"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore" Talkback (Spoilers)

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Matt Zimmer
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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

There were things about it I appreciated, but I think most people will be unhappy.

Before I do my deconstruction of the film, I think it's important to talk about some of the backstage drama, specifically regarding J.K. Rowling. Johnny Depp had to be recast and Ezra Miller has had some very public meltdowns in the meantime, but it's Rowling's disgusting behavior on Twitter that stuck in the back of my mind and refuses to go away. What do you do when a franchise you formerly liked is run by a bigot? It's very hard to watch the anti-prejudice messages in the film without keeping in mind that Rowling has been told by people who care about her about how offensive and insensitive her anti-trans rhetoric is, and she refuses to stop. I think in reality, when boiled down to its essence, a lot of the messages in Harry Potter are problematic. Both Slytherin House and the House-Elves were huge red flags that Rowling's values were warped, but I reasoned it was fiction, and horrible things are easier to write about than good things. But it didn't occur to me these bad things were occurring because Rowling didn't see a problem with them. I'm disillusioned, and that negatively colored my reaction to the film. Not completely. But somewhat.

I think a large bulk of shade this movie is gonna get is because it's kind of boring. Harry Potter was exciting. Because it had kid characters and engaged in kid fun. I try to keep in mind this is the first Wizarding World franchise that's focused entirely on adults. Therefore those sensibilities are different. The fact that it's a period piece doesn't help either.

Honestly, I'm glad Depp was recast solely because Mikkelsen is a better Grindelwald than he was. Why? Because there is genuine romantic tension between him and Jude Law, and until this movie, we never got the sense Dumbledore's thing for him was anything but an unrequited crush. Mikkelsen is the right actor to play that it was more complicated than that.

Richard Coyle was great as Aberforth. He was literally one of the only good things about Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, and he plays a good guy as well as he plays a bad one.

The revelation of Aurelius Dumbledore was disappointing after what the last film set up, and is another thing that people will complain about. Me? I'd think it was weird if Grindelwald WAS telling Creed the truth in the last movie, and not just stringing him along.

Jacob Kowalski has his biggest role yet in the film. I have to say I love the character too. Not because he's a great character. But I feel like Rowling missed the boat by not having a major character in on the adventures in Harry Potter be a Muggle. He's a far better viewpoint character than even Harry is because we all can relate to him witnessing miracles but not really being a part of them. That was sort of Harry's role in the first book but the longer the series went on the less of a fish-out-of-water tale it became. Kowalski has value because he's still amazed by it all.

I'm glad Queenie came home. Her frustrating fate in the last film is why I like this one better. It feels like an actual satisfying ending, which The Crimes Of Grindelwald most certainly did not.

Seeing Kowalski at Hogwarts was fun. I like the bit where Slytherin House tricked Kowalski into eating Cockroach Clusters. This was back when they were still stinkers, but before they were evil.

I think that Rowling and Steve Kloves were trying to do a modern allegory for both Boris Johnson and Trump in how messed up the Wizarding political system is, and how it allows sorely unqualified and monstrous people in office. But is it just me or does the movie fail there? I'm glad the movie didn't end on a cliffhanger, but to do the allegory properly, Grindelwald would have had to have won. This feels like a half-hearted moral against authoritarianism as long as (despite the Wizard political situation sucking so much) nobody objects to a do-over when they realize their mistake.

Let me also state for the record the idea of the Chillun picking Wizarding leaders is utterly bogus. Yeah, it'd better to have virtuous leaders than scumbags. But just because a person is virtuous, doesn't mean they'll be a competent Head of State. Being in charge of the government is a lot bigger than knowing right from wrong. I would think a flawed person invested in governing for the people would be better than a saint who knows nothing outside of being a saint. It's weird that Rowling thinks differently. And what would happen if the Chillun found NOBODY worthy? Remember how I said Rowling has messed up values? There are fewer in the Fantastic Beasts portion of the canon, but there still are some. Also, if the Chillun is a thing, I feel like it should have come up LONG before this. Back in Harry Potter actually. Did it choose Cornelius Fudge? If so, why? The creature is also not even listed in the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them book, so that's another reason it smells like a retcon.

I was a little iffy on that, not just because of the behind the scenes drama, but also because it feels a lot drier than Harry Potter. But I think it was all right. ***1/2.
 

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Reading about Shea Fontana and watching this video with Ann Austen makes me want to see them collaborate on a project someday.


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Also thats also means....

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