One of the most heart-warming parts of this delightfully silly film is the trip to Hogwarts where we glimpse a game of quidditch followed by a visit to the Great Hall where student magicians sit at long refectory tables in their wizarding gowns. When a group of boys pull a stunt and Dumbledore gives three points to Hufflepuff, we are back with Harry Potter, where it all began.
The scenes help put in context J.K. Rowling’s adjacent and occasionally overlapping tale of the ongoing battle between dark and light with Albus Dumbledore as a youngish man, before he became headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and long before Harry was under the stairs.
Dumbledore, played with charm by Jude Law, learns of a plot by the dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp) to seize control of the wizarding world. The problem in stopping him lies in the youthful blood oath that once united them but now locks Grindelwald and Dumbledore in a standoff, neither able to move against the other. Dumbledore needs outside help and recruits a band of unlikely heroes headed by magizoologist Newt Scamander, an endearing Eddie Redmayne who we met in the two earlier Fantastic Beasts films, a couple of wizards and witches, and the muggle with a good heart, baker Jacob Kowalski, still pining for his lost Queenie.
Their main job is to keep safe the mythical qilin (chillin), a gorgeous, faun-like creature with iridescent scales and the ability to nose out the next true head of the wizarding world and bow before them. Newt had tracked the mother qilin and managed to save her newborn before she was killed. Of course, Grindelwald had other plans and has raised from the dead the qilin’s twin, a chimera to bend to his will.
Newt is as boyish and eccentric as ever, still accompanied by Pickett the bowtruckle, his pocket plant, and Teddy the niffler with his platypus bill and love of anything shiny. One extended scene in which Newt keeps at bay an army of prawn-like, menacing manticore by beguiling them with a hip-swaying, arms-aloft dance, is irresistibly silly and great fun to watch.
Their adventures circle the globe and take in a beautiful region in China with limestone caves and waterfalls, and later Berlin where we see a lot of soaring, brutalist architecture. But the final wizard selection takes place in Bhutan, the mystical, semi-sealed Buddhist kingdom with sky temples built into the sides of mountains. While they could not film there, Bhutan’s soaring landscapes, fluttering flags, prayer wheels, stony buildings and stairways bring a powerful sense of mystical grandeur. As the final scenes unfolded, it felt pleasurably escapist to be back in a world where magic makes things right.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in cinemas from tomorrow (April 7).
When you commit to a regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly tax-deductible donation to InReview, each scheduled donation will be matched by Creative Partnerships Australia. That means you’re supporting twice as many InReview stories to be commissioned, edited and published.Donate Here
This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.