Featuring a movie poster so epic that it could be mistaken for a B-Grade Star Wars flick, the third Fantastic Beasts movie – confusingly named "The Secrets of Dumbledore" (we'll get into that in a little bit) – is exactly that, a B-Grade Harry Potter flick. The problem, though, is that The Secrets of Dumbledore is such an absurdly awful movie that it doesn't even really deserve the accolade of B-Grade, and should really be referred to as the movie version of a bad song cover. Think Sound of Silence by Disturbed... but magic.
An all-star cast comes together in this supremely disappointing movie to deliver a product that may as well have never existed, and should be treated as such. What even is this movie? What actually happens of any significance? Usually when writing a movie review like this, I would dedicate myself to avoiding all spoilers like the plague, but that becomes hard when a movie hardly has a plot at all. If you're looking for the TLDR, then here it is: just don't bother. Here's why...
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review: The Movie Equivalent of a Bad Oasis Album
At the heart of The Secrets of Dumbledore is the rivalry and relationship between Grindelwald, the previous movie's titular character, and young Dumbledore (played by Jude Law). After Disney cut Johnny Depp from the film following the filing of assault allegations against the embattled actor, Mads Mikkelsen picked up the mantel as Grindelwald. He, by far, is the only thing holding this movie together.
Much like Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Mads Mikkelsen deftly dances across this film, stealing the show from an otherwise forgettable series of performances from actors who really should know better. In reality, though, it's not so much the fault of the actors that The Secrets of Dumbledore falls so flat, but the writing itself. Who plotted this film? Well, J.K. Rowling of course, and not well. We'll get into that in the next section of the review, but this lack of good direction, plotting and writing means that everything was riding off of the performances and cinematography. In many ways, both of these factors feel short.
The film is stuck in this weird place between trying to make an effective action movie, driven by the usual exploits – exposition, fight, tension, climax – and something with an actual soul. As a result, we end up with a shallow mess of a movie that delivers on big and bombastic set pieces and great special effects, but isn't backed up by a cast that seems so bored with their roles that they seem asleep at the wheel.
Eddie Redmayne continues to bumble along as Newt Scamander, and Jude Law is a little bit better. In terms of the not-Mads Mikkelsen characters, though, the only real saving grace is Dan Fogler, who continues to play Jacob Kowalski with just the right amount of comedic balance to keep him likeable. The character, though, continues to be relatively pointless. It almost feels like the only reason that his character still exists was because he was the best part of the first film. Other than that? At least Ron Weasley had a role to play...
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review: What Actually Happens in this Movie?
The biggest problem with The Secrets of Dumbledore, though, is not the movie's acting and casting. It's not the film's cinematography or its special effects. No, the biggest problem is its plot, writing, and direction. All of the controversies aside, it almost seems like The Secrets of Dumbledore has been hampered by none-other than its creator herself: J.K. Rowling. What needs to be remembered by people who make these kinds of movies – something that Peter Jackson managed to deftly avoid in his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings back in the early 2000s – is that not everything that works in a book works in a movie.
Throughout the nearly two and a half hours that The Secrets of Dumbledore runs for, it feels very rare that you actually understand what the hell is going on. The original cast take a backseat here, as Mads Mikkelsen and Jude Law are supposed to be front-and-center, but the problem is that Dumbledore's character actually feels pretty pointless in regard to the movie's bigger plot. No one's motivation feels real here. It either feels forced, missing, or tacked on at the end as if some intern working on the movie's script said "Hey, you guys realized that you didn't explain why this character did what they did, right?"
What's especially weird about Fantastic Beasts 3 is that it centers around a kind-of political race. It's just strange and it doesn't work, especially after all of the awful things that were established about Grindelwald in the previous film. Also, bizarre is the process by which this political campaign is actually completed. Grindelwald is, clearly, supposed to be a representation of Adolf Hitler, with the "good guys" fighting for freedom and righteousness. The fact is that this makes absolutely no sense when the political process itself is not in any way indicative of an actual democracy. There's no voting, there's no real electoral process, so the whole good guy versus bad guy paradigm doesn't even work on the most fundamental level. This leaves you with only one reason to be against Grindelwald: he did some bad stuff and looks kind-of evil.
This is what makes The Secrets of Dumbledore so hard to watch, because it really is a bastardizing of some of the things that made the original Harry Potter series so fantastic. There were obvious allusions and references, but they were done in a way that made sense. There were flawed characters, people who weren't sure on which side they should stand, but they were sympathetic. Drako Malfoy sure was a dick, but he had redeeming qualities and felt "human". Ultimately, the problem with this movie is twofold: what is the point of all these characters and what is actually going on? I can't answer either of these questions for you, even three movies into the franchise.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Review: The Verdict
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is an utterly pointless movie. There is literally no reason for it to exist except for commitments made by Warner Bros., people's obsession with Harry Potter intellectual property, and the fact that they already made two other movies. Mads Mikkelsen is a great Grindelwald, Jude Law is fine, but the plot is convoluted, makes no sense, has no heart whatsoever, and everything feels forced and contrived. Sure, it isn't the worst thing you'll ever watch, but it is a major disappointment for any fan of The Wizarding World. The worst thing? There will probably be two more of these movies...
- Rating: 5/10
- Release Date: April 8, 2022 (UK) / April 15, 2022 (USA)
- Director: David Yates
- Genre: Fantasy Drama
- Running Time: 2 Hours 22 Minutes