Photo: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

Like a listless 20-year-old who moved away after college not knowing what to do next, the fantastic beasts series continues to seek high school familiarity. Dumbledore’s secrets, the third and newest episode, is nothing short of a skirmish for the soul of the wizarding world, and it always finds a way to stop at Hogwarts. The film is an austere thing overall, but it briefly turns honey-colored in a sequence that offers glimpses of a passing Quidditch player, wandering through the Great Hall, and visiting the Room of Requirement. It’s viscous with a nostalgia that goes beyond fan service, as if the film itself longs to return to a simpler time – when its lead roles were played by carefully chosen strangers instead of star-prone stars. trouble, when the author of his source material was a fairy-success story rather than a infamous transphobicand when he could peddle cozy, magical details about British boarding schools rather than devote his full attention to an impending war with the sorcerer Hitler.

Or maybe all Dumbledore’s secrets aspire is a structure and a raison d’être. fantastic beasts is wading into a planned five-movie series, it may never really ends – a decision that hinges on the public interest, but which may also be due to the fact that no one involved in these films seems to have any idea what their appeal is supposed to be. Dumbledore’s secrets is, like the first two films, directed by David Yates and written by JK Rowling, this time with the help of Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves. It’s a bit more consistent than 2018’s The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is saying something considering its characters embark on missions they don’t understand in an effort to thwart the clairvoyant ability that Gellert Grindelwald (played by a game Mads Mikkelsen, taking over from a now Johnny Depp radioactive) gets in the blood. But it’s terrifyingly free-spirited fun from the opening scene, in which Grindelwald’s underlings kill a rare animal called a qilin and steal its young, to the final showdown in a village high in the mountains of Bhutan.

Eddie Redmayne, hunched shoulders and exuding hesitation as Newt Scamander, is still the lead, but after spending two movies with an unconventional hero, Dumbledore’s secrets chomping at the bit to focus on a more standard approach – like, say, the dashing Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), who comes to the fore and explains why he’s so committed to staying on the sidelines. In the process, he turns out to be gay (through some conveniently excisable dialogue) and a former sorcerer supremacist. fantastic beasts, if it continues, is heading for an epic showdown of ex-wizards, something that would be more exciting if the movies didn’t fiddle around with such murky digital effects and if Law and Mikkelsen shared something more than the sizzling chemistry of two co-workers. exchanging pleasantries at a trade show. Other characters include Alison Sudol as accidental Nazi sorcerer Queenie Goldstein, Ezra Miller barely trying (still there for now) as tragic magical plot device Credence Barebone, Dan Fogler attached to Josh Gad as Token Muggle Jacob Kowalski, Victoria Yeates as Newt Bunty Broadacre’s loving assistant, William Nadylam as one guy, and Callum Turner as another guy. Katherine Waterston has effectively been banned, her character Tina Goldstein busy and therefore “unavailable” for more than one long cameo. But Jessica Williams is there, and as Dumbledore’s ally and American charms teacher Lally Hicks, she does a fun but unstable approximation of a Mid-Atlantic accent.

In this age of intellectual property and easily mobilized fandoms, we talk a lot about the extent to which the balance of power has shifted from the creative visions of individuals to the desires of the public. But fantastic beasts has the opposite problem. It’s the product of a lucrative fictional universe that no one seems to know how to rely on but feels the need to continue regardless, a franchise in search of history. While the series was designed as a way to retain fans of the original books and films who are now adults, what is clear in practice is that this is an amazing children’s story to support. some ambitious and deeply underdeveloped themes. The last act of Dumbledore’s secrets involves a magical act of voter fraud, and the plot revolves around a disagreement over whether purveyors of hate should be given a platform so the public can decide whether or not to reject their ideas. Despite this, the film doesn’t really set out to explore why its charismatic villain is able to rally adoring crowds to his side, a development that would apparently be too dark – every follower we take a closer look at feels out of place. of his choices. Neither bold enough to be provocative nor able to capture the appeal of the original films, fantastic beasts is stuck in limbo, having failed to grasp what should now be obvious: adult devotees are far more likely to want to return to the comforts of childhood than to see the wizarding world struggle to reflect the true.

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