Fantastic Beasts and Where They Don’t Belong

Newt Scamander is played by Eddie Redmayne in Secrets of Dumbledore

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Newt Scamander is played by Eddie Redmayne in “Secrets of Dumbledore”

Luke Crawford, Staff Writer


How do you follow one of the most popular movie franchises of all time? J.K. Rowling’s latest addition to the Wizarding World seeks to give fans a fresh take on the magical fight between good and evil. 

With seven books, and 10 movies so far, it can be hard to keep track of all the characters, creatures, and magical organizations that fill the screen in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.”

The movie begins with Newt Scammander, portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, ambushed by some of Grindelwald’s followers after helping a magical creature give birth. In one of the best sequences of the movie, Newt rescues one of the babies from Grindelwald’s followers, who plan to kill the creature to absorb its magical powers.

In Grindelwald’s latest bid to take over the wizarding world, he and his followers plan to rig a Brazilian election for the wizarding president or Mugwump. He has already taken control of the wizarding ministry in Germany.

What follows is a swath of unfamiliar characters, quick jumps from one location to another, and a generally confusing story with a significant lack of tension.

The film’s biggest problem is the overall structure. From the beginning of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Rowling has tried to connect two different plots together that have yet to fit together just right. 

Despite Redmayne’s charm as the precocious, witty Newt, his clumsy yet brilliant antics with various magical creatures can’t help but feel very out of place amongst international magical courts, corrupt wizarding elections and plots to assassinate presidential candidates.

On the opposite hand, there’s Grindelwald, played with a brooding rage by Mads Mikkelsen. His ominous presence whenever he is onscreen fits perfectly with what about half of this movie is trying to do.

In contrast to Johnny Depp’s dazed embodiment of Grindelwald, Mikkelsen brings a kinetic believability in his evil path to world conquest.

It’s hard to imagine this meandering story was written by Rowling, who excelled at slowly cranking up the dial with each Harry Potter movie and bringing it all the way to 11. But her ability to raise the stakes and build mounting tension as the series progresses has eluded her so far.

With two more movies scheduled in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the best thing I can say is there’s nowhere to go but up.