It's the most fantastic of the three on many levels, but there's still a way to go.
'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore' knows, for the most part, what it needs to do. While 'Where To Find Them' was a strong beginning to a new story, 'The Crimes Of Grindelwald' took the endless potential of its predecessor and extinguished its most potent flames.
But Wizarding World fans can breathe a sigh of relief – 'The Secrets Of Dumbledore' brings a lot of the magic from the first film back, and successfully tugs on nostalgic heartstrings with just enough force not to overdo it.
First of all, Mads Mikkelsen is divine as Gellert Grindelwald. There's a realness to his villainy – and in a fascinating opening scene, it's almost possible to like him for a moment. There's dimension, depth and a subtlety here which Mads fully embodies.
Jude Law is, as he was in 'The Crimes Of Grindelwald', a wonderful young Dumbledore. It is clear he has done the work when it comes to characterisation, there are flickers of Michael Gambon's cheeky portrayal of the headmaster from the 'Harry Potter' films (3 to 8) which makes him a highly suitable choice for this role. Plus, the on-screen chemistry between Jude and Mads feels fleshed out and natural.
This is essentially a film grounded in a queer love story, and it does a beautiful job just 'being' that without any cringe, stereotypical bells and whistles to check a rainbow box. It doesn't feel like it's been done for the sake of it, or for the attention of a particular audience. As a gay man, I was impressed with its ability to present two men with a romantic history and not overdo it in an attempt to pander.
While this is a new story, it's still part of a franchise loved by millions for two decades. It would be foolish to ignore this. Thankfully, 'The Secrets Of Dumbledore' acknowledges it with a nod and a warm hug, and those wanting a flicker of the past will get what they desire. Familiar sets and spine-tingling music will surely bring a tear to many eyes, as they did mine. Of course, it's no secret there's another return to Hogwarts, but don't worry. . . This isn't overdone either. There's a danger in catering too generously to nostalgic 'Harry Potter' fans and leaving the 'Fantastic Beasts' story behind, but that never happens here. There's balance, and careful consideration, which feels so beautiful and so lovingly crafted you'll want to watch it over and over.
In terms of the plot, we're still moving fairly slowly. However, with two more 'Fantastic Beasts' films set for release, one can only assume this film, with its feeling of reinvigoration to the franchise, will be the first step in finally giving the 'Fantastic Beasts' world somewhere really excellent to travel to, and then, ultimately, to arrive at.
Returning cast members like Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler bring the charm, as per usual. Oh, and for the hopeless romantics out there, rest assured that Jacob and Queenie's (Alison Sudol) love story is far from over.
Jessica Williams is spellbinding and sassy as Eulalie Hicks, and we see more of Callum Turner as Newt's brother Theseus here too. Ezra Miller as Credence gets an intense duel sequence with Dumbledore which shows off just a taste of the boundless creativity and possibility of a well-supported special effects department in 2022. The beasts throughout are another example of this; so wonderfully realistic, and one animal in particular serving as a major plot point will absolutely melt your heart.
Upon reflection, it seems as though what works about 'The Secrets Of Dumbledore' is that there's just enough of all the things you'd want from it. Sure, that minimises a few of the moments (for example, the title of the film feels too strong for what is offered to us) but overall, this is a return to form. While moving a little slower than expected plot-wise, there's enough action sequences, character developments and setups to signal huge promise for the future of 'Fantastic Beasts'.
'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore' is in cinemas 7 April.