Return to the magic.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a 2022 fantasy film directed by David Yates, written by J.K. Rowling and Steve Kloves, produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and Heyday Films, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is based off of J.K. Rowling's 2001 guidebook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It stars Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law. This is the eleventh film in the Wizarding World franchise, although the third in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. It was preceded by Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and will be followed by Fantastic Beasts 4.
"If we're to defeat him, you'll have to trust me." - Albus Dumbledore
With the shadow of a war being cast over the Wizarding World, Albus Dumbledore and Newt Scamander must assemble a team to take down Gellert Grindelwald and save both the muggle and magic world.
Let me preface this with a quick statement: I'm not crazy about the Fantastic Beasts series as a whole. I don't really like either of the first two movies, but I'm always hopeful when it comes to the Wizarding World, so I was looking forward to this movie.
And what this movie does much better than both Fantastic Beasts movies is it makes you care about the characters. I've always liked Newt and Jacob, but I haven't really cared for Theseus, Queenie, Credence, or even Dumbledore. This movie makes you care about them. They all feel more accessible. Theseus is upgraded to a more prominent role in this movie. You see his dynamic with Newt, which makes him much more likable. You see how Grindelwald is affecting Queenie and you sympathize with her. Credence has a great little arc here that I will not spoil, but I really like what they did with him. And Dumbledore is the titular character. It gives you a look into his psyche, which we don't get in any of the Harry Potter movies. It shines a different light on him, and I really appreciated that.
Like the earlier Potter films, this movie really shows us that there are two sides to this story: there's a good side and an evil side. The first Fantastic Beasts doesn't really have a villainous presence throughout. And Crimes of Grindelwald is a complete mess, so you don't really feel like there's a clear separation of sides. This film makes it clear that there are two sides, and characters do switch sides. Some of the arcs that the smaller characters have that end in them switching sides is great. When you create an impactful good versus evil scenario, it can be very satisfying. And I think that Secrets of Dumbledore nails that aspect.
Another thing that I felt like Fantastic Beasts was missing was the classic wizard-on-wizard duels. The first two films are shockingly devoid of action. This film was action-packed. And the action is wizard-on-wizard duels. You feel the spells hit. That's something that I always thought the Harry Potter franchise had going for it. The action was so intense because spells can be very dangerous and, a lot of times, fatal. And it felt like Secrets of Dumbledore recaptured that.
The last part of this movie is absolutely incredible. The climaxes of the Harry Potter films are all really, really good, but I felt like the climaxes of the Fantastic Beasts films had been lacking a little bit. Secrets of Dumbledore brings the action, but it also has all the right moments of payoff and little references to things from the Harry Potter movies. There's a certain scene involving three briefcases near the end that is absolutely fantastic. I won't spoil, but it hit all the right nostalgia buttons for me personally. Besides that, it feels like the mid-season finale. It feels like a turning point in the war against Grindelwald. Being that this is supposed to be the third out of five Fantastic Beasts movies, I'm happy with that. It feels like it built up stakes and made Grindelwald feel like a true, terrifying threat. I loved that last thirty minutes. It's great. You will leave the theater feeling very satisfied.
I think Secrets of Dumbledore also improves both Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as Crimes of Grindelwald. The big twist at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald was kind of stupid and non-sensical, but Secrets of Dumbledore resolves that twist. It fixes it. It also gives Grindelwald more time to shine and feel like a true menacing threat. And it knows when to include Dumbledore. It knows to use Hogwarts. It knows to press some of the nostalgia buttons while not over-relying on fan service. And it keeps the plot of the movie simple and easy to understand. Crimes of Grindelwald was so confusing. Secrets of Dumbledore is not. Which is good.
While Secrets of Dumbledore may be less confusing than Crimes of Grindelwald, it's still a pretty messy film. One thing that the Fantastic Beasts films all have in common is that they are all overstuffed. This film is not nearly as overstuffed as the first two, but it still has a lot going on. There are parts of the movie that stray from the main plot line entirely. There's a really funny sequence in a cave with a bunch of crab-looking creatures that goes on for about ten minutes. I really liked that part. It was hilarious. But it barely contributed to the main plot. It felt like a total diversion. And I think that's where the messiness comes in. J.K. Rowling writes her screenplays like they are a book. There are little side adventures sprinkled throughout the story. While that may work in a book, it doesn't really work in a movie.
Because of these side adventures, the film doesn't really do a good job of building out stakes. There's tension, because you are constantly worried for the safety of our main characters, but there isn't really stakes. Grindelwald is a menacing villain because Mads Mikkelsen is a commanding screen presence and his character is written to be a major threat to our heroes, but you don't really feel like he's the most dangerous wizard of all time. With Voldemort, you feel the threat he poses to the Wizarding World. With Grindelwald, you don't.
There are also events that happen throughout the film with barely any setup. The climax takes place during a major political event that seems like it would have massive ramifications on the entire Wizarding World...and it hasn't been talked about in either of the first two films. It was barely touched on in this film. Part of the problem is this: Secrets of Dumbledore takes place six years after Crimes of Grindelwald. And you don't feel that at all. There's no sense of the amount of time that has passed. It feels like the solution to this problem is very simple, so hopefully, they set major events up before paying them off.
The thing I hoped Secrets of Dumbledore would do the most is capture the magic of the Harry Potter films. Harry Potter had this sense of wonder and excitement that Fantastic Beasts simply cannot get right. And, while Secrets of Dumbledore scrapes the surface on that front, it can't quite give you that Potter magic. And I wish it did. It still doesn't entirely feel like Potter to me. And that's really frustrating.
Should you go see Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore?
Yes. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should. Even casual viewers should. It's a fun fantasy film. It's not great. But it's a fun time at the movies. And die-hard Potterheads will want a fourth film, which will only happen if Secrets of Dumbledore does well at the box office, so let's support this movie and buy a ticket.
Final Thoughts and Score
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore can't quite recapture the magic of Harry Potter, but it does have action-packed spectacle, fun characters, and a thrilling climax.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore"
Fun Factor: 8/10
Story: 6.5/10 Quality: 7/10
Directed by David Yates
Rated PG-13 for fantasy violence and action, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on April 15, 2022
2 hours and 22 minutes
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald
Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone
Dan Folger as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Jessica Williams as Lally Hicks
Richard Coyle as Aberforth Dumbledore
Victoria Yeates as Bunty Broadacre
William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama
Oliver Masucci as Anton Vogel
Poppy Corby-Tuech as Vinda Rosier
Katherine Waterston as Porpentina Goldstein