Monday, August 1, 2022

Review - The Secrets of Dumbledore

 No. No. This not… This is not… how it was supposed… No.

Ok, guys, the time has come. After a long wait, I took my seat, and wrote this review, in which probably was my most expected movie in a long while. And it’s not just that I am disappointed. I feel cheated on. You’ll see why in a minute, but first, a few things.

To read my reviews on the previous movies, follow this links:
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- The Crimes of Grindelwald

And obviously, this CONTAINS SPOILERS, so stay at your own risk. I warned you.

Saying that this movie is all bad, wouldn’t be fair. It had some well done things, especially in terms of design, screenplay, costumes… There are lots of details everywhere that speaks of a committed team that was present in every little aspect, whether it was locations, the creatures’ animation, the special effects… everything. But sadly, the plot is not everything it could have been. The political aspect, though, is very realistic, and speaks of dirty tricks (magical or not) and deceptions, in a world where nothing and no one matter, in the competition for power. But, guys… this is the Wizarding World. I think a lot more can be done with all the resources it provides, than the political election that is the core of this film.

As I said earlier, I feel cheated on by this series. As I started this journey in the first movie, I was introduced to Newt Scamander, and this never before explored world of magizoology, and I fell in love. Everything was new, in an already familiar world. I met an absolutely UNIQUE, charming hero, and got to visit his amazing life and work. By all means, I was IN for this adventure, and eagerly waited for the next chapter that would only get me further and deeper into this world. But here… I see Newt was only a means to an end, used to lure me in, with both the promise of a hero and of an aspect of the Wizarding World I had never seen before, and in the end, it’s all about Dumbledore.

And that is not ok. If you told me there’s such a world inside a suitcase, I want to visit that world. If you introduce me to a character unlike anyone I’ve ever known, I want to go with him on his journey. And it’s not so smartly done that you can actually say “hey, this actually works!”. Newt Scamander had, all along, the potential to sustain the whole series as the protagonist, but in the end, the whole thing boils down to Dumbledore, that is, someone we already know, as well as how he will eventually end.

Guys, they have no less than the unique, amazing Eddie Redmayne –only one of the best actors alive–, playing the equally unique Newt Scamander, and they barely give him any relevant actions and decisions. That is not ok, no matter how you try to see it, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Oh, and are you seriously giving me another Fantastic Beasts movie after three years, WITHOUT TINA? Are you kidding me?

Before I get angry, let’s go by parts.

One of the most notorious things about this movie, is that it has very few fantastic beasts for a movie in which they are a part of the title. For a guy who has a suitcase full of creatures, I thought we would see more of them. In the first one we saw them helping him, like the swooping evil, Frank the thunderbird, and Dougal the demiguise. We saw a huge amount of them, and even we could recognize the ones that were shown but not named. But in this one, we were lucky to get a bunch of manticores, the qilin, an almost burnt-out phoenix representing how Credence is on the inside, and a random cameo of the fwoopers running around Bhutan. Every time Newt can use their help, the day is saved by either Pickett, or one of the nifflers. And for someone who knows SO MANY creatures and walks around with them in his suitcase, it’s a little sad and disappointing.

Can’t the producers think of, literally, any other creature, or situation, that won’t involve Pickett picking locks, or a niffler going for shiny things? Because I know it’s possible, given the amount of beasts at Newt’s disposal.

Also, I thought Newt was banned from international travelling?

*awkward silence*

The thing is, I came here for Newt, and I barely saw him. I was sitting in the theater, and found myself thinking “by this point, in the first movie, a lot more had happened already”. There’s nothing wrong with plots about politics and broken hearts, but this is the Wizarding World! I came here for the magic and Newt’s cute weirdness as he becomes an unlikely hero. And beasts. Way more beasts. All I can think is that they somehow got bored with the concept of the magizoologist, or they couldn’t get any more ideas to keep him as the protagonist, so they turned into someone with an already complicated background, to make it even more complicated. And it’s not like they are giving us a lot of new details about the Dumbledores. Most of the things they say, are things we already know, or could figure out: that Ariana was an Obscurial –which I knew the moment the concept was explained–, how she ended up dead, that Albus was in love with Grindelwald, that he had feelings for him in return… Add to this that we already know how things will end: Albus will, in fact, defeat Grindelwald in 1945 (from which we can deduce that, at some point, he would be able to destroy the blood troth).

