Fantastic Beasts: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE movie review

The magic is back! Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore represents a return to form for the Harry Potter spinoff series. After the disappointing Crimes of Grindelwald, veteran HP director David Yates crafts a fantastical movie that is sure to entertain Wizarding World fans. While the title suggests that there are many secrets the Dumbledore is hiding, the title is misleading because no one is keeping secrets in the movie. For those that were hoping for a character-study movie on Dumbledore and his relationship with Grindelwald, you won’t find much exploration here (as they discuss the fallout of their relationship in the opening scene). Most of the focus of the movie is on the action plot moreso than the character-driven elements, with the exception of Jacob Kowalski. It’s Kowalski’s story and love for Queenie that will dominate the emotional subplot. And for good reason: Kowalski is the best written character in the spinoff series. If you’re searching for something deeper, you can read an exploration of different images of relationships throughout the movie, but to be honest, that would be a little too generous. Suffice it to say, the movie may be largely one-dimensional, but that singular dimension is enough to meet most of the expectations of a fantasy movie. More so than the first two movies in this series, this one feels the most connected to the original Harry Potter movies. In that, there was an opportunity to spend an inordinate amount of time waxing nostalgic; but instead, there was just enough of a glimpse into familiar locations to remind us that the Fantastic Beasts takes places in the Wizarding World.

Professor Albus Dumbledore knows the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving to seize control of the wizarding world. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards and witches. They soon encounter an array of old and new beasts as they clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers.

Okay, we need to address the elephant in the room: Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. Between the controversy associated with the court battles and sexual battery charges against Depp by ex-wife Amber Heard and J.K. Rowling’s social media accusations of transphobia, this movie has undeniable baggage. And I am not here to discuss either topic, but we cannot address this movie without acknowledging that these high profile situations have certainly had an impact on the advertising and experience of the movie for many people. Beyond being cognizant that Mikkelsen replaced Depp because of Depp’s legal problems, neither pieces of baggage affected my reception of the movie. Still, audiences are given a different Grindelwald than was witnessed in the Crimes of Grindelwald. In contrast to Depp’s Grindelwald, Mikkensen’s is more dynamic and dark, two qualities that are fitting of the character. Had Depp reprised his role as Dumbledore, it’s entirely possible that we would’ve got Jack Sparrow as Grindelwald. Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald is terrifying at times–not so much because of the horrendous things he does–but because of that plus the fact he is reminiscent of a Machiavellian dictator in the vein of some real-world examples throughout history and even today.

Thematically, The Secrets of Dumbledore is about a topic(s) that should feel incredibly relevant: change and progress. The Ministry of Magic is at a crossroads, and so are Dumbledore, Kowalski, Grindelwald, and others. Too many characters, really. Some streamlining of characters would’ve been nice. Anyway. Furthermore, there are ancillary ideas of healing, learning from mistakes, and how to be a good citizen (or lack thereof) in the Wizarding World. Individually, all these ideas work well in the Harry Potter universe, but collectively these themes and ideas work to make the movie feel overstuffed. Clearly, Rowling knows complex plotting, but it feels as though she was so preoccupied with the desire to intentionally create a complex plot that her characters and story suffered. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is enjoyable! But it is more likely to encourage you to rewatch the Harry Potter movies than it is to become overly emotionally invested in Fantastic Beasts.

Is the magic there? Yes. Is it closer to form than the last one? Yes. Is there untapped potential in this movie? Yes. If you’re a fan of the Wizarding World, then you will likely find this movie entertaining! But if you’re hoping for the endearing nature of the original series, then you may be disappointed.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

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THE LOST CITY adventure movie mini-review

The lost screenplay. The whole time Loretta (Sandra Bullock), Alan (Channing Tatum), and Abigail (Daniel Radcliffe) are searching for the legendary fire crown on a mysterious, obscure volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic (that simultaneously is developed enough to have an airport and tourism economy), I was left wondering if the writers and director lost the screenplay, and just made it up as they went along. Clearly this film is an attempt to reimagine the adventure-romance classic Romancing the Stone, but lacks nearly everything that makes the aforementioned one of the best written screenplays of all time. What The Lost City does have is undeniable chemistry between all of our lead and supporting cast. And it’s this chemistry that will keep you from completely tuning out. A screenplay with a well-paced, structured story and well-developed characters can always have the funny bumped-up; whereas a screenplay that is a laugh-a-minute has a much more difficult time bumping up the plot and characters. Unfortunately, the latter is a more accurate description of this movie better suited for direct-to-streaming than a theatrical run. When the funny is rooted in bit or gag-based humor, it simply can’t sustain a movie’s energy and entertainment value. The release date is also puzzling. Since this movie is a romance of sorts, it would have made more sense to release in February for Valentine’s Day. Nothing is left to subtext…it’s all right there on the surface, requiring nothing of the audience. Furthermore, so little is required of the actors that all look like they are completely bored with the story and phoning-in performances. Interestingly, the best-developed character in the movie is Alan (Tatum), and that’s not saying much. Believe it or not, there IS a good movie (on the level of Romancing the Stone) in there somewhere–the characters and story are thoughtful and fun–but the poorly written screenplay holds the movie back from the potential that was clearly there.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

