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Reviews Are Meh for ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’

The beasts? Not so fantastic.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

There was a time when the arrival of a new Harry Potter movie would be met with anticipation and block-long lines for midnight screenings. But oh, how the times have changed. Many of us have soured on the Potterverse thanks to J.K. Rowling’s dogged and dangerous transphobia, which has become a stain not just on her personal legacy, but the legacy of her works. It’s a devastating turn from hero to villain that has disappointed and let down transgender fans and allies. But the Potterverse still prints cash, so Warner Bros. is continuing with their 5-film Fantastic Beasts franchise. After a four year delay, the third chapter in the saga, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore hit theaters next week.

Warner Bros. has recast Johnny Depp, with Mads Mikkelsen stepping in as Grindelwald. Rowling co-wrote this latest entry, which stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, and the recently arrested Ezra Miller. The first film in the franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) earned 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but its sequel The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) earned a dismal 36 percent. The Secrets of Dumbledore is currently clocking in at 60 percent, with many reviews praising Mikkelsen’s performance. But many reviewers left the film thoroughly underwhelmed. Here’s a sampling of what the top critics are saying about The Secrets of Dumbledore.

“The long-awaited third installment of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World sub-franchise is less clogged with distracting detail than its immediate predecessor, but even a more refined plot can’t save the two-hour-plus film from feeling like an endurance test.”

Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter

“It’s good-natured entertainment, though there is still something weightless and formless about the narrative.”

Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Three-fifths of the way through this series, ugly, ungainly enchantment overload is clearly the agreed-upon aesthetic, as Rowling and Kloves again come up with a plot that’s considerably more complicated than it needs to be.”

Peter Debruge, Variety

“In contrast, there’s little sense of chronological momentum in the Fantastic Beasts series, except for the Wizarding World’s timeline paralleling our own Muggle history. With only a handful of characters registering as fully formed, the plot unspools slowly, relying more on lengthy chases and duels and prison breaks than on human beings.”

Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine

“For at least an hour it’s impossible to work out why anything is happening, or how one scene links to the next, or what any of the characters are trying to achieve.”

Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph (UK)

 “It’s tonally imbalanced, fantastical whimsy butting heads with Star Wars prequel-esque political plotting and moments of full Bambi beast-based brutality. Despite some stylish sequences, Yates’ direction (his seventh franchise entry) feels flat — embedding us in the Wizarding World often results in the magical being rendered mundane.”

Ben Travis, Empire Magazine

“The series’ third outing, “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” falls into precisely the same traps as its predecessor, offering up an unwieldy, mostly unsettling mash-up of adult themes and childish whimsy, made still more inscrutable by too many subplots, too many characters, and a tone that veers wildly off-course at every possible turn.”

Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“Unfortunately, this tentpole’s clockwork maneuvers are so rote that there’s no suspense during its times of great peril, and no elation over its triumphs. It’s merely more of the same spectacle that Rowling has been peddling for decades, carried out with reasonable panache but generating diminishing-returns excitement.”

Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

“The familiar grounds of Hogwarts and the fairy dust of composer John Williams’ iconic Harry Potter theme only make us wish we were watching that film series instead of this humorless slog.”

Tomris Laffly, AV Club

Will you see Secrets of Dumbledore when it hits theaters, or are you all Rowling’d out?

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.