Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore Poster — Three Quick Notes about Ensemble Pic


Three Quick Notes:

(1) Compare and Contrast: Five years ago, we were given a group picture of the principal players in Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald. Unlike the picture above, everyone was in the same room and grouped according to allegiance and affection. That picture was a telling transparency of the movie about to be released; see my interpretation of it at that time,Crimes of Grindelwald Group Portrait,’ for all the give-aways embedded in the iconographic portrait. Though very different in composition than the 2017 ensemble shot, structured to be read from the top down rather than left to right, I think the new picture, too, is telling a story about the film about to be released.

(2) The Story Depicted: The ‘main event’ in the Secrets of Dumbledore, the pivot story and ‘meaning in the middle of the five part film franchise, is Albus Dumbledore. In the allegory of the soul Rowling is writing in Fantastic Beasts — every Rowling book thus far has been an exercise in depictional psychology thus far so we can assume this series is too — the soul in question is Albus Dumbledore, simultaneously Everyman and Superman.

As the picture shows, his left or sinister side is the dragon-esque Grindelwald and his right, the aspect within him that only does what is good and correct rather than for personal or political advantage, is Newt Scamander, whose ability to understand and communicate with Beasts is Christ-like, i.e., logos rooted. Note the light at the tip of DDore’s and Newt’s wands and the darkness at Gellert’s and their respective lines of sight; Newt and Albus have the same vision and Albus has turned his back on his childhood friend. The phoenix that is the central heat, light, and principal action of the picture, the dividing point of top and bottom and the backdrop of the title, is Dumbledore’s “beast within,” the resurrection bird and familiar or “inner light” of Christ in the language of the Radical Reformation magi. The film will be the solve et coagula crisis of Dumbledore’s struggle to throw off his oath and magical chains to his dark side, represented in the exterior world by Gellert Grindelwald, and the Transfiguration teacher’s metamorphosis into his true self, the phoenix, with Newt’s support.

(3) The Side Show: The three characters above the phoenix are the main event and the seven below are the corresponding supporting cast or bit players. Those closest to the front, Newt’s brother Theseus and Yusuf Kama, were not in the first film and I doubt either will live to see the finale; they have their places here, I’m guessing, because their action in Beasts 3 will be the pinnacle of their roles. Not vto mention they are very handsome. The two men are backed by a parallel pair of attractive women, Eulalie Hicks (Redwall fans rejoice at that first name!) and Queenie Goldstein. The third and last tier of the under-staging has Newt’s assistant Bunty behind Lallie and Credence and Jacob backing Queenie. Only Credence is not wielding a wand with a light tip (even Jacob gets one!), which emphasizes that the only members of Team Grindelwald, the dark side, depicted are Gellert, Aurelius, and Queenie, whose allegiance as a faithful servant to the first Dark Lord is clearly suspect  because of her illumined wand.

These are supposed to be ‘quick notes’ so I will not strain an interpretation of the undercard in this story depiction beyond “they are not the main event.” I suspect that Credence will play a much larger part than his background-filler slot here suggests because the Obscurus/Obscurial theme of which he is the principal exteriorization of soul and shadow in Rowling’s work to date is the mirror reflection in allegory of the Dumbledore-Grindelwald battle and Theseus-Newt conflict. I think the orphan is being downplayed here because the actor who plays the part and the character himself are both relatively unpopular with movie goers (can you say, ‘The CCP’?) and not apt to generate ticket sales as Jude Law and company will. 

And who isn’t depicted? The two most important absences are Tina Goldstein and Leta Lestrange. I’m hopeful that this is to protect the Big Reveal in the story about these two being active under a Demiguise cloak or the magic of Polyjuice Potion. I doubt very much that we have seen the last of these two players or that they will be given a vacation during the pivotal series story-turn in Secrets; perhaps they are the ‘Secrets’ of Albus Dumbledore’s plan. Using the Goldstein sisters would be a natural for an accomplished alchemist, right? No surprise if the title is more meaningful than its surface suggestion that Dumbledore was once a Grindlewald fan.

Your comments and corrections are coveted, as always. What, if anything, do you make of this poster? Is there any significance to the absence in the title graphic of any Deathly Hallows symbolism, something predominant in the Crimes of Grindelwald graphics? Is the central place of the Phoenix in the poster a pointer to Frank the Firebird in Beasts1, a marker that Beasts3 as the five part series’ pivot will echo the first film as Goblet did Philosopher’s Stone and Lethal White did Cuckoo’s Calling?


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Is one of the secrets of Dumbledore how he and Fawkes became associated with each other – might this movie include a Fawkes origin story? (By the way, is the name of the benevolent Fawkes just a throw-away ‘joke’ with perhaps a good dash of hommage to Edith Nesbit and The Phoenix and the Carpet, or what possible dimensions might it have with reference to the original Guy? (some kind of Peter-John reversal? – !) – but perhaps this movie is also a ‘how Fawkes came to be called that’ story?)

  2. Thanks for this John – really enjoyable reading of the poster! (And I like the fact that it places Kama with the good guys, although he could be on either in the trailer…).

    I think there is (or at least could be) a small bit of Deathly Hallows imagery – the wand hidden within the upright of the ‘D,’ is presumably the Elder Wand?

  3. Could be! I see that the underlining of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is also a wand, so maybe it is the Deathly Hallows’ Death Stick.

    Or is that the mysterious ‘magic wand’ of No-Maj Jacob Kowalski?

    Does anyone else think that Albus Dumbledore has loaded Jacob’s gift wand with protective charms that the Muggle can unload in the inevitable emergency? Hard for me to believe he would invite Jacob into this deadly adventure — into Nurmengard Castle to confront Grindelwald and Queenie? — without giving him a weapon of some kind.

    I enjoy that the most mysterious and important characters, the once-Squib and the presumably forever No-Maj American, are the smallest one in perspective on the poster. Their transformation in ‘Secrets’ will be something akin to a magnification of their depiction on the promotional image.

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