By Abigail Levasseur ’24
It’s no secret that Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has been ranked number one internationally for three consecutive weekends. The film is the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald being the first and second films in the series, respectively.
The Fantastic Beasts trilogy is a spin-off of the Harry Potter franchise written by J.K. Rowling herself, so The Secrets of Dumbledore is sure to delight Potter fans. In fact, a handful of Harry Potter characters, such as Albus Dumbledore, Aberforth Dumbledore, Ariana Dumbledore, and Minerva McGonagall, all make appearances in the new movie. The film also includes shots of Hogwarts and The Great Hall, two important locations in the Potter franchise.
However, The Secrets of Dumbledore has been in the news for reasons other than its ties to the beloved tale of the boy wizard with a lightning scar: actor Johnny Depp, who has previously portrayed the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, did not return for this installment.
Depp has come under scrutiny as of late for his court case Depp vs. News Group Newspapers, so Warner Bros. asked him to resign from the production. He apparently filmed one scene in London before being pressured to leave the film, and was reportedly paid $10-16 million for these unused scenes. Mads Mikkelson stepped in as Depp’s replacement. The actor reportedly decided not to emulate Depp’s previous performance, believing that doing so would be “creative suicide.”
The plot of Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore centers around one fantastic beast in particular: the Qilin. Qilins are bambi-like deers with the special ability to detect pure hearts and honorability. The film’s opening scene sees two of these creatures meet very different fates: one is rescued by awkward protagonist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), lover of magical creatures, and the other falls into Grindelwald’s hands.
The main conflict point in the film is the 1932 election for the head of the International Confederation of Wizards. The candidates include Vicencia Santos, Liu Tao, and, most importantly, Grindelwald. Grindelwald aims to use the Qilin to show he has a pure heart so as to prove his political worth. However, since Grindelwald’s heart is corrupted, the Quilin will only bow to him in a resurrected form, so Grindelwald slaughters the creature and then revives it. Scamander, Dumbledore (Jude Law), and their friends work to discredit Grindelwald by revealing the living Qilin rescued by Newt, hoping to demonstrate that it will refuse to bow to the dark wizard.
Those keen on fantastic beasts more ferocious than the wholesome Qilin will enjoy another new creature that the movie introduces: the Giant Crab Manticore. In one memorable scene, Scamander and his brother must escape the Manticore’s snapping tentacles, acting like crabs to do so in one of the film’s most comical moments. Such comic relief is a welcome break from the movie’s intense plot.
For those interested in watching Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, it is worth researching the film on Wikipedia before doing so, especially for those unfamiliar with the franchise or the wider Wizarding World.