Haunted Mansion Review

 Ready for a little spookiness in August? I'll be honest the desire to throw on a jumper, buy pumpkins and embrace all things spooky has hit me early this year, mainly due to the depressing summer weather here in the UK. But something still feels slightly off about releasing a ghost movie in the middle of summer but that is exactly what Disney have done with Haunted Mansion. Haunted Mansion is the second film of its name release by Disney, The Haunted Mansion (Rob Minkoff, 2003) was my go-to childhood scary movie, although there is no link between the two films. It is also the second film to be based on a Disney ride, the first being the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The ride features at five Disney Parks, under three names: The Haunted Mansion, Phantom Manor and Mystic Manor, and the film makes numerous nods to the dark ride. So, join me foolish mortals on a journey to the Haunted Mansion.  Haunted Mansion's opening act is perfect, scary and full of mystery. As we open

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review

The time has come to once again journey to the wizarding world, but will we find a magical instalment upon our arrival or a silly mess? Let's face it, it was always going to be hard to emulate the success of the Harry Potter films but so far both instalments of the Fantastic Beasts films have been embarrassingly bad. With almost the same team behind these films it's hard to contemplate how far off the mark Fantastic Beasts have been. The third film in the franchise; Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore follows in its predecessors' messy footprints, however there are glimmers of Harry Potter magic attempting to pierce through the mess. With the planned fourth and fifth films yet to be greenlit, the box office reception is crucial to the continuation of the franchise. So, is The Secrets of Dumbledore strong enough to warrant the final instalments? Read my full review to find out. (There will be minor spoilers after this point - you have been warned). 

Plot wise, Secrets of Dumbledore is not particularly memorable. It picks up after Crimes of Grindelwald in a disjointed manor, with Newt (Eddie Redmayne) on a magizoologist mission whilst Dumbledore (Jude Law) meets up with Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) in a presumably not real location. The film takes us on a journey that sees Dumbledore attempt to move against Grindelwald without coming into direct conflict. To do this Dumbledore assembles a sub-par team comprising of: Newt, Jacob (Dan Fogler), Theseus (Callum turner), Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Yusuf (William Nadylam) and newcomer Lolly (Jessica Williams) a charms professor from Ilermorny. In a rather-drawn out fashion the group attempt to misdirect Grindelwald, although it's unclear if their actions actually had any affect. On Grindelwalds side we have a very unhappy Queenie (Alison Sudol) and a lonely Credence (Ezra Millar) who is preparing to fight and kill Dumbledore. The narrative is at best simple, at worse dull, it lacks the mystery of the second film and the world building of the first. Then there is the erasing of two characters, Tina (Katherine Waterston) appears only in the final scene, her absence is explained to be because of a new job. But Nagini (Claudia Kim) is not even mentioned, it is as if she never existed. Both absences are more than noticeable and certainly pull you from the narrative.  

Tonally The Secrets of Dumbledore is all over the place, Newts opening scene goes from a heart-breaking animal death worthy of tears to an overly happy and cute appearance of Teddy in all of twenty seconds which is jarring. But this pretty much sets the feel of the film, where jumping from animal sacrifices and deaths by animals to silliness occurring frequently. The most noticeable change in tone, however, comes from Mads Mikkelsen's Grindelwald. No longer is Grindelwald a menacing, powerful, centre of attention bad guy he is now a generic, almost dull bad guy. He no longer has the presence of a charismatic leader; he is not captivating in any sense and barely holds any attention whilst on screen. It's a real shame that a change of actor ultimately led to a change of character. Whilst on the topic of characters, it is key to notice that the Fantastic Beasts, have not kept one lead female character throughout, Tina has been erased, Queenie is a secondary character and Leta who was the best part of the second film was murdered. The Harry Potter films always had a balanced cast, which is why it's so sad to see such a male dominated series in the Wizarding World. The range of characters however is impressive, awkward Newt and his handsome brother finally get along, Dumbledore and Grindelwald's relationship one once of love makes the build up to their final battle exciting (assuming that will happen in the potential fifth film).

One thing that Secrets of Dumbledore did get right however was the magic, with less focus on beasts this time, we got to see more magic. Complete with fight scenes, spellbinding charms and funny spells - such as Dumbledore's floating gloves. The frequent shots and scenes in Hogwarts also helped to ground the film, giving us a base to go back to, it also evokes memories of Harry Potter which add to the magic. However, the Harry Potter theme in the score did feel unearned. The beasts also felt like they fitted within the narrative for the first time, rather than the narrative being worked around them. One element of the magic however made little sense, why did all the fights happen in alternate versions of the world? If this had happened once, it would have been cool, but every time there is a battle - was a little to much. 

Overall, Fantastic Beasts is an okay film, it's not bad but it's not great. Will it be enough to keep the franchise going? Perhaps not, but would that be a bad thing, after all we now have three messy, silly films do we need two more? Don't get me wrong, there are moments of pure magic throughout, the jokes and beasts are better placed, and the range of characters is impressive. They are improving with each film, maybe film five will be as good as the Harry Potter films. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you for reading my review. xx