Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, “Movie Show Plus,” which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
If you live, eat and breathe Harry Potter, I still can’t fathom a world where you would accept the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise as worthy of sharing the same film universe. Where the original Potter films were full of magic – both literally and figuratively speaking – the “Fantastic Beasts” film have been a flimsy rip-off since the get-go.
The cash-grab continues with the third film in the series, “The Secrets of Dumbledore,” a film that not only doesn’t live up to its title (what secrets???), but once again fails to hold a floating candle to any of the original Potter films.
I really, truly, want to like each and every movie that I see, so I had hopes that this latest installment might turn me around. The first “Fantastic Beasts” film was without a doubt one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen since becoming a film critic in 2010…I gave it a solid “F” at the time, and didn’t have too many nice things to say about Eddie Redmayne’s or Dan Fogler’s performances. The cringe-worthy “reveal” that Johnny Depp was the criminal wizard Grindelwald, is perhaps one of the worst meta film moments in history.
Grindelwald’s story was expanded upon in the follow-up film, 2018’s appropriately titled, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” and was only better than the first film, because it would have been a monumentally implausible achievement to have done worse.
Replaced without a word or a thought, Mads Mikkelsen takes over for Depp (whom you may have heard, has ran into some…personal problems) as the new Grindelwald, and is at least not hamming it up. Returning to the fold is fantastic beast collector, Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a young and svelte Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams) and good ole intended-comic-relief Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who is now mourning his separation from Queenie (Alison Sudol), now at the right-side of Grindelwald.
Ezra Miller is, for some reason, also in this film, whose character, Credence Barebone, sulks around and seems to be in a different universe altogether.
The plot is not vital…there are wizards hunting other wizards, some of whom want to destroy the human “Muggle” world….blah blah blah. This being a prequel of the Harry Potter movies, we all know that it isn’t going to end poorly for anyone except for Grindelwald, a fact that undercuts each and every moment of so-called “drama,” when we the viewers already know the outcome.
I don’t know enough about the history or lore of the Harry Potter Universe to know if this saga is based on any source material (I know that the original film WAS based on a book called “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), but the story and characters are so thin that it’s a travesty that the sometimes brilliant and inarguably iconic original films even share a passing resemblance to this dreck. “Fantastic Beasts” is to Harry Potter what “Hidden Treasure” cereal is to “Lucky Charms”: A pale and cheap imitation.
At least with cereal, you can spit it out. “Fantastic Beasts” gorges on mediocrity, possessing all of the CG and high-flying effects as the Potter films, but with zero of the magic. Each of those original films also introduced one interesting new character after another, but all of the members of Team Dumbledore blend together and feel fully expendable.
For real, is there a worse film franchise in the history of movies than the “Fantastic Beasts” films? Harry Potter fans deserve more than this endless saga (we think there are two more to come, but who knows). If you love these movies, then “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is the best of the three, which, by no means is a stamp of approval.
As these films continue their slow climb towards mildly passable, I wish someone could just waive a magic wand and make them just disappear. Hey, the “Divergent” series called it quits ahead of schedule, why not “Fantastic Beasts”? It would require a bit of grace and dignity to do so, which are two attributes that seem to be lacking in regards to this entire, miserable franchise, and with those that are currently in the process of milking each and every movie-going Muggle in sight of their hard-earned box office cash.
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy.
Run Time: 2 hours 22 minutes.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne, Callum Turner, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler.
Directed by David Yates (“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”).”Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is in theaters on Friday, April 15th, 2022.