into whether they do or any details like that but what I will say is that what feels like half an hours worth of story is stretched across two and a half hours in what I think is an attempt to stretch this franchise out rather than making it a tight trilogy. It honestly isn't bad, none of the movie is, it just feels like it needed a bit more substance.
It's time for the verdict. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is fine, it really isn't a bad movie by any stretch but it also isn't really an actively good one. Compared to a film like Morbius it looks like a masterpiece but compared to a movie like The Batman it comes out looking a little bit unspectacular. That being said, if you are already a fan of the franchise you'll probably love it, at the absolute worst The Secrets of Dumbledore is an easy watch. I'm giving it a 6/10 overall, it feels a little bit harsh but any higher would probably be a bit generous.
For a full discussion of the movie and the Harry Potter franchise as a whole you can check out episode two of the Cloven Hoof podcast this Friday.