REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

It was an interesting take… but did it really do its job?

To long-time Harry Potter fans like myself, seeing the wizarding world on screen again is a big pleasure. Listening to the famous Harry Potter anthem always gives me the shivers, and it did so this time when the anthem was played in the new Fantastic Beasts series. The jolt is from the nostalgia of the story of the boy who lived; it is hard to separate the Harry Potter series from this new spin-off that takes place between. In this sense, this movie was highly interesting in showing diversity in characters and location. We have seen more racial diversity in roles not to mention the story happening outside the UK too, in contrast with the Harry Potter series where the wizarding world seemed to be centered around Hogwarts. The scene where the Manhatten bridge was emphasized in the background was not only pretty but symbolized this change. However, there are some points that did not seem right in consideration of the prior series:

  1. Would the wizards, who have their organized ministry, solely depend on an animal to choose their leader? I guess this was necessary to add a reason for Newt to join the adventure and focus more on Fantastic beasts as the title suggests, but this election process was even odder because the reason why the wizarding world is doing that is not fully explored but suggested abruptly. The audience hears that the animal would ‘bow’ to a great soul and thus is used to choose a leader. It sounds a bit weird, and no further details were given or world-building hadn’t been done to make the story more believable.
  2. The existence of an international wizarding organization and a leader seems to be a bit odd-if such a thing existed, why didn’t they intervene when Voldemort threatened peace?

Story-wise, there were also some issues. Firstly, the charm of the characters is weak because it is told, not shown; making it hard for the audience to resonate with them. For example, Albus Dumbledore suddenly praises Newt after he himself did a grand duel with Grindelwald, and says that he couldn’t have defeated Grindelwald if Newt haven’t helped. However, Newt’s brilliance was not shown in this film, except for the time when he danced to a herd of magical lobsters. The appraise seemed a bit sudden, and so was the headmaster’s praise of Mr. Kowalski. Albus Dumbledore insists that he has a good heart, but the audience has left a mystery about why it is so. In general, I feel that too many stories needed to be in the same movie that none of them was developed to a level that would be interesting. Many ideas, such as the wizarding election, Credence’s troubles, and Aberforth’s conflict with Albus were just briefly mentioned and not discussed thoroughly. Characters are suddenly thrown into the story, without any explanation on why they have to be there. However, the exploration is what makes the audience like the character and fall for the story. This movie, in that sense, did not do such a great job. We’ll see how the next episode of the series, which will be sure to be produced considering how the story ended, may try to improve the loose storyline.

PREVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

J.K. Rowling’s magical world is hitting the screen again in the State theater. Since the beloved motive series of the boy who lived(Harry Potter) ended on 2011, the legacy of the wizarding world is being continued through another world lead by Eddie Redmane as Newt Scamander. This new series follow a young man who devotes himself to the care of magical animals who happens to find that more life than the animals he is taking care of, in fact, a big part of the wizarding world, might depend on him. While the story is not directly related to the Harry Potter series, it will also intrigue the original Harry Potter fans by unveiling the story of Albus Dumbledore, the wise and mysterious headmaster from the original series, when he didn’t have the long, dragging beard. The role is played by Jude Law in the new series-this gives some hints about the characteristics of the wise man in his young days!
This series kicked off with question mark hovering over the fans of the series as it had a big casting change on one of its main character and villain(?), Grindelwald – the character was starred by Johnny Depp untill the second motive of the series, but will be played by Mads Mikkelsen from this movie. How this change will affect the color of the series; we shall find out soon enough.

REVIEW: The Danish Girl

(Please note: This review is written in such a manner as to not spoil the film for those who have yet to see it.)

The Danish Girl is a fictionalization of the true story of painter Lili Elbe—the first transgender woman to undergo a sex change operation—and her wife, Gerda Wegener. It stars Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Alicia Vikander (The Man from U.N.C.L.E) in these roles, respectively, and is a bittersweet little film set in 1920s Copenhagen.

Everything about The Danish Girl is beautiful and tragic, from the brilliant acting by Redmayne, Vikander, and the supporting cast, to the gorgeous cinematography and settings and costumes, to Alexandre Desplat’s haunting score. Director Tom Hooper clearly has a knack for period pieces—and for filming Eddie Redmayne, with whom he previously worked on Les Misérables. Hooper perfectly captures both the prickly uneasiness of Redmayne’s Lili first experiencing the discomfort of being subjected to the male gaze and the lovely empowerment of her discovering what it feels like to be at home in her own body for the first time.

However, if anything, Vikander actually upstages Redmayne in many respects. While this film definitely feels like it was made primarily as a vehicle to showcase Redmayne’s range after last year’s Oscar win for The Theory of Everything, Gerda’s pain, love, and desperation to understand and help Lili are apparent in every shot of Vikander. The film is easily as much hers as it is Redmayne’s.

The Danish Girl is perhaps a little too long, and feels almost a little too proud of itself for tackling the story it has, especially considering how the filmmakers cast a cisgender male in one of the few roles built for a transgender actor. Despite this, it still accomplishes what it set out to do—not to tell the drama of Lili transitioning from man to woman, as much as to share the love story between Lili and Gerda.

In the end, the title character of “the Danish Girl” could be either one of them. Perhaps, it is up to the audience to decide.

The Danish Girl opens at the State Theater on Thursday, December 24th. Tickets are available now at the box office.

PREVIEW: The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking.

What: The Theory of Everything
Where: Michigan Theater
When: Various times until 12/11 (click here for showtimes)
Price: $8 for students with a valid MCard, $10 for adults

The Theory of everything is about the love story of Jane and Stephen hawking. If the nature of this movie doesn’t already entice you to watch it, then the indie-classic quality of the movie should. The film stars Eddie Redmayne (Marius from Les Miserables) as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking. Under the direction of James Marsh, The Theory of everything delves into an interesting world of philosophy, science, and love, all while being set in beautiful locations such as the University of Cambridge.