After the events of the previous film both Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law – Closer) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen – Doctor Strange) are both taking stock and preparing for the future. Dumbeldore has been putting together a small team, led by Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne – Les Miserables), to try to counteract anything Grindelwald can plan, while Grindelwald encourages the damaged Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller – Justice League) to kill Dumbledore, while he devises a plan to be elected to become the most powerful Wizard in the Wizarding World.
Together as a team director David Yates (The Legend of Tarzan) and co-screenwriters Steve Kloves (Wonder Boys) and J.K. Rowling (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) have created a film that brilliantly reminds the audiences of similarities between the politics of today and events of the past while still managing to move both Newt and Dumbledore’s stories along in an interesting direction.
As a film, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore takes on a darker tone as Grindelwald’s plan to gain power and destroy the Muggle world mirrors what Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party’s plans were back in the 1940s. To hammer that point home the filmmakers set a large chunk of this film in Germany while dressing various characters in outfits that are clearly based on the clothes worn by many in the Nazi Party.
That darker tone filters throughout the film and the result is a movie laced with suspense. Following on from the ‘supernatural massacre’ from the first film it is established early on in this film that Grindelwald will slit the throat of any creature no matter how cute it is while the audience is constantly placed on the edge of their seat and kept guessing at whether characters such as Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol – Dan in Real Life) are double agents who are in grave danger.
Like the film itself, the filmmakers have also given a darker edge to Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler – Fanboys). Gone is much of the comedy shtick that was present around his character in the previous two films. Here he is fuelled by both depression and anger that has been brought on by Queenie turning to the dark side and as an audience member you can’t help but worry about the safety of a Muggle who seems determined to go up against a gifted wizard like Grindelwald and his followers.
The more intense screenplay also allows for some great acting performances by the film’s leads. Jude Law takes his portrayal of Dumbledore to a whole new level. We see a different side to the much loved character as his relationship with Grindelwald is explored more and Law further enhances the role by making it feel like he is playing a character stuck in the middle of a war thriller.
Likewise Eddie Redmaybe is at the top of his game here as well. He keeps the small nuances present that we have come to expect from Newt as a character. His shyness and awkwardness is still there but we see still more bravery and determination when he realises that the lives of those he cares about – including his brother Theseus (Callum Turner – War & Peace) – are in danger. The fact that Newt is also kept relevant by incorporating his ‘creatures’ into the storyline is also a stroke of genius from Kloves and Rowling as well.
It was hard to imagine that films in the Wizarding World would ever reach the heights that some of the better Harry Potter films did, but Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore shows that there is still creativity to be had with this franchise. The darker tone enhances the film and makes it a lot better than a lot of people expected it would be. This film is a surprisingly well written and suspenseful affair.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is currently screening in Phuket and is rated G.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus