Updated: Aug 1, 2022
After the critical and commercial failure of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the future of this franchise was up in the air as there were 3 more planned sequels and a then questionable casting choice. But when the title of the third Fantastic Beasts installment was announced, many wondered if Johnny Depp would return or be replaced. It turned out to be the latter, as Mads Mikkelsen took over as Gellert Grindelwald. But did this recasting hurt or resurrect a dying franchise?
Gellert Grindelwald (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is absolved of his crimes of the magical world and plans to take control of the wizarding world in order to start a war with the non magical world. Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) and Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) put together a team of wizards and muggles alike to go up against him. As Grindelwald’s power and influence grow so does the teams helplessness to end his reign of terror.
It is safe to say that The Secrets of Dumbledore is a massive improvement from its predecessor. The Crimes of Grindelwald is severely unfocused with its many subplots, boring characters, and lack of magical creatures. While Fantastic Beasts 3 still may have a few too many subplots, they are more focused and coherent so that viewers fully understand and remain invested in its story. Additionally, the film focuses on a magical creature as the driving force for the narrative so they remain at the forefront of this franchise. While I still come for the otherworldly beasts, I stay for Queenie and Jacob’s star crossed love story.
Despite the more consistent plot, there are still too many characters to either follow along or care about. Some of the familiar faces return, but I still didn’t recognize some that returned from Fantastic Beasts 2, such as a French wizard whose name I forgot, and Newt’s assistant whom I don't really care that much about. The only ones worth remembering are Dumbledore, Aberforth, Newt, Grindelwald and Kowalski. Everyone else felt like a face in the crowd. They were so jam-packed with introducing new characters I didn’t even realize that Tina (played by Katherine Waterston) didn’t actually return for the 3rd installment.
No matter how bored I got with the plot or most of the characters, there are still some great performances to be had in the film. Mads Mikkelsen was surprising as Grindelwald, as he felt far more charismatic and seemed to portray him as a politician compared to Johnny Depp’s creepy cult leader approach. While I myself would have loved to see Depp return just to see what else he could bring to Grindelwald, I wasn’t disappointed with Mikkelsen’s portrayal. Dan Fogler as Kowalski remains lovable throughout the film and brought more layers to his comical muggle. And of course, Jude Law is exceptional as Dumbledore remaining mysterious, yet is the caring professor we have all come to love and understand.
Now let’s discuss how Warner Bros. kinda screwed over this divisive film franchise with only a couple of key production decisions; such as recasting Johnny Depp but keeping Ezra Miller. Before the release of The Secrets of Dumbledore, the highly publicized trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got underway, and it wasn’t great timing as many fans were becoming aware of the person that was Amber Heard, and since she ruined his career with an op-ed, he got recast from Fantastic Beasts. While this seemed like a safe option at the time, it clearly was the wrong decision as Depp has since proved his innocence.
Then there is Ezra Miller. Dear God, what has this person become? They started on top of the world being cast as The Flash in the DCEU and Credence in Fantastic Beasts, but over the last few months, they have begun to show their true colors and psychological issues. Since the release of Fantastic Beasts 3, Ezra Miller has been arrested consistently in Hawaii for many different disputes, possibly kidnapping and grooming a child, and just seems to be an extremely extended psychotic episode. And Warner Bros. has nearly refused to say a word on the matter! Putting the future success of The Flash movie in question. Making this possibly one of the reasons why barely anyone saw Fantastic Beasts 3.
The Secrets of Dumbledore is boring but has a few memorable moments and great performances, particularly Dan Fogler, Mads Mikkelsen, and Jude Law. But too many characters and a semi-interesting plot really make Fantastic Beasts 3 a snooze fest. Even though this might have been the biggest reason no one saw it, it also may have been due to the controversial production decisions of firing Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and keeping on Ezra Miller as Credence. Which may have caused an early boycott of the film, as many DC fans are planning to do with The Flash when it is “supposedly” released in 2023. All in all, The Secrets of Dumbledore isn’t terrible, but outside controversy did not help it make any money.