It could be argued that the Fantastic Beasts series would’ve been better off following this ragtag group of bashful, underdog heroes around as they delved into their own whimsical adventures throughout the wizarding world with a focus set more on the fantastic beasts themselves instead of placing them all awkwardly into a convoluted political storyline that feels like it has to shoehorn various mystical creatures into it just so the franchise title makes sense. Instead, J.K. Rowling (joined by co-writer Steve Kloves in this third outing) chose to go the latter route, aiming to connect them to the Harry Potter-verse more directly than was likely needed.
I did enjoy Crimes of Grindelwald and was able to look past its fairly convoluted plot; however, Secrets of Dumbledore is just so lackluster that I can’t look past it again. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to name the third movie in a franchise that’s filled with such a wide array of main characters that we just know or care so little about. The Fantastic Beast films were always supposed to be a trilogy at the very least, according to Rowling. With that being said, you’d think by the third film we’d be heavily invested in the characters, yet not only is that not the case, but we’re adding even more characters to the mix here that are even less interesting and only serve to take time away from those we’ve spent two films with who are already struggling to have any sort of arcs of their own.
My rating for the film is generous in that it’s an average movie that will no doubt have its fans, yet I was tempted many times to rate it lower simply because I don’t believe it’s a movie that needed to be made. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore does feel like the final film in the series once all is said and done, yet we get there with such a whimper that it makes one question whether the journey was worth it at all.
If they had to go this political route with the story there are just so many more entertaining ways they could’ve gone to close it out. The final 30-minutes of the film are entertaining enough, though that may just be due to the fact that the first hour and forty minutes are often mind-numbingly boring. If this is the culmination of the trilogy (which again, it does feel like as the movie fades to black) then it should be nonstop craziness from start to finish, yet it’s anything but. Instead we have our lead characters go to two different political gatherings, and there’s a rescue scene that feels tacked on just so Newt (Eddie Redmayne) can showcase his magizoologist skills at least once in this movie.
Again, it doesn’t help that we just don’t know much about any of these characters we’ve spent so much time with already. Newt has been set up as the hero of the franchise, yet he plays like a supporting character that’s just there so the audience has someone to follow around. I’m not sure what his arc was over the course of these three films. One could argue it was him opening up to love and other people, but the story is just bogged down with so much other plot and subplots that Newt’s simple and relatable story suffers because of it.
It also doesn’t help that his romantic interest, Tina (Katherine Waterson) was all but cut from the film. It’s unclear as to why this was the case, with some suggesting scheduling conflicts after filming was delayed due to the pandemic, but others point to the fact that Waterson spoke out against Rowling’s controversial Twitter posts. Again, nothing is confirmed, and Redmayne and Law both also disagreed with Rowling’s posts, yet they’re also two characters who couldn’t be removed from the story.
With Tina nowhere to be found (she does show up in the final minutes as the film begins to put a bow on the remaining open storylines, though this only makes her absence throughout the ‘climactic’ finale all the more glaring) we lose a major character that’s been around from the start and this hinders Newt’s character progression greatly. This series isn’t comparable to Star Wars, but it’d be like Princess Leia just disappearing from Return of the Jedi and the audience being told she had some “diplomatic things to take care of” while Han and Luke continued on doing their thing, and some new generic female character was thrown into the mix just to balance things out.
The loss of Johnny Depp is also worth noting, as it would’ve been nice to keep that continuity over the course of the three films; however, what’s done is done and his replacement Mads Mikkelsen does the role justice. Mikkelsen actually makes the role feel a lot more sinister than Depp had, which works well for the things Grindelwald does in this third film. What’s awkward is Grindelwald’s storyline itself, as things don’t naturally flow from film to film. After the craziness that took place in The Crimes of Grindelwald (especially in the film’s final moments) it all feels like it comes to a screeching halt with Grindelwald being acquitted for all he’s done, which allows him to run for the leadership of the International Confederation of Wizards.
This is just another example of how slapped together this trilogy feels. I’ll just call it a trilogy now, as they could go on with it, but I’m not really sure why they would. Grindelwald’s big plan has always been to declare war on the Muggles, and his goal here is to become Supreme Mugwump and do just that. His plan is to use a ‘fantastic beast’ called a Qilin to secure this position, yet a lot of time is spent on a poor assassination attempt of one of the other Mugwump nominees by Grindelwald’s acolytes and it just makes you wonder why? Why spend so much time on all of this if Grindelwald already has an almost ironclad plan to win the election by nefarious means?