I admit, I didn’t see coming Credence as Aberforth’s son, but I was expecting to know who his mother was. After all, he spent the whole previous movie looking for her, finding her was his sole motivation, and instead, I was given the answer to a another, entirely different question. Oh, and how the hell can Credence send messages through mirrors? We are talking about a guy who can’t really control his magic. How did he know where to send the message to? Who to send it to?

Ok, moving on.

The general aesthetic of this film is dark, cold and grey, which is exactly the mood we are getting through the development of the plot. Things in the Wizarding World are changing, as war is coming. And speaking of changes, one of the most interesting ones was the introduction of Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald.

His acting really fits the character. In despite that Johnny Depp had some facial expressions that Mikkelsen just can’t reproduce, I feel that, if Mikkelsen had been the original Grindelwald, he would have owned the character by now. It’s interesting how this villain keeps going for power, without violence. Yes, he wants to take over and tries to fool everyone with the dead qilin (as an Inferius?), but he keeps going for manipulation instead of force. Like any self-respecting politician. Realistic, too: wouldn’t be the first one that, in real history, was a wanted criminal yesterday, and today is a candidate with a lot of loyal followers, neither the first one in committing fraud to win an election, with no fear of darkness, or even simple moral boundaries. Moreover, using the purest of creatures for his own purpose, something not many people would attempt to do. As we know, those who do that are wizards who aren’t afraid of consequences as long as they get what they want, just like when Voldemort killed unicorns for their blood.

Upon rewatching some scenes, I caught this quote, by Albus, and wrote it down:

Only a few days ago he was a fugitive from justice. Now he’s an official candidate in the International Confederation of Wizards[…]”.

Boy, if we know about this, in Argentina.

Another well done thing, is this feeling of “you can trust no one” that is always present. At this point, and with this situation, any person out there could be a Grindelwald follower, or a traitor; the man knows he doesn’t need to force anyone to do his bidding. Those who follow him, do it because of their conviction, and belief in his words and ideals. He wants to be adored by the masses.

He's delighted by this, as he’s being supported not because of fear or respect, but sheer admiration. He’s a charismatic leader who promises to change the world, to turn it into a utopia. But he will actually destroy it. And any resemblance with politics in the real world, is purely coincidental. Right?

Right when he falls backwards in Bhutan, after being unmasked, he says “I was never your enemy”, and if you think about it, it’s kind of true. He has a purpose and for that he’s willing to do anything, no matter the obstacles on his way. He believes in his cause, after all it is “for the greater good”. My point is, even though he wants Dumbledore out of his way, he doesn’t really care for the rest of the gang. The only one who had some value for him was Queenie, because she’s the only one with a weakness he could exploit, and a power that could serve him well. None of the others would fall for his lies, but he doesn’t put any efforts in trying to get them out of his way.

And since we mention Queenie… What a disappointment.

She’s definitely different in this movie. She looks older, only wears black, or dark clothes, and basically doesn’t smile. You can tell that she went dark, and that she’s a trusted member of Grindelwald’s side. Yet… I NEVER thought we would see her coming back to this side so fast. True is that we don’t even know how long it has been since the events in Père-Lachaise, we can only guess, which, in my opinion, it’s not well done. In the previous movie, through dialogue, we learned that a year had passed since Newt had left New York. But in this one, the only indicator of how long it has been since Paris, is Credence’s hair length.

