Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore Review: Finally emerging from Harry's shadow

In The Secrets Of Dumbledore, the fantasy franchise, at last, gets going.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Jessica Williams Callum Turner Jude Law Eddie Redmayne
(Image: © Warner Bros.)

What to Watch Verdict

The threequel shakes off its predecessor, but can’t quite reach Potter heights.


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    Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindlewald

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    Strong Potter heritage

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    Great visuals


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    Uneven plot

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    Dumbledore doesn’t have many secrets!

It’s a franchise that’s always lived in the shadow of the original. Fantastic Beasts first arrived on screen in 2016 to expand the Wizarding World but, especially after much-maligned sequel, The Crimes Of Grindlewald, it’s been playing catch-up ever since. 

Yet, despite all the obstacles in its way (COVID was the least of them), the third instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore looks like it’s turned an important corner.

Gellert Grindlewald (now Mads Mikkelsen) is menacingly on the rise, gathering followers and aiming to rule by any means and the one person who could stand in his way, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), is hampered by something from his past. Instead he brings together a group of wizards, including magi-zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogle) to harness their various talents so that Grindlewald can be stopped in his tracks. And it’s all timed to coincide what he believes will be his moment of triumph.

Threequels are hard enough to pull off but, after such a shaky sequel, there was always going to be a lot riding on this one, especially among diehard Wizarding World fans. Less immediately appealing than the Potter movies, there was an increasing sense the franchise was banging its head against one brick wall after another. The good news is that The Secrets Of Dumbledore marks an upturn, especially when it comes to the series’ heritage. 

One of its problems was that it had drifted away from the foundation of the Potter magic, Hogwarts itself. This time round, as well as a team full of the school’s teaching staff, part of the action takes place within the hallowed portals of the wizarding school par excellence. Quidditch is in progress, Kowalkski is pranked by some Slytherin boys and all is right with the world. Inside its walls, anyway.

The return of so many familiar faces cements that connection: Minerva McGonagall (Fiona Glascott) and ‘Lally’ Hicks (Jessica Williams is a spirited stand-out) are both there as their younger selves. New faces include the magnificently supercilious Mikkelesen as Grindlewald and Dumbledore’s brother Aberforth (a strong performance from Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina Richard Coyle), the key to the more emotional and personal story running in parallel with the main narrative.

And, in an effort to live up to its title, there’s more beasts as well. Pickett the Bowtruckle continues to live in Newt’s top pocket and this time has a moment or two of glory. The ever-loveable and mischievous Niffler — we learn his name is Teddie — is back as well, causing Newt more problems with his love of shiny things, although there’s one that he strangely manages to resist. But the humor doesn’t just depend on them: the film generally brings some lightness to proceedings to balance Grindlewald’s darkness (the dark clouds of pre-WWII Nazi Germany is never far away), especially in a sequence involving what can best be described as crustaceans with a talent for mimicry. Sharp editing into a scene where lobster is served at a banquet underlines it perfectly.

The film has its wobbly moments — one bit of plotting will make you grind your teeth and Dumbledore himself isn’t exactly full of secrets — but as a fantasy adventure it holds together well and has enough sense of its heritage to keep the fans happy. Add to that energetic fight sequences, stunning scenery and a climax that calls to mind no less than Kurosawa’s Ran, and there’s plenty to appeal to its broad audience. It may not be full-on magic, but it bodes well for the final two instalments. Yes, there will be numbers four and five. Grindlewald won’t go without a fight. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is hitting theaters on April 8 in the UK and April 15 in the US.

Freda Cooper

Freda can't remember a time when she didn't love films, so it's no surprise that her natural habitat is a darkened room in front of a big screen. She started writing about all things movies about eight years ago and, as well as being a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, is a regular voice on local radio on her favorite subject. 

While she finds time to watch TV as well — her tastes range from Bake Off to Ozark — films always come first. Favourite film? The Third Man. Top ten? That's a big and complicated question .....!