Friday, July 1

Can Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore do some magic in the wizarding world? | Films

The news this week that the latest installment in the Fantastic Beasts saga will be titled Dumbledore’s Secrets has encountered a chorus of meh across the geekosphere. The general consensus seems to be that after the failed 2018 sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald, these magical mysteries better live up to the KFC recipe if Warner Bros wants fans to re-tune in to part three.

It’s a shame, because JK Rowling’s adventure in fantasy script writing promised a lot. Freed from the structures of her Harry Potter novels, with her Malory Towers in a magical Kool-Aid varnish, she wrote an opener, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which offered a tantalizing glimpse into the recent history of the wizarding world. Even the Crimes of Grindelwald, despite their confusing, often bizarrely pointless plot and messy characterization, boasted an enduring sorcerous glow.

But with the various off-screen tribulations both Rowling and star Johnny Depp endured in the intervening period, as well as the saga’s downfall on screen, the luster has been pretty faded from this particular golden snitch. Dumbledore’s Secrets, in which Depp will be replaced as Grindelwald by Mads Mikkelsen, really needs to take home the Quidditch Cup if the proposed five-film series isn’t going to be unceremoniously cut.

What could be the secrets of the title? We already know, because Rowling told us over a decade ago, that Dumbledore (played by Jude Law in these prequels) is gay, and Beasts 2 revealed that the future headmaster of Hogwarts had a blood pact with Grindelwald, made in his youth, never go to battle with each other. On the other hand, the latter’s “crimes” last time were more like an endless and endless plot. I guess Grindelwald’s Evil Five-Year Plan just wasn’t the right tone.

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Could these secrets be the ones we already know, but not the main protagonists of the new episode? Perhaps Dumbledore’s queer identity is a big problem in the wizarding world, which Rowling has always been very careful to present as a sorcerous reflection of our own society. However, it’s hard to see her in a big way in Dumbledore’s battles against fans, for obvious reasons.

One of the other big reveals from Beasts 2 was that Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone is actually Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus’s long-lost brother and his brother Aberforth. If the world’s greatest wizard has secrets in his dress that are even more devastating than these, then he truly represents a kind of human version of Area 51, spitting out riddles with graceful regularity for the convenience of Rowling’s spinning plot machine.

Mads Mikkelsen, who replaces Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the third part of the series.
Mads Mikkelsen, who replaces Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the third part of the series. Photograph: Ettore Ferrari / EPA

Fantastic Beasts now finds himself in a similar position to the Star Wars prequel series, which built up at a frigid pace towards the point where Anakin Skywalker eventually became Darth Vader, but left viewers with a huge sense of anticlimax when the big reveal actually happened. Worse still, Beasts doesn’t even seem to know what’s in the works, aside from Eddie Redmayne’s alleged silent retirement of Newt Scamander after dispensing with the threat in the form of Grindelwald sometime after the end of part five.

We already know that Grindelwald is not much in old age, it ends locked in his own fortress for half a century while he waits for the One who must not be named to come and kill him. So all the magic of Fantastic Beasts lies in the dizzying visual splendor of the old school wizarding world and the jazz age, and as Crimes of Grindelwald demonstrated, that only goes so far.

According to a plot synopsis, Dumbledore’s Secrets will see the wizard send Newt and his friends on a dangerous mission. It could be to put the kibosh on Grindelwald’s last evil breath, or perhaps discover a rare monster who has the clue to turn the tide against the bad guys. But let’s do it, it will probably be to save Warner Bros from having to stop all this bloody wizarding mess while the wizarding world still has at least some of its dignity intact.

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