The Wizarding World welcomes you back for another magical adventure in Fantastic Beasts and the Secrets of Dumbledore, the eleventh overall instalment in the ever enduring franchise that all began with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Arriving in 2016, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them presented a new direction for J.K. Rowling’s influential fantasy series, not only exploring the wizarding world beyond Hogwarts but also providing backstory to the legacy, as well as an assortment of quirky new creatures and characters. Furthermore, it added an American setting to what had always been a very British saga.

The second Fantastic Beasts instalment, The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), failed to capture the imagination of its audience and was consequently met with a moderate to low reception. It starred Johnny Depp as the titular dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, and was, perhaps, marred by its stagnant narrative and overall sense of deja vu.

Fans of the series can breathe a sigh of relief with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, the latest chapter from franchise stalwart director David Yates – his seventh overall in the Wizarding World.

With Johnny Depp out of the picture for reasons untoward, Hollywood favourite Mads Mikkelsen steps into the evil garb of Grindelwald, offering a less caricatured interpretation of the villainous magician, with more sophistication and a heavier sense of evil. This is a very different character to that of Depp’s portrayal, with far more sinister undertones.

The latest chapter takes place in the lead up to World War II, which immediately gives the story maturity beyond its predecessors. Kids may struggle with the historical knowledge required to fully comprehend the magnitude of the context and the movie’s place in the modern world, however the story itself is in line with those that came before it.

As war looms over the muggle world, an evil rises within the parallel wizarding world, and with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) standing at a moral crossroads, he must decide at which point he abandons his bipartisan standpoint for the benefit of all kind.

Enlisting the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his cohort of friends, Dumbledore sends the magizoologist and co. on a mission that has them travelling the world to far off magical communities – Germany, Bhutan and China – with the goal of stopping Grindelwald’s increasing power.

As is the nature of the Fantastic Beasts branch of the Wizarding World, the story reads in a convoluted way, but fortunately it unfolds on screen simply enough so as not to create confusion. Unlike Harry Potter, who held his position as the protagonist throughout all eight instalments, Newt Scamander is relegated to a co-lead, with Dumbledore stepping into the foreground to usher the story along.

Law’s take on Dumbledore is mysterious and all knowing, bringing authority to the role, while Redmayne’s Newt remains sheepish in his heroism. The heart of the film, however, is undeniably Dan Fogler’s ever-endearing Jacob Kowalski (the muggle amongst magicians). His heart of gold and nice guy persona won audiences over in the first FB film and he’s sure to keep those cockles warm with his wonderful performance here – he appears more comfortable in his character’s skin than ever before.

The term “fan service” comes to mind as the film opens, exploring the world of wizards to far greater heights and making The Secrets of Dumbledore bigger and worldlier than the series has ever been before. Not only in a geographical sense, but also socially. New layers of awareness and cultural allegory have been woven into the story, and the sentiment of J.K. Rowling’s universe is increasingly diverse and aware. These welcome components add richness to the Wizarding World and provide food for thought, given Rowling’s tumultuous past few years in the public eye.

Whether you’ve been a fan of the franchise since the first book was published in 1997, or you’re new to the series, The Secrets of Dumbledore is a standout entry that sets a new standard for future instalments. And it makes us ponder how exactly did Dumbledore go from being a snazzily dressed scholar to the elderly new age bohemian depicted in the earlier films?

In cinemas: April 7, 2022
Starring: Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston
Directed by: David Yates

Fantastic Beasts at JB Hi-Fi