Title: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves
Release Date: April 15, 2022
Domestic Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Box Office Information
- Budget: $200 Million
- Financed by: Heyday Films
- Domestic Box Office Gross: $95,850,844
- Overseas Box Office Gross: $302,997,852
We are once again thrust willy-nilly into the far-fetched world of Newt Scamander; he who nurtures the ningyo and coddles the callitrix. Not to mention heffalumps and cureloms.
This time around the film starts with a portentous (or is it pretentious?) meeting between the good gray Dumbledore as a young man and his former cohort, now turned all evil and nasty, Grindelwald. Over tea and crumpets, with an occasional oozlum bird fluttering by in the background, the plot of the movie is laid as bare as bones in the desert.
Grindelwald, it seems, bears a heavy grudge against all muggles, meaning all those who don’t possess magical powers or who have a bad case of dandruff. We never learn why old Grindle doesn’t care for muggles much. Was his mother scared by one before he was born? Did they snigger at his stamp collection as a boy? Or was he jilted at the alchemic altar by a mudblood woman? Whatever the case may be, he has decided that this planet ain’t big enough for him and the muggles together. So the muggles are to be exterminated like thrips on a rosebud.
Dumbledore naturally enough demurs. As a young hothead he, too, toyed with the idea of sending all muggles to Lower Slobovia, but now, as a seasoned and sane necromancer in the finest tradition of Gandalf, he has come to love the frail and contrary muggles, much like a man may come to love the runt of the litter just because it doesn’t have much of a chance.
The movie then whisks us off to China, where our pal Newt is trying to protect a magical creature about to give birth. Alas, Grindelwald and associates muck things up a bit by zapping the mother and carrying off its calf. This calf, it turns out, is to be sacrificed and then turned into a zombie yes-man to help get Grindelwald elected Supreme Mugwump. (Anyone with a Donald Trump reference feel free to jump in right about here.)
But despair not, viewer! The movie contrives to give us twins, wand jousts, dungeons full of dancing scorpions, and a plethora of other plot devices until the whole structure collapses happily ever after under the strain of too much coincidence and inexplicable segways.
Where this movie went wrong: the franchise feebleness factor
Hollywood would rather reboot a cinematic Edsel than think up something new and original. That’s why story franchises like Harry Potter and the Marvel Multiverse continue to live on long past their usefulness, like Bela Lugosi reprising Dracula at the opening of a shopping mall.
Franchises exist solely for the purpose of perpetuating their homogenized products; no single individual franchise operator can deviate from the handbook, no matter their genius.
Once a movie franchise like Fantastic Beasts is created it becomes a juggernaut, crushing all creativity and initiative underneath its demanding and formulistic tread.
There’s nothing wrong with the actors in The Secrets of Dumbledore. The special effects are perfectly wonderful. Even the script, no doubt, in its pristine state, was a miracle of wit and conciseness. But at the very pinnacle of the creative cinematic process sits the Big Mac producers, who see to it that every word and deed conforms to the playbook. Even if there isn’t any playbook. In their manic attempts to ladle out enough secret sauce to insure successful conformity they drown the sense of wonder that an audience needs to feel while watching a fantasy movie.
Which gives some credence to the conspiracy theory that movie theaters now lace their popcorn with Vicodin butter in order to keep patrons coming back for movies as lackluster as Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.