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4K Ultra HD Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

July 12, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third film in the Harry Potter prequel series that began with the entertaining Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in 2016, and already saw diminished returns with the 2018 sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The third time’s not exactly the charm for this series, which still struggles to reach the heights of the franchise that it follows. But The Secrets of Dumbledore, as bloated as it can be at times, still serves as a decent bit of world-building that manages to offer a slight course correction from its direct predecessor.

Set in 1932, about seven decades prior to the arrival of Harry Potter at Hogwarts, the film focuses on the growing light and dark battle between wizards Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), former lovers who now stand on opposite sides of an idealogical divide. Grindelwald is trying to gain power over the Wizarding World through a democratic election so he can fulfill his goal of removing all muggles, having pulled a conflicted Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) over to his side.

Dumbledore recruits magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to lead an army of wizards and witches, that includes Newt’s older brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and muggle baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), to take on Grindelwald and his legion of followers. The story also involves a fight over the Qilin, a rare creature from China that has magical powers, including the ability to choose leaders.

Director David Yates, who returns to the series following the previous two entries and the final four Harry Potter movies, is somewhat stuck here with an exposition-heavy story. The screenplay by J.K. Rowling (which she co-wrote with Steve Kloves) goes deep into the internal politics of the Wizarding World, and is largely about Grindelwald’s rise to power through a rigged election process (which serves as an imperfect metaphor for 1930s Germany, right down to the story’s mid-section being set in Berlin).

The film feels dry in places, and the meandering plot lacks some forward momentum, with events that just sort of fall into place and a story that can’t really deviate from its pre-established history. But it’s punctuated by some decent fantasy set-pieces, including an entertaining dungeon escape that involves Newt having to mimic the movements of attack crabs. There are some appealing creature moments as well (though not nearly enough), including welcome comic relief appearances from Newt’s stick insect Pickett and platypus-like Niffler, Teddy. From a visual standpoint, the film is a pleasing affair, with its immersive production design and somewhat moody look (heightened by the strong 4K presentation).

The performances by new and returning cast members are also decent, led by Redmayne’s twitchy portrayal of Newt and Law’s sensitive take on a young Dumbledore. Mikkelsen is the third actor in as many films to take on the role of Grindelwald, having been brought in to replace a tarnished Johnny Depp (though in light of the recent verdict in Depp’s widely publicized trial, Ezra Miller’s presence in the film now feels far more problematic), and he does a fine job with it. But taking over the role for the first time in the franchise’s third film also doesn’t quite give him enough time to really put his own stamp on the character.

While Fantastic Beasts was initially intended to be a five film saga, diminishing box office returns and mixed reviews suggest that this could be the final film (a fourth one has not even gone into development yet). The epilogue, of course, leaves the door open for a sequel, but also does a decent job of closing out the series in a fairly satisfying way if this does cap out at being a trilogy.

While the story’s heavy political bent, coupled with a lengthy 143 minute runtime, makes it one more reserved for hardcore fans of the Potter world, The Secrets of Dumbledore still serves as a slight step up from The Crimes of Grindelwald, and it has enough individual elements to make it worth a look for followers of the franchise.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K set comes with a regular Blu-ray of the film, where all of the bonus features are held. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

The Dumbledore Family Tree (8 minutes, 38 seconds): Richard Coyle, who plays Dumbledore’s younger brother Aberforth, narrates this overview of the character’s extended family, which doubles as a recap of previous storylines.

Dumbledore Through the Ages (7 minutes, 23 seconds): Similar to the last piece, this one offers a look at the character throughout the film series.

Magical or Muggle (4 minutes, 32 seconds): The cast members play a game trying to guess which words and phrases are “magical” or “muggle.”

The Magic of Hogwarts (5 minutes, 47 seconds): A look at the film’s impressive production design.

Even More Fantastic Beasts (6 minutes, 24 seconds): A closer look at some of the magical creatures seen in the film and how they were brought to screen.

Newt in the Wild (4 minutes, 48 seconds): This featurette looks at how the film approaches showing Newt out and about in the world, including the opening sequence in China.

The German Ministry of Magic (4 minutes, 57 seconds): A look at designing the German Ministry of Magic, with Art Deco designs inspired by Berlin in the 1930s.

A Dumbledore Duel (4 minutes): This piece focuses on staging the fight between Albus and Credence, which is partially set in a mirror world.

The Candidates’ Dinner (4 minutes, 46 seconds): A closer look at the film’s dinner party scene, and the stunts involved.

Erkstag Jailbreak (4 minutes, 51 seconds): This pieces offers a glimpse into designing the rocky underground prison where Newt faces off against the crabs.

Battle in Bhutan (5 minutes, 42 seconds): A behind-the-scenes look at the climactic battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald against the backdrop of the Himalayan mountains.

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 7 minutes, 15 seconds)

Hogwarts Owlery (1 minute, 8 seconds)

Newt’s House (3 minutes, 50 seconds)

Credence Kills Auror (57 seconds)

Wands Checked (41 seconds)

Vogel at Nurmengard (54 seconds)

The Secrets of Cursed Child (4 minutes, 51 seconds): A promotional piece for the touring stage show Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, featuring Ian Redford, who plays Dumbledore in the original production, taking us on a tour of the Palace Theatre in London and revealing behind-the-scenes elements of the show.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 143 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 24th, 2022

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