Multicultural Wizards Vs Cruel Nazis in ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’

The Fantastic Beasts series should give money machine Harry Potter a second breath. It is set in the past, in the wide wizarding world of the Interbellum. Hero is ‘magizoologist’ Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a capable British stork reel who rescues mythical creatures.

In part three, The Secrets of Dumbledore, the discredited Johnny Depp as villain Gellert Grindelwald gives way to the Dane Mads Mikkelsen. Not a bad striker, but Depp as a snake-eyed Prussian Junker posed more of a threat. He was a perfidious populist who seduced wizards with sweet talk; Mikkelsen is an arrogant Nazi with magic Gestapo.

We are on the eve of the Second World War. Grindelwald gears up for a Hitlerian coup as Sorcerer Supreme. His Teutonic predecessor Anton Vogel (Oliver Masucci as Herman Göring lookalike) paves the way. An Anglo-Saxon, multicultural team under Scamander comes up against this German combination. The brilliant Hogwarts Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law), once Grindelwald’s lover, directs the team as M in James Bond.

Director is once again David Yates, who has left his mark on the wizarding world since Harry Potter part 5. His camera glides and swirls through sublime nature and picturesque sets, scenes flow into each other, fantastic action sometimes degenerates into chaos. After a battle over a baby Qilin, a magical deer that plays a key role, we thunder from New York via Hogwarts to Weimar-Berlin and from torture cave to the Himalayas.

Also read this column by Coen van Zwol: Vladimir loves JK Rowling, Harry doesn’t

Fantastic Beasts is in trouble. After a nice debut, the mediocre sequel followed The Crimes of Grindelwald† The problem was that author JK Rowling overloaded that film with characters, subplots, and explanations—because her anti-racist message no longer convinced in a wizarding world without colored characters.

So now they are here, black and Asian wizards. But in movie franchises, it’s hard to bend a descending series back. The Secrets of Dumbledore overcompensates in simplicity, at the expense of consistency. Grindelwald is different, the tormented Credence (Ezra Miller), pumped up for two films as the secret weapon against Dumbledore, turns out to be a wet firecracker. His beloved Asian snake woman Nagini is suddenly missing and politics in the wizarding world is sketchy. What does everyone see in those seedy Germans?

It is Yates’ credit that you only ask such questions afterwards: the film is compelling. But also a bit of a hollow barrel: Fantastic Beasts looks like a drifting supertanker in the grip of hasty course corrections. Five parts are promised, I wouldn’t be surprised if it stays with a trilogy and Warner Bros puts this fantastic beast out of its misery.

Leave a Comment