'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore' Review
If you are to listen carefully, you might hear a certain fantasy property trying its hardest to make a straight road out of the Himalayan mountain roads that it created with its second film in the spinoff series. That's the sound of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore, third installment in the sometimes-not-so-beast-y franchise, directed by returning creative force David Yates. To be fair, this time there are slightly more beasts as Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) gathers a fast and furious.. uh, fantastic and fiery team for a globetrotting adventure in order to save both magical and non-magical worlds, following the events of last film when Gellert Grindewald (Mads Mikkelsen) began his rise to power. Fighting for and alongside Dumbledore are your favourite magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Jacob (Dan Fogler), Newt's brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and Professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams).
With visual presentation of these films, there was really only one way to go after 2018's 'The Crimes Of Grindelwald' which was lacking in the magic department, as if all life had been sucked out of it. One bright spot now is that the filmmaking has much more intention and energy to it, Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont's production design being actually integral for both mood and also action happening in the spaces. It's in nearly perfect harmony with the immense amount of visual effects that you expect from movies in this genre, fantastical creatures created by those artists are more prominent and look better here which sprinkles in a bit of fun, something that was much needed. Composer James Newton Howard also brings some delight with his more playful cues but his recent struggles with action scenes continue, the music often taking away the sense of danger and urgency because it's so predictable.
Elsewhere the film does feel rather uninspired overall; things are just appearing and happening, apparently just to move characters from one place to another to fake some excitement that hopefully keeps you watching. Considering some of those technical crafts, it is a shame that the story doesn't hold much water as character moments are illusions at best. Mikkelsen's look as Grindelwald is less distracting but the character still doesn't feel like he has lived a life, motivations of Alison Sudol's Queenie have been impossible to follow, Newt's journey has been in limbo since the first movie and Katherine Waterston's Tina has been puzzlingly sidelined, resulting in extremely awkward handling of her in her scenes. Williams and Fogler are able to inject some joy every once in a while but they alone can't fix what's broken, that being the shortage of ambition when it comes to dazzling audiences.
Smileys: VFX, production design
Frowneys: Story, characterisation, atmosphere
Reviving them is actually qilin them, that's not chill at all.