Although “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is earning middling reviews from critics (it launched on Rotten Tomatoes with a 59% from 39 reviews), nearly every critic agrees Mads Mikkelsen is a vast improvement over Johnny Depp as the villainous wizard Grindelwald. Depp played the character in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” but he was removed from the new film just one week into production. Warner Bros. asked Depp to exit the movie following his libel case against The Sun. Mikkelsen was brought in to replace Depp.
By taking over the role of Grindelwald, Mikkelsen becomes the primary antagonist of the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. The actor told Entertainment Weekly that taking over from Depp was “tricky” because “there has to be a bridge between what Johnny did and what I’m going to do. And at the same time, I also have to make it my own.” Critics appear to favor Mikkelsen in the role far more than they did Depp.
“Mikkelsen slips into the role of Grindelwald so naturally that it’s easy to forget Depp had ever played the role,” writes Insider’s Kirsten Acuna. “With Depp, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to follow a wizard who comically looked like another bizarre invention out of the actor’s menagerie of eccentric characters he’s played over the years. In contrast, Mikkelsen plays Grindelwald with a suave, charming charisma that convinces you of why anyone would be seduced by this alluring, handsome wizard and be suckered into fighting a war for him.”
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw wrote in his review that Mikkelsen “gives a subtler and more insidious performance than Depp’s,” while The Telegraph’s Robbie Cullen argues that Mikkelsen’s performance proves he “should have been cast from the start” instead of Depp. Time Out’s Caroline McGinn writes that “Mikkelsen makes a fantastically sinister replacement for Johnny Depp,” and the AV Club’s Tomris Laffly calls Mikkelsen “a dynamic alternative to Depp’s stony façade.”
“It’s a boon for the series,” The Times of London’s Kevin Maher writes about getting Mikkelsen to take over for Depp. “Mikkelsen’s simmering intensity adds a new layer of threat to the character but also suggests a credibly torrid romantic history with Dumbledore.”
USA Today’s Brian Truitt adds, “While Depp’s take – essentially playing Grindelwald as a wild-haired freaky cult leader — was fine, Mikkelsen’s feels more dangerous, as he wields a public charm as crowd-pleasing, manipulative man of the people while hiding his inherent ruthless cruelty.”
“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” opens in US theaters April 15.