Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Marks a New Low for the Wizarding World

The latest entry to the Wizarding World franchise has arrived to a muted fanfare. With its predecessor muddying the critical waters, The Secrets of Dumbledore carries a considerable weight on its shoulders. Does it recapture the magic that made the Harry Potter films what they were? Whatever you expect the answer to be, this writer can assure you: it is worse than you think. 

The Secrets of Dumbledore features the rise of the fascist Grindelwald and the magically infused team that set out to stop him. The film opens with a confrontation that fans of the series will have been very much looking forward to. Albus Dumbledore, played with effortless charm by Jude Law, is meeting someone but seems quite the bag of nerves when compared to the omniscient presence that the elderly Dumbledore brought to the Harry Potter films. When his guest arrives, the one and only Mads Mikkelsen sits opposite him. Fans of the series, and everyone who hasn’t lived under a rock, will be aware of the issues regarding Johnny Depp and how Mikkelsen was recast in his place.

The pair share a scene featuring both chemistry and tension. One can momentarily feel the affection the two characters once had for each other. A far cry from the previous entries wherein Dumbledore’s sexuality was repressed in a way that can only be described as offensive. This film won’t break new ground in its depiction, but it can’t help but feel exhaustively late. When representation is shown to be as important as it is, one cannot help but wonder what took them so long? The scene is the emotive focal point in what proves to be a bright spot soon extinguished by the rest of the film. 

The Secrets of Dumbledore is once again directed by David Yates who helmed the first two Fantastic Beasts films, and oversaw the conclusion to the Harry Potter saga. However, after this film, one can only wonder whether the time is nigh for a fresh face to be given control going forward. J.K. Rowling is on screenplay duties with Steve Kloves this time around. Rowling was the sole screenwriter for the first two films which both suffered from a weak script. The overwhelming number of narrative clichés present in this one seems to truly doom what little it has yet to offer. 


It is anyone’s guess who the target audience for the film really is. There are serious inconsistencies in tone and pace that feel on the one hand to be aimed at a mature viewer, but then feel subverted by CGI creatures attempting to entertain the younger viewers. Couple all of this with an election subplot that feels at pains to say something about our own world. It all comes off as nonsensical at best, and cringeworthy at worst.

With the writing being the biggest weakness ofThe Secrets of Dumbledore, it is the characters who suffer the consequences. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, supposed protagonist of the franchise, takes a backseat along with other established characters making their presence in the film questionable. These characters resemble bystanders in their own franchise. One character in particular who was vital in previous instalments is all but absent apart from a brief, almost wordless cameo. Newcomers arrive with plenty of screen time, but fail to even dent the viewer’s interest. Ezra Miller’s character was given a bombshell twist (attempt) in the previous film which is laughably brushed off here.

A saving grace is the performances of Mikkelsen and Law. Mikkelsen (who could find chemistry with a patio table) is more restrained than Depp, which makes him more malevolent than over the top. He is a welcome addition based on the fact that he, along with Law, will surely be carrying the franchise by the next instalment. This film suffers from forgettable characters endeavouring to carry a forgettable film.   

The Secrets of Dumbledore’s visual style is a major factor in the eventual feeling it will leave with viewers. The palate is grey with a hint of… slightly darker grey. The two-and-half-hour runtime of poor writing and drab visuals will come as a test to even the most hardened of wizards and witches. The Harry Potter franchise utilised colour well, and one can still remember the common rooms of Hogwarts by colour alone. Like the Dementors of old, wearisome storytelling accompanied by a dull environment sucks the life out of any magic left to find.

The film can only be described as one thing: filler. The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third entry to a series of films that has an apparent plan for five. While it boggles the mind to think that just a few years ago, a film series containing five entries could be green-lit without a literary library to accompany it is exhilarating in a way, but evokes melancholy in another. Just in the past year, the world had to wait on tenterhooks to find out if Dune would be given a sequel. To think that someone could somehow negotiate their way into a deal with five films seems inconceivable today. Rowling had the Harry Potter novels to show as proof no doubt, but when their adaptations were penned by screenwriters instead of the author, the mind boggles. Authors of novels do not always equate to efficient screenwriters. One hopes that this franchise will be a lesson to prove exactly that but if they haven’t learned this after three films, one has little hope they ever will. 

The Secrets of Dumbledore is a film drowning in its own incompetence. It is oversaturated with issues regarding everything from storytelling to character issues that are obscenely prevalent throughout the franchise. There are fundamental issues at play that would make anyone question why this film exists in the first place. Akin to Stockholm syndrome, what good can be said of the film will always come with caveats that prevent it from being an objectively positive thing. Mikkelsen and Law will remain bright spots in a world that continues to cast its own demise like the phoenix failing to rise. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is in cinemas now

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