The Secrets of Dumbledore is two hours and twenty minutes long with so much wasted time. The tone is darker, yet we also lose too much of the whimsy from the previous films — or at least what was found in the first installment — and I’m honestly not sure how any younger audiences are following the politically heavy plot as it’s just so tedious. The final 30 minutes is all that truly matters here, and it does make one wonder how things weren’t handled better in the storytelling department. Newt is a fun character in the first film, and him learning to open himself up to friendship and love alongside Tina, Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) while out helping mythical creatures could’ve worked on its own for a series of films. That said, even going the route Rowling went, there’s a way to do it where Newt and his friends actually matter to the story and grow because of it instead of simply becoming pawns in a convoluted, unremarkable, completely forgettable wizarding tale like they did here.
4K Blu-ray Video and Audio Review:
The Secrets of Dumbledore is a darker film, and while there are a few scenes where the visuals pop, for the most part it’s a movie that’s black heavy, with lots of greyed tones over eye-popping colours that will make audiences swoon. Still, the 4K delivery of these darker tones is a strong one, with the images always coming through clean and strong, with no muddying happening and rich, deep blacks found throughout. The details are strong and even if you’re not a fan of the material the film puts out, the fantastic way it’s delivered from a visual standpoint can’t be argued with.
On the audio side of things we’ve got a wonderful Dolby Atmos mix, which gives a great atmospheric feel to the film, both in its various action sequences, as well as its quieter moments. As a whole the mix is really well handled, and you’ll never find yourself struggling to make out dialogue, or find it doing battle with the sound effects or score for superiority. Like any strong audio mix, the three work together harmoniously to deliver the best viewing and audio experience for the film’s at-home audience.
The Dumbledore Family Tree — This featurette is just under 9-minutes in length and focuses on the relatives of Albus Dumbledore going back multiple generations.
Dumbledore Through the Ages – This featurette comes in at just over 7-minutes in length and sees Director David Yates, Harry Potter Dumbledore actor Richard Harris, J.K. Rowling, Jude Law and multiple others all touch on the character’s importance, relevance and just the character as a whole.
Magical or Muggle – Here we have a four-and-a-half minute featurette where the cast and crew have a bit of fun playing a guessing game.
The Magic of Hogwarts – This piece comes in at just under 6-minutes in length and sees actor Jessica Williams, Law, Callum Turner, Victoria Yeates and various others all share their experiences of being on the iconic set.
Even More Fantastic Beasts – Here we’ve got a six-and-a-half minute piece that looks at the new creatures found within the latest film, as well as some returning favourites.
Newt in the Wild – This featurette is just under 5-minutes in length and sees Eddie Redmayne, producer David Heyman and other cast and crew talk about seeing Newt in an environment he’s actually comfortable and thrives in.
The German Ministry of Magic – We see the usual suspects return once again to talk about the German Ministry of Magic location in the film.
A Dumbledore Duel – This 4-minute featurette quickly touches on the brief battle that takes place between Albus and Credence in the film.
The Candidates’ Dinner – Here we’ve got a featurette that’s just under five minutes in length and breaks down the scene with actor Dan Folger, VFX supervisor Christian Manz and a few others.
Erkstag Jailbreak – This fearurette is also just under five minutes in length and we see another scene broken down by cast and crew, what it was like filming in a unique and practical location, as well as the visual effects that added some intensity to the scene in its closing moments.
Battle in Bhutan – This feature is just under six minutes in length and is another scene breakdown of one of the film’s larger battles.
The Secrets of Cursed Child – Here’s a five minute promotional piece for the Harry Potter stage production, which was written by Rowling years ago.
Deleted Scenes – There are five deleted scenes here for those who enjoyed the movie and want to see what didn’t make the final cut.
Disclaimer: A review copy of this Blu-ray was sent to me to cover in honest and truthful fashion.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Directed by: David Yates. Written by: J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves. Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Katherine Waterston. Running time: 142 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on 4K Blu-ray: June 28, 2022.