The thing with Queenie is… *defeated sigh*. Everything passed too quickly. It’s like she never switched sides. Just as it is happening with Newt, I feel Dark Queenie was a whole lot of wasted potential. After all, she was the absolutely last person you would imagine supporting Grindelwald, and the way he snagged her, was brilliant, using her wish to be free to love and be loved to get her to work for him. After she practically swore allegiance to Grindelwald, literally walking through a fire that burnt people to oblivion at the slightest hesitation, I was hoping they would explore her character further. I knew darkness was going to be the test Jacob’s love would have to endure, to see if they both kept loving each other after some horrible things that would happen while Queenie stayed on Grindelwald’s side, and I was ready for betrayals, lies… you know, the things you do when you go dark. Things Queenie, as pure and loving as she is, wouldn’t do in normal circumstances. But we only see her suffering, and regretting her decision, even with Grindelwald’s trust. Think about it! They would have made an unstoppable pair: Grindelwald as a seer, and Queenie as a Legilimens, would have given their enemies no chance to act, knowing their intentions before they could even act on them, and always being one step ahead of everyone else.

Don’t tell me this isn’t wasted potential. Don’t you dare.

Once, Sirius Black said that you need to see how a man treats his inferiors to see what he’s really like, and you can see that very well with some of the characters here. I remembered that, upon seeing Jacob and his scene with the qilin, in Aberforth’s tavern. My favorite thing about him is that beautiful, caring soul he has, visible when he plays with her and feeds her. He truly has a full heart, and you can tell how sweet and loving he is, especially in the way he treats Queenie. If he wasn’t a muggle, I bet the qilin would have chosen him, he truly has the spirit needed to be a good leader. He’s a simple man, happy with the simple things in life: baking and cooking, and being with those he loves. And I just want to hug him because of that. I still wonder about Jacob’s role in all these, but I did gasp and said “no!”, when he was tortured with the Cruciatus curse. I think both he and Queenie deserved the ending they got, finally being able to get married (by the way, that wedding dress, truly fits Queenie’s spirit). But what left me with questions is that they marry in Jacob’s bakery in New York, and precisely, all the mess started because, in America, you can’t marry a muggle if you are a witch or a wizard.

I want to talk about Eulalie Hicks, for a minute.

Known as Lally, she’s the new addition to the series. She’s a Hogwarts teacher, expert in Charms and defensive magic. I liked the way she’s introduced, as she is no less than any witch J. K. Rowling ever created: smart, brave, resourceful, a little sassy, and obviously, strong and skilled. It’s a good start, for a new character, as I liked her, and I want to know more. I honestly hadn’t notice that she was in the previous movie, talking to Nicholas Flamel through an old book. I thought she was a dead teacher from many, many years ago, and it was a similar situation to the scene in Order of the Phoenix in which Arthur Weasley is attacked by Nagini, and Dumbledore enlists the help of Everad, Dilys Derwent, and Phineas Nigellus, so they visit their other portraits in order to find him. Or perhaps, she was someone from the past to who Flamel went to for advice. I never thought she was alive and would come to play a part in the story. I just wish we could get some more insight into her life, to understand the part she has to play here. I just think, pairing her with Jacob may not have been the best idea. Their duet wasn’t even remotely as funny and entertaining as the Newt-Jacob one.

They both have a cartoonish quality that make them perfect for magical adventures together, something that Lally doesn’t have just yet. And she’s not Tina. I felt her part could have been Tina’s, to make her deeper and richer. After all, it’s not Fantastic Beasts without her nagging Newt. I felt her absence. I get that Tina was made head of her department in MACUSA, but since Queenie chose Grindelwald, I didn’t think she would peacefully go to work, instead of fighting to get her back, especially after we learned that she’s the type of person that defies the rules when she sees a possibility of doing the right thing. We don’t know, either, how she has been after she saw Queenie doing that, or if she and Newt kept corresponding after he clarified the misunderstanding and told her he wasn’t the one getting married.

And if you cut out my favorite character, there’s no way I can like the movie. Sorry.

The last five minutes were the best, I thought “this is what I’m here for”. That is the kind of scene I wanted to see after such a long wait, and what I got, well… Wasn’t enough. Especially when it comes to the wedding. Not showing it, was a mistake. Or are you going to deny that Newt, giving a best man’s speech, wouldn’t have been pure gold?

