Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - Spoiler Review

After the first trailer/teaser appeared I was very excited for this film, but the film fell very short of my expectations. The biggest issue with trailers is that they are edited to make a film appear better than it actually is, sometimes great films can have great trailers, but often bad big films have the best trailers. The Secrets of Dumbledore has some good moments, but ultimately the film is bogged down by a messy plot that feels poorly thought out. The performances by the actors were all good, but the script was very weak, and I did not feel there was a proper conclusion to the film. I know there is planned future films in the series, but there several characters that seemed to disappear from the film at the end. Ezra Miller's recent legal troubles came long after the film was finished, but it appears his character Credence is being written out of the series. Credence, we learn is dying (why, I have no idea and I don't think the writers did either) and he leaves with his father Aberforth Dumbledore (Albus's brother) and is never seen again. Credence is never mentioned again, is he dead or is he still alive who knows which is the problem with the film. Credence was a key character of the first two films, and in this film, he seems to exist only to be written out. I hated the reveal that he was a Dumbledore, but I was open to seeing how they incorporated it into the story. Credence had one showdown with Albus, where he was easily defeated and then he became good (I think). I am not sure if the story suffered because it was trying to clean up the mess of the first two films in the series, but the execution of the story was poorly done.

I have been a Harry Potter fan since seeing the first film and then reading the books, so it is disappointing to see this series struggle so mightily to tell a comprehensible story. From the reveal in the first film that Grindelwald was in the film I became excited knowing where the story was going. I did not care for the character of Newt, but over the course of the three films he has grown on me, I am fellow introvert, so it was nice to see one represented. Johnny Depp was replaced by Mads Mikkelsen in the role of Grindelwald, and I think Mikkelsen was an odd choice based on what Depp had previously done in the role. Mikkelsen and Depp play the character very differently, but they also looked so different that it became distracting. Mikkelsen is a fantastic actor who has gravitas in his performances, but it was too jarring of a difference for me to be able to ignore. Mikkelsen was great as Grindelwald, but I would have rather seen him in the role from the beginning of the series. If they picked an actor who would be able look similar to Johnny Depp's Grindelwald I might have less of disconnect, but I did like that they are making Grindelwald a villain who is very different to Voldemort. There was something that happened three time throughout the film that annoyed me, it seems characters would enter another world to conduct a fight. It was like instead of battling in the real world the characters would enter a battle in their minds, I don't think it was ever made clear what was happening. I had hoped to see a battle between Grindelwald and Albus, but it was not what I had expected and was frankly disappointing like the movie.


The film opens with Newt on a mission to assist in a qilin (a magical creature) give birth, Newt is attacked by followers of Grindelwald and the qilin is killed and the baby taken. Newt makes it back to the qilin to comfort her as she dies and he finds another baby, Newt brings the baby home to take care of it. We then see Dumbledore venture to a London restaurant to meet Grindelwald, Grindelwald mocks Dumbledore's choice of venue before leaving. It is revealed that Dumbledore never left Hogwarts he was meeting Grindelwald inside his mind (????????). Jacob Kowalski is working in his bakery until he is approached by an American witch Lally Hicks who is a teacher of charms. Hicks brings Kowalski to a meeting of team Dumbledore which consists of Newt, his brother Theseus, Jacob, Lally, Yusuf Kama (Leta Lestrange's half-brother) and Bunty (Newt's assistant). Dumbledore cannot engage Grindelwald in a fight because of a blood spell they did that they could never betray one another. Dumbledore plans for each member of his team to complete a mission they only know about; his plan involves confusion which will mess with Grindelwald's ability to see the future. Jacob is given a wand by Albus, and Theseus is given a tie; there are not told what those items are to be used for. 

Grindelwald takes the qilin and kills it, he then uses Queenie to read Credence's mind to find out how he is feeling. Dumbledore's team goes about their various missions, Yusuf goes to Grindelwald and tells him he was sent to spy on Grindelwald for Albus. Grindelwald tells Yusuf that they are on the same side, and he removes any memory containing Leta from Yusuf's mind. Bunty is to take Newt's case and have seven copies of the briefcase made. Theseus and Newt go to the German minister of magic (also current Supreme Mugwump) and pass on a message from Albus, the message is to do the right thing, not the easy thing. The German minister then renounces the charges against Grindelwald and endorses him to run for Supreme Mugwump (head of the International Confederation of Wizards. At the announcement Theseus is taken by members of the German ministry of magic. Dumbledore heads to Germany to help his team, and Credence is sent by Grindelwald to kill Dumbledore. Dumbledore is expecting Credence, so he is prepared for the attack, they fight, and Dumbledore gets into Credence's mind (I think). Dumbledore tells Credence that he and his brother Aberforth did not know about Credence until recently.