THE BATMAN movie review

Emo Batman: the detective. Matt Reeves’ highly anticipated adaptation of the caped crusader hits cinemas this week, and it is sure to elicit quite the polarized opinions amongst fans. Some will undoubtedly enjoy the gritty, realistic expression of Batman in an attempt at crafting a neo-noir detective story while others will find it to be poorly paced, overly emo, and joyless. While I am seldom completely in one camp or another on a polarized film, I am certainly closer to the latter moreso than the former. I certainly appreciate this take on the caped crusader as a detective and the aesthetically dark film; however, I agree that it is poorly paced, overtly emo, and completely joyless. Reeves’ adaptation shines best in its character development and interactions; furthermore, it’s equal parts plot and character-driven, which helps in the thoughtfulness, but the poor pacing and lack of anything joyful hold it back from the potential it clearly had. Clearly, this film is positioning itself as the anti MCU in that it places far greater value on the aesthetic of the film moreso than the entertainment value or dialogue. After watching it, I am left wondering what a neo-noir detective Batman movie directed by David Fincher would look like? In my opinion as a critic and film professor, the only director to accurately capture the essence of what we love about the BatVerse is Tim Burton is his brilliant Batman 89, and Batman Returns.

Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.

For some, the characters won’t feel like Batman characters as much as explorations of various forms of trauma; that stated, the characters have undeniable chemistry on screen, which makes them believable. The only characterization with which I take particular negative issue is Alfred; he is reduced from an integral element in the Batman mythos too little more than an expositional plot device. Costume wise, the new Batsuit works very well, and the Riddler’s costume is incredibly creepy, but Catwoman’s ski mask doesn’t work and The Penguin lacks any truly defining features. The Batmobile works great! It’s fantastic combination of a stock car (which Bruce Wayne would realistically have access to) and a little comicbook flare. While the score isn’t memorable, it offers some gorgeous orchestral movements that attempt to give this film gravitas. Still to this day, the best Batman score is Danny Elfman’s for 89 and Returns. The score of The Batman never feels like an extension of the characters, despite it being (as a musical composition) beautiful.

Since I am not a comicbook reader nor am I generally a fan of superhero movies, I do not feel that it is inaccurate to posit that idea that comicbooks and superhero movies were originally written and designed to be escapism. There was something special about being invited into a world similar to our own, but with a certain degree of whimsy that kept them entertaining and fun. The hand of the artist, an extension of their imagination is what seems to so often be missing in contemporary CBMs (comicbook movies). You have the agenda-driven post-End Game MCU on one side, and the overly dark, joyless DCEU on the other. Of course, there are exceptions such as Shang Chi and Wonder Woman. CBMs have strayed from their roots, and appear to have a blatant disregard for that which made them fun for mass audiences. From CBMs including elevated levels of colorful adjectives to reinforcing unfair characterizations which have a counterintuitive effect upon the idea of representation, it would be refreshing to have superhero movies that are entertainment and clever again, where there are suitable for older kids and teens, yet there are jokes, references, and double entendres that only adults will appreciate.

Who is the audience for The Batman? A question for which I am still searching for the answer.

Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.

Follow him on Twitter: RLTerry1

THE BATMAN Pop-up Exhibition

On a four-city tour, fans of Batman got to see the new costumes and Batmobile for the upcoming film The Batman! Fortunately, one of the stops was right here in Tampa! Contributor Danielle Mescall attended this past weekend, and you can checkout her writeup and photos below!

On Saturday February 19th, locals from Tampa had the chance to check out “The Batman special event,” where people got a sneak peak into the newest film adaptation in the Batman franchise.
As crowds lined up to see this exhibit for the new film releasing on March 4th, it is clear that the love for the caped crusader is still very strong and people from all generations are excited for this film.

At this event, you get the chance to see the newest Batmobile along with costumes for Batman, Selina Kyle, The Riddler, and The Penguin. In addition, you get to play trivia and join in raffles while you wait. Once you are in the tent, you can see the detail that these creators have put into it and it gives you the ability to picture yourself in the action as you look at all of the modern and sleek designs of the suits and the car.

Producer Dylan Clark explained in an interview, “We wanted the Batsuit and the Batmobile to look obviously like it was designed by one man, by Batman himself. The suit is tactical, it’s military, it’s purpose­driven, it’s practical. It’s also iconic; Batman has his own emblem, his cowl, his cape. We chose a design that Bruce Wayne, at 30 years old, would have built.”

After getting the chance to see the exhibit myself and after seeing other people’s reactions and responses, it seems to make the crowds and fans that more excited for March 4th!

The final two stops on this tour are listed below, so make sure to check out the exhibit if you can:
• 2/22 Miami, FL at Dolphin Mall
• 2/25–26 Philadelphia, PA

Batman
Catwoman
The Riddler
The Penguin
The Batmobile (exterior)
The Batmobile (interior)