Also, I love the huge, beautiful smile that the mention of Tina’s name always brings to Newt’s face.

And for someone who lives for Newt’s expression every time he sees her, those couple of seconds aren’t (and never will be) nearly enough.

When they meet right before the wedding, they are both so adorably awkward, that they make me smile. They only have eyes for each other, and you can tell they missed each other. They are both so genuinely happy, it is heart-melting.

But again, I waited far too long to get only those few seconds, how they expect people to be ok with that?

I’m going to talk about Credence for a while.

I thought we would see more of him, considering that he walked through fire too. But in this movie, he is only the means to an end. And he notices that. Grindelwald has him to do the dirty work for him, and it is kind of brilliant, because, if Credence succeeds, he gets to be the favored one, but if he dies, it brings him no consequences. After all, Obscurials are not meant to live too long, right from the get-go, and Grindelwald knows he won’t have to deal with him for long, both if he succeeds, or fails. He’s disposable. Grindelwald has a ton of followers he could send to kill Dumbledore, but having such a destructive force at his disposal, he thinks it’s something not even the great Albus Dumbledore can fight. And if they kill each other, all the better for him, because Credence is just a tool. Once he’s done, he’s no longer useful for him. Like the phoenix the flies around the screen from time to time, Credence will eventually burn from the inside out. I see no happy ending for him, and he probably won’t have one. But before that happens, I need to know more. His mother, his aunt (because the woman trying to save him during the shipwreck wasn’t his mother, but his aunt), how he ended on that ill-fated ship in which Leta switched him for Corvus Lestrange… I’m just asking, if you are going to create so many mysteries, at least give me some answers before changing the subject and moving on to the next big thing.

We see Credence struggling between who he is and who he’s being asked to be. He isn’t a killer. He killed in the past, but through a power beyond his control. Now he can see that he’s been used and doesn’t really want to kill, especially considering that his target –in this case– doesn’t want him dead in return, or did anything to him in the past that could make him hate him. After all, his past victims, Henry Shaw and Mary Lou Barebone, triggered him by being mean to him, and overall, mistreating him, and he wasn’t in control of his magic, nor had any way to channel it. He was always trampled on. And so, the essence remains: Credence Barebone isn’t a villain. Evil isn’t born, it’s made, and finally, he understood that he was being used.

Another character that left me wondering in this movie, was Theseus Scamander. For one, I didn’t see him, in the least, grieving the death of the woman he was supposed to marry, nor we get any insight on why Leta chose him instead of Newt, after the deep bond they shared. Plus, Theseus is obviously taking a liking with Lally Hicks, that was really obvious. But I think that was very, very notorious in this movie: that Crimes of Grindelwald built up to things that here were, either solved, or absolutely forgotten, like Queenie going dark, Leta Lestrange’s story, and Nagini! Where the hell did Nagini go, after getting so much screen time? And Abernathy, that not only impersonated Grindelwald himself but walked through the fire to join him?

Also, the scene in which Theseus is captured by the German Ministry of Magic, and Newt has to rescue him, felt like comic relief, and literally, nothing more. I felt that could have been saved as a cliffhanger for the ending, leaving it open for the next instalment. Newt’s rescue leads nowhere, Theseus is hanging upside down, but no one tried to question him about why he was there the moment he was arrested, and later, no one seems to care that the Head of the British Auror office escaped their inescapable prison.

The whole purpose of the scene seemed to be adding the funny manticore dance Newt has to perform in order to save him, which felt like a desperate attempt to get back some of the things that made the first movie so good. To grasp back something they lost along the way.

In this movie, Newt continues to be himself, not a chosen one, and fighting because he has to, even though his heart is more in healing and saving than in war. But I see him different than in the other movies. He’s no longer so awkward with people. For one, he hugs Jacob first, when in the previous movie it was the other way around. Sadly, we don’t get to see him with his creatures so much, and both he and Jacob seem to have become the comic relief, and little else. Just like Newt’s assistant, Bunty Broadacre, who is hopelessly in love with Newt, in despite that he will never see her as more than that. But I liked that, even though she sees Newt carrying Tina’s picture, and understands that he will never love her back, she doesn’t show jealousy. Loving him means wanting his happiness, even if it’s not with her.

