I finally did it; I went back to a movie theater and sat for over 2 hours surrounded by strangers and watched an entire movie. It was my first time back to the movies since January of 2020 — right before the worldwide lockdowns began. 

Going to a crowded movie theater wasn’t really an option for me throughout this pandemic. However, after assessing all potential risks and praying for a bit of good luck, I decided that it was the right time to venture out to the big screen and get fucking robbed at the concession stand yet again. 

I must confess that I never saw any Harry Potter movies when they were initially released in theaters. But I did watch them all on DVD as they became available for home video release. Regretfully, during those blurry days, I was distracted by other things going on in my personal life. So from around 2004 through 2014ish, movies took a backseat. I still went to the movies, but not with the same enthusiasm as I once did in the 90s and early 2000s. Nevertheless, during the lockdowns, and thanks to HBO MAX, I managed to binge through all of the Harry Potter movies in chronological order, including the 2 Fantastic Beasts movies.

Anyway, I went into this movie curious to see how they were going to pull off replacing Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelson as the new Grindelwald — and I thought Mads was good in this role. Still, to me, Depp seemed to embody this dark wizard role beautifully. I, for one, wanted Colin Ferrel to reprise his performance from the first Fantastic Beasts movie.

Anyhow, The Secrets of Dumbledore is the 3rd film in the Fantastic Beasts series, but to some extent, the Fantastic Beasts concept established in the first 2 movies seems to have been minimized. The whole premise of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) searching and collecting all kinds of magical beasts is pushed to the side here — and the Beasts don’t seem very fantastical — except for the whole plotline of the magical baby deer… that was cool. 

The cast was solid, but the direction of their characters left me somewhat perplexed. Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) continues to be one of the most endearing characters in this series; we need more of him. The characters of Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) seem to be stuck in character development hell. The new character Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), wasn’t really needed or interesting enough for me. Encouragingly, the character of Credence (Ezra Miller) has lots of room to grow. Especially since we now know (spoiler alert) that he is Aurelius Dumbledore, son of Abeforth Dumbledore (Richard Coyle). Additionally, the character of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), a significant character in the first two movies, is not even a factor in the plot here; she only makes a cameo — this was not a good idea. 

Overall, the most critical and controversial thing (to some regressive-minded people) happened in the opening scene. Where we have Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelson) sharing their feelings for each other, and we get a glimpse of their past relationship. This aspect of Dumbledore’s personal life was long overdue — and it finally brings Dumbledore’s sexuality into the official canon. Also, the whole blood pact thing between Dumbledore and Grindelwald is better explained.

Disappointingly, the Secrets of Dumbledore is not as visually impressive or compelling as the first 2 movies. Instead, it feels more like a filler movie. Maybe the combination of Covid and the whole Johnny Depp thing threw things out of whack during the development and production process. The first movie was a fun and exciting movie with tons of potential — It expanded well into the Wizarding World. The second movie was more complex and more about intrigue, politics, and sub-plots. As a result, I expected this third movie to take things to the next level, but it didn’t really do it for me.

Ultimately, not everything is lost in this franchise. There are plenty of ways to salvage things and right the ship. In essence, good magic vs. dark magic will always be a good premise — and Grindelwald is a far more interesting character than Voldemort in terms of complexity and humanity. On top of that, Grindelwald’s rise in power shares many similarities with the rise of Hitler and the far-right extremism happening in our current timeline. We get to see how Grindelwald’s horrific crimes seem to have been forgiven or even ignored — and he still manages to become a divisive and influential figure within the Wizarding World. All of that provides an abundance of space to be creative in future films.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿


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