Nearly four years have passed since Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hit cinemas, and its sequel picks up right after the closing moments. The Secrets of Dumbledore opening scene does little to excite the audience for what’s to come, and maybe that’s for the best. Despite having two additional Fantastic Beasts films on the WB slate, this property feels out of gas, even before factoring in the negative press around franchise creator and screenwriter J.K. Rowling’s biological views on sex.
The Secrets of Dumbledore feels more like a regular episode of an ongoing streaming series than a story that demands to be told on the big screen. The last movie set the stage for a looming wizard-vs-wizard civil war that would push the magic world to choose its sides.
That’s why it’s so bizarre that director David Yates and screenwriters J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves take the sequel film into a weird election conspiracy involving a magic deer creature. This is a fantasy world with crazy characters and weird rules and the plot point surrounding a magical deer wrings so silly and ridiculous.
The entire film hinges on this little creature making its opinion known, so why not guard it better if it’s so integral to their foundation of wizarding governance? And on that point, parents should note that the film has a graphic animal sacrifice that will likely trouble young children in the opening act.
This plot line does not work, it’s egregiously clumsy both in its contemporary political parallels as well as its effort to find reason to continue inserting Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) into these movies.
This franchise began as a playful family outing exploring a goofy wizard zookeeper for magical creatures. Now, it’s become a political thriller about the fate of the world against a Hitler-inspired Wizard. It’s a bit different tonally, and perhaps it’s time to let Newt tend to his animals off-screen, much like what has happened to Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), the co-lead of the prior films who is written out with a casual line of dialogue.
Franchise fatigues seems to have hit director David Yates, who directed the prior two Fantastic Beasts films as well as the final four Harry Potter films. The Secrets of Dumbledore is the dankest, most greyed out blockbuster movie with a price tag of 200+ million. Yates’ muted color palate and somber handling of the material has begun to drain the fun and magic from this universe, and its time to let this franchise cool off.
Warner Brothers would be wise to remove the final two Beasts films from its slate and reboot Harry Potter much like Amazon Prime is doing The Lord of the Rings. The Secrets of Dumbledore is at best a filler movie, and at worst a complete misfire and franchise ending vehicle. Regardless of where you land, this franchise that has outgrown its initial parameters and it’s clearly struggling to explain why these adventures are persisting and what the overall appeal would be for wizarding fans.
Letter Grade: F