DUBAI: It’s been nearly 25 years since “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” first appeared on shelves, and the magic of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World endures stronger than ever. Parents that once read the books themselves are now passing that joy to their own children, with more and more still discovering the series’ breadth of imagination every day, either through the books, theme parks, augmented-reality video games, or the latest series of films, “Fantastic Beasts,” now in its third installment.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” helmed by Potter-veteran director David Yates, may be the 11th film in the franchise, but, for those involved, it is the most important film since the first. After all, the previous film, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” was seen as a disappointment to the series’ fans, with many feeling that the story was over-stuffed and missing the ebullient spirit of the first.
For Yates, the latest was a conscious attempt to capture the spirit not only of the first “Fantastic Beasts” film, but of those early adventures of ‘The Boy who Lived’ as well.
“Our previous episode was quite complicated, plot-wise, for all of us. It took us a while to figure that one out. With this story, in particular, we wanted it not only to be emotional, it had to be enjoyable, and to lean into the values of some of the earlier Potter films that had whimsy and charm, humor and humanity,” Yates tells Arab News.
It also leans heavily into the lore established in the Potter stories as well, centering around the early adventures of Albus Dumbledore, the head of the wizarding school of Hogwarts that Potter attends. While the Dumbledore we met in those stories was an old man near the end of his life, Dumbledore here is at his absolute peak, played vivaciously by Jude Law.
For Law, playing Dumbledore was not just about honoring the performances of the actors who came before him, but trying to get to the heart of a man who is not yet the wise old headmaster we previously came to love.
“It wasn’t about tracing his change, for me, it was a process of regression. One of the joys that David really allowed me to investigate was, rather than feeling the weight of the brilliant performances by Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, to really go back and understand that he's not the fully formed Dumbledore of the Harry Potter books and films. He's a man still finding his way, still confronting and resolving his demons,” says Law.
“In this film, he’s facing the past. He's facing himself and his own guilt. But if there were a quality that links him, I would say it's his mischievousness, his humor and his belief in people. He sees the positive, just as older Dumbledore believed in Draco Malfoy — he believed even in Tom Riddle who became (Potter’s nemesis) Voldemort. He sees the good, or the potential good. And I think that's something that he's always had, and I tried to bring here, too,” Law continues.
While Law’s Dumbledore takes center stage, the heart of the “Fantastic Beasts” series remains Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander, the charming, softs-spoken author of the Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the world’s foremost expert on mythical and magical animals, and a man of tremendous empathy for all living things. The key to the film, then, becomes the interplay between the two.
“What I love about Newt is that, fundamentally, he's an introverted guy, most comfortable with his creatures, in his own world, but Dumbledore has seen a quality in him. He sees the potential for leadership, albeit in an unconventional way. What I love about this movie is that it’s a wizarding heist movie, in which this group of outsiders all band together and the leader is just as unconventional as the rest. There’s a kind of wonder in that,” says Redmayne.
While the previous film may not have captured the attention of younger audiences in the way that the Potter films once did, the whole team went to extra lengths to make sure that this one did — and they’re extremely pleased with the results.
“We showed it to a little audience a few weeks ago, and there was this very young kid in the audience. Everyone turned to him when the lights went out and said, ‘What do you think?’” says Yates.
“The boy looked at me and he said, ‘I liked it. It's really human.’ And I thought, ‘We'll take that.’ We've made a film with all this extraordinary stuff in it, and the one thing he takes away from it is it’s really human. That's a testament to the performances and the story, in which everything is really human — which we could use more of in the world we’re living in now.”