While the Fantastic Beasts franchise struggles to reach the heights of Harry Potter – it still manages to conjure up a competent spectacle.
With the prequel series beset with internal casting issues – the axed Johnny Depp and more recently the alleged behaviour of Ezra ‘The Flash’ Miller – and creative difficulties in attempting to rekindle the magical spell unleashed by everyone’s favourite boy wizard, the glossy production values and eagerness of the acting talent just about pull it through.
And three-and-a-half years after the Crimes in Grindelwald, the third instalment is an improvement over that tepid outing – if only minimally.
That is in no small part down to the aforementioned cast, that boasts Mads Mikkelsen seamlessly replacing Depp as the powerfully dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald – doing a Richard Harris to Michael Gambon Dumbledore-esque ‘switcheroo’ – but more importantly, a compellingly-assured turn from Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.
He arguably steals the show with Eddie Redmayne’s magizoologist Newt Scamander – who is a little too reliant nowadays on his facial expressions that are wearing a little thin – still ably by his side.
We’re now in 1932, and Dumbledore of the British Wizarding Community, enlists Newt and his allies, including brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams) and Dan Fogler’s ‘muggle’ Jacob Kowalski – still devastated by his ‘love’ Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) going ‘rogue’ – on a mission to curb the rising power of Grindelwald and his acolytes. With Dumbledore also unable to fight his former friend-turned-nemesis due to a ‘blood pact’.
But things take a sideways turn when Grindelwald is ‘absolved’ of his past criminalities by the German Ministry of Magic – and is then inexplicably entered to run for the election as the Supreme Mugwump.
The powerful new leader is chosen by the ancient ritual of being found ‘worthy’ by a magical creature known as a Qilin, in a side story that runs throughout the duration of the movie. Along with another sub-plot that sees the Credence (Miller), the illegitimate son of Dumbledore’s brother, tasked with assassinating Albus by Grindelwald, which is all a bit ‘meh’ in comparison.
What this all adds up to is a noteworthy tale that never really catches fire – but should still hold your interest throughout in a serviceable fashion.
Whether this is enough to bring JK Rowling’s Wizarding World back on track – with diminishing box-office returns the last time round – remains to be seen with a five-parter for this series still planned.
Sadly, this doesn’t ultimately expand the franchise’s relevance too much, but at least fleshes out the iconic Dumbledore’s character – with a notable secret or two – if very little more.
ESP Rating: 3/5
Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now
Cast: Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, William Nadylam, Victoria Yeates, Richard Coyle & Katherine Waterston
Running Time: 2 Hrs 22 Mins
Director: David Yates
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