There is a dinner being held with Grindelwald as the guest of honor and Lally and Jacob are to attend so they can prevent an assassination attempt against one of the other witches running for Supreme Mugwump. Grindelwald arrives to the dinner with Queenie, Jacob is broken by seeing Queenie who ignores Jacob, but we see she sheds a tear at his presence. Lally prevents the assassination attempt, but while she was doing that Jacob goes after Grindelwald and he is outed as an assassin. Lally casts spells to make it appear that Jacob can use magic, and Queenie casts a spell that allows Jacob and Lally to escape. Dumbledore told Newt where he can find Theseus, which is in an old jail for wizards in Germany. Newt is given the necessary documents to get in to see Theseus, but he must leave Pickett, Teddy and his wand with the man looking after the prison. Newt encounters crab-like creatures that he distracts with a weird walk, Newt frees Theseus, but the prison is protected by a large manticore. While Newt was inside the prison, Teddy and Pickett have their own mission as they need to get free and get the tie Albus gave to Theseus and Newt's wand. Teddy and Pickett succeed and make it to Newt and Theseus just in time to as the manticore gets them. The tie that Dumbledore gave Theseus is a portkey and it transports Newt and Theseus to Hogwarts just as they were falling into a pit. 

At Hogwarts the team plans for final phase of the plan to stop Grindelwald from achieving the power he so desires. Grindelwald resurrects the qilin he killed earlier; his plan is to convince the magical world that he is good person by getting the resurrected qilin to bow to him. Grindelwald knows that Dumbledore has the other qilin so he needs to get the qilin before it can be used against him. Dumbledore and Aberforth will attempt to find Credence, Dumbledore reveals that Credence is dying, which is why the phoenix came to Credence. The election of the Supreme Mugwump will take place at an ancient city in China, so the team makes it way to the ancient city. Newt, Theseus, Jacob, Lally and Bunty will each take a briefcase so as to keep Grindelwald's followers distracted. As the team arrives at the city they split up, they are all followed and attacked for their briefcases. Newt is able to escape, but he is knocked out from behind and his case is taken. Dumbledore was expecting all the cases to get taken (except the one containing the qilin), all the cases are charmed so that when they open, they unleash traps. The traps work, but Lally and Theseus are cornered until Yusuf arrives and reveals he was always loyal to Dumbledore as he takes out Grindelwald's men. 

At the election Grindelwald gets help from the bewitched qilin to get elected, and his first course of action is to start a war with the muggles. Grindelwald then makes Queenie watch as he uses the cruciatus curse on Jacob, but the spell is removed by a witch who was also nominated for Supreme Mugwump. Credence then tells all the wizards and witches in attendance that Grindelwald has tricked them, the qilin is already dead and has been bewitched. The qilin then dies as proof, and Dumbledore and Aberforth reveals themselves as Grindelwald attempts to kill Credence. Dumbledore and Aberforth block the killing cure meant for Credence, and this causes the vial containing the blood pact to break. The breaking of the vial seems to bring Grindelwald and Albus into the mind battlefield where they fight. The fight is stopped when both place their palms over each other's heart revealing that neither is ready to kill each other. The vial shatters and the blood pact between them is removed, Grindelwald sensing the crowd has turned on him leaves. Aberforth takes Credence to bring him home before he dies, and Bunty who had the real case arrives. The qilin comes out and then bows to Dumbledore, but he tells it that he is sure there is another person who is worthy. The qilin walks around and eventually bows before the witch who removed the cruciatus curse from Jacob. 

We jump to New York at Jacob's bakery, and he is about to marry Queenie with the whole team in attendance including Tina (Queenie's sister and Newt's love interest from the first two films). Dumbledore is sitting on a bench alone outside of the bakery, Newt goes to Dumbledore who thanks him for the help. Newt asks Dumbledore to come inside and join the celebration, but he declines walking off alone into the night as the film ends.


I was so excited to see this film, and then the critic reviews came out and it was as I had feared the critics did not like the movie. Critics did not like the first two (which I did) so I still had hope that I may enjoy the movie. Those hopes were dashed fairly early on in the movie, I was never a fan of the character of Credence, so his reduced role did not bother, but the way the film was written did bother me. I listened to some podcasts reviews of the films by fans of Harry Potter so I could get a perspective similar to my own (movie fan but not a critic and a Harry Potter fan as well). Those two podcasts gave the film an okay review, but they both felt that this was the best film in the Fantastic Beasts series. I do not agree, I really enjoyed the first two films (they both have many flaw    s), but with this film I came away more disappointed. The Credence reveal at the of the second film felt huge, but the payoff in this film was very subtle (he was Aberforth's son), I know the intention was to erase Credence from these films, but it should have been handled better. I think the problem the studio had was not with Credence and more with the actor portraying Credence (Ezra Miller). Miller has become a problem since the second film has come out, he has had several public incidents that appear to be caused by substance abuse issues. I never liked Credence as character, but I think he deserved a better ending than he was given. The movie seemed to have also not known that Credence was sick in the earlier scenes of the film. My big issue was the mind-palace/mirror dimension scenes in the film, those scenes made no sense to me, and they were never explained. 

The mirror dimension scenes took the fights and made them feel lifeless, and lacking stakes. Why not have all of those scenes take place in the real world, I just do not understand why they would include it and never explain the how or why. I saw on Reddit that a user posted a page out of a companion book where the mirror world was explained (sort of). The explanation given was Dumbledore did that to prevent muggles from witnessing his fight with Credence. Have Dumbledore say that, