Unless you are a complete Muggle you are probably a little familiar with the world of Harry Potter. With the last film in the series finishing in 2011 and even a book of the script of a Harry Potter related play ending up on a best seller list the development of a new Potterverse related film franchise seemed a sure thing. Now with Fantastic Beasts hitting the mid-point of it’s 5 movie arc, is Expecto Patronum or Avada Kedavra?
Before we go too far the most important thing you need to know about the latest instalment of the Fantastic Beast series is that it is very unforgiving to a newcomer to the franchise. While mid-points of a trilogy usually benefit from some familiarity the Secrets of Dumbledore is more like picking up a random book and opting to start reading in the middle. You might generally get what is going on, but for the most part there will be confusion.
There is a lot of spoilers here for the first 2 movies in the series so if you want to watch them for yourselves best stop reading here.
Right set in the time between the first and second world war (or 60-80 years before the first Harry Potter book depending on your stance) we first met Newt Scamander basically a Wizard Zoologist aka Magizoologist visiting New York City on his way to return a ‘Fantastic Beast’ to it’s native habitat. While in NYC one of Newt’s creates gets lose and he meets Jacob Kowalski who is not from the wizard world aka a Muggle or No-Maj. During Newt’s time in New York there is also Wizard who basically never got sent to Hogwarts which is apparently bad and can corrupt them into something called an Obscurus aka floaty black dead orb.
The Obscurus is captured with the help of the authorities (+ 2 Wizard sisters one of which Newt fancies and the other Jacob does also the other one can read minds) and also it turns out one of the authorities is actually a really wanted criminal called Grindelwald. Also Grindelwald was Colin Farrell but was really Johnny Depp all along. Then Newt wipes the minds of everyone in New York with a magic bird that can make it rain.
In the second film the Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald (still Johnny Depp and not Colin Farrel) escapes and begins recruiting across Europe as he supposedly wants a war between Wizards and No-Maj/Muggles. Grindelwald was also once lovers with Dumbledore but even though now they are on opposite sides, Dumbledore and Grindelwald cannot fight as they have a blood oath charm that stops them. Jacob now back with Queenie (the one of the sisters who could read minds) and now does remember everything from the first film is there too but then Queenie switches sides and joins Grindelwald. Also the Obscurus might be related to Dumbledore.
Ok got it?
Right the latest film picks up a little after the first with Grindelwald (no longer Johnny Depp but now Mads Mikkelsen) having waged a political war to curry favour with those in power of the Wizarding World which apparently has a high chancellor type role (who to the best of knowledge available has not assisted in creating a Trade Blockade around Naboo). Dumbledore, who is still bound by his Blood Oath thingy still cannot move against Grindelwald directly but as Grindelwald poses a greater threat to the world and not just the Wizarding world Dumbledore has formed his own A-Team to act as agents on his behalf.
The wizarding world of Pottermore has come a long way since the special effects of the first Harry Potter film which was released back in 2001. Long gone are the subtle floating objects and CGI but now the special effects on screen are sufficiently advanced enough to ensure indistinguishable magic.
Being a Fantastic Beast films there are still some creatures to behold that are important to the main plot in addition to favourites like the gold obsessed Niffler and the grassy lockpicking Pickett as Newt’s faithful companions. But also the addition of charms professor alongside Newt’s brother from the previous film make for a number of awesome effects loaded action pieces that the series is known for with full grown Wizarding happening instead of kids who are just learning to use their wands at school.
Overall the film shares many characteristics but is definitely a different film with a higher focus on the importance of the political landscape within the Wizarding world. Adventures in central park have been switched with Wizard intrigue, assassination attempts creating international incidents and 3 card monty – but if you can keep up to speed with what is going on there is still plenty of fun moments.
So, should I go see it? This is a little tricky because even with our recap there is a lot of assumed knowledge walking in that might make it less easy to follow for the more casual movie goer. If you are familiar with the franchise and already invested then absolutely no brainer, while it generally has more in common with the 2nd Fantastic Beasts film than the first (as in more Wizard world and least Fantastic Beasts) there is still lots to enjoy. But if you have seen some Harry Potter and this is the first Fantastic Beasts movie you are seeing, best prepare whoever you go with that you are going to be asking “Who is that?” a lot.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secret of Dumbledore is in cinemas across Australia from April 7th