By Damon Smith, PA
If third time’s a charm in the wizarding world created by JK Rowling as well as here in the muggle realm, then some nefarious creature must have cast the Finite Incantatem counter-spell to prevent Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore from completely bewitching me.
Visually stunning from a lustrous opening encounter between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) that tenderly confirms the characters’ romantic past without ambiguity, the third chapter of magical conflict is disappointingly light on narrative substance and lacks the palpable peril of its predecessor, The Crimes Of Grindelwald.
A heart-breaking personal loss at the conclusion of the second film is largely ignored, the dramatic reveal involving deeply disturbed Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) doesn’t get the satisfying pay-off we crave, and Mikkelsen dilutes the maniacal menace of the antagonistic dark wizard previously portrayed by Johnny Depp.
David Yates’s sweeping fantasy certainly has its undeniable pleasures, including gorgeous production and costume design that ravish the eyes, comic relief courtesy of adorable, digitally rendered critters and Eddie Redmayne’s hilariously hypnotic hip swivel during an outlandish subterranean set piece.
The Secrets Of Dumbledore is less than the sum of its polished and entertaining parts and, with an overly generous running time of 142 minutes, it’s also the longest instalment of the franchise… and feels like it.
Dumbledore, professor of Defence Against The Dark Arts at Hogwarts, cannot move against Grindelwald because of the blinding blood oath made when they were idealistic teenagers and madly in love.
He implores trusted magizoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne) to assemble a crack team comprising Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and trusted assistant Bunty Broadacre (Victoria Yeates), Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (Jessica Williams), Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) and muggle baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to undertake a perilous mission designed to confuse Grindelwald and his followers.
“You have to trust me when every instinct tells you not to,” Dumbledore softly implores Theseus.
Meanwhile, Credence is fashioned into a weapon of vengeful destruction and Queenie (Alison Sudol) agonises over her decision to abandon sweetheart Jacob to do Grindelwald’s bidding.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore kindles on-screen heat between Law and Mikkelsen with an opening refrain that succinctly summarises Grindelwald’s disgust for non-magical folk.
“Is it really your intent to turn your back on your own kind for these animals?,” he seethes at Dumbledore.
This intense boil reduces to a polite simmer over the next two hours as screenwriters Rowling and Steve Kloves casually tie up loose threads and orchestrate a conventional quest that barrels through pre-Second World War Germany and Bhutan with a few flicks of a wand that should have cast a Diffindo spell to precisely trim Yates’s picture to two hours.