I am not a fan of the Harry Potter film series, but even I recognize that one of the most iconic characters from that series was Albus Dumbledore. When this film was announced and it was reported that a younger version of Dumbledore would be seen, it was exciting because since 2007, the creator of Harry Potter and writer for this film, JK Rowling, said Dumbledore was gay. It also seemed like the story for this film would revolve around a relationship that Dumbledore had, which would have been a huge step forward in LGBT representation in blockbuster films, specifically films with budgets over $100 million. LGBT characters have popped up recently in blockbusters but only as side characters, never as a lead character or even strong supporting character where their sexuality was made clear or they had an on-screen romance that wasn’t ambiguous. This film would have been a huge win in that regard, but alas, Dumbledore who feels like the most interesting, is sidelined here. The film sets up the fact that there will be a sequel to this, which will probably feature Dumbledore more prominently, but it only makes this film a disappointment and a bit of a slog.
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl) reprises his role of Newt Scamander, but nothing that he does or that happens to him is interesting in the slightest. His character’s presence isn’t all that significant or even vital. It doesn’t help matters that his character isn’t even all that interested in solving the initial problem or the inciting incident that kicks off this story. Rowling introduces Newt’s brother, Theseus, played by Callum Turner (The Only Living Boy in New York and Green Room), a taller, sexier version of Newt who is interested in solving the problem, so one wonders why Newt was even needed.
There are also two female characters here who carry the load and do just as much if not more than Newt, further rendering him pointless. Katherine Waterston reprises her role as Tina Goldstein, a kind of magical cop, and Zoë Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange, the girl in the middle of a possible love triangle between Newt and his brother. Yet, it’s unclear why either Tina or Leta weren’t the protagonists of this film. Rowling has little use for them, but even their brief roles are more interesting or engaging than anything Newt does.
Rowling hints at this past relationship between Dumbledore, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes and The Talented Mr. Ripley) and that of the titular Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Alice in Wonderland). At the end of the previous film, Grindelwald was responsible for unleashing a magical being into New York City in the mid 1920’s, which killed and caused a lot of destruction. Grindelwald was arrested and put into a magical prison, but the beginning of this film is Grindelwald escaping from prison and continuing in his mission to expose magical beings to the non-magical world and then take over the whole world. One of the magical cops asks Dumbledore to help stop Grindelwald, but Dumbledore refuses.
From the way the scene is played, one assumes that the reason Dumbledore refuses to fight is because he and Grindelwald used to be lovers. This reason is strongly hinted but never explicitly said, so one can go with what the magical cop presumes, which is Dumbledore and Grindelwald have a brotherly relationship. Instead of hints and vagueness about this relationship, this film should have dug into it more. I suppose that the sequel to this will do that, but that only leaves this film as incredibly hollow. It’s also ignoring what is its meatiest story and characters.
There’s some stuff going on with Ezra Miller (Justice League and Trainwreck) who plays Credence, the magical being that Grindelwald manipulated in the previous film. Not much could bring me to care about anything going on with him. His time on screen felt like padding and I was more or less bored by it.
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 14 mins.