One thing about her, that for me made absolutely no sense. She took Newt’s case to be replicated and didn’t let the guy open it, which I get, of course, but, at that point, I thought, why is she not using this?

Also, why you would get a muggle involved, when you literally have the Gemino curse at your disposal, both used by Hermione in Deathly Hallows, to duplicate Slytherin’s locket, and cast over the Lestrange vault to duplicate the treasures and prevent robberies. Moreover, the very same charm is used later in the movie when Lally and Theseus are cornered in Bhutan, and an avalanche of duplicating pastries and paper swamps the Alliance members going after them.

Since the charm didn’t duplicate the piece of Voldemort’s soul inside the locket, we can understand that it won’t duplicate the creatures inside the case, so it is safe to use it. Why risking the status of secrecy by bringing it to a muggle, when you literally carry a wand and can use to create as many copies as you want?

My guess: comic relief. Nothing more justifies this absolutely lack of logic.

Also, I didn’t understand the purpose of giving Jacob the fake wand, and moreover, telling him that he “can’t think of anyone more deserving” to keep it. I get that Dumbledore sees he has a good heart and a kind soul, and that he could make a great wizard, but reality is that a stick shaped like a wand won’t really help him, especially after he’s sent to the front lines, no less than face-to-face with an enemy that is the greatest muggle mass murderer the Wizarding World has ever known. Not even experienced, trained wizards survived an encounter with Grindelwald, much less a muggle. That makes no sense to me, and smells like plot-hole.

Another character that does absolutely nothing for the plot, is this man:

Yusuf Kama goes to Nurmengard, and offers his loyalty to Grindelwald, to which he answers, he will have to prove it. But we never see him going through any kind of test, nor we see Grindelwald keeping him watched, or distrusting him, considering that his followers were forced to walk through fire to prove their allegiance. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand that he never really switched sides. I was not fooled for a second. It feels as if the producers created this character, and now they don’t know what to do with him anymore. He’s just kind of there.

And finally, the way they go to Bhutan, through the Bhutanese prayer wheel in the Room of Requirements *face palm* This made me angry, because, in Goblet of Fire, Dumbledore says, impossibly clearer, that he doesn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets, and that he accidentally stumbled with the Room recently, one night, by chance, as he looked for the restrooms. So, I don’t think he should know about it at this point of the story

Oh, and by the way, I absolutely love Jude Law’s choice of using his wand as if it was a paint brush, in this scene:

He said in an interview that he wanted to make as if Dumbledore was painting, and I think it suits him perfectly.

So, in conclusion, it was a movie that had both good and bad things. I didn’t like it, and I was hoping to love it. Somewhere along the way, Newt’s spirit, and the wonderful magizoloogy world, were lost. Obviously, I am grateful for being able to re-visit Hogwarts, and for the bits of John Williams’ music that we could hear, here and there, as well as the references to other things from the Wizarding World, like the Quidditch balls, the monster book, and the paper flying just like Harry’s Hogwarts letters. But I feel that the whole Dumbledore-Grindelwald thing could have stayed a side plot, instead of making me believe that Newt would be the hero of the story, and then moving him to the sideline, and barely giving him any screen time. Instead of going deeper into characters we already know, like Albus, I wanted insight into Newt and Theseus’ past, or Lally’s or the Goldstein sisters, or even Grindelwald himself, because, as I said, nothing was revealed about Albus that we didn’t already know. And, again, you can’t introduce me to someone like Newt and then make it all about Dumbledore. You can’t have such a character, and not use it. I’m sorry, but you can’t.

Honestly, I’m not very excited for the fourth movie. I waited too long, to get this thing that disappointed me, so excuse me if I’m not very eager for the next instalment of the story. And the saddest part is, I know J. K. Rowling is better than this.

Thank you so much for reading,
See you in my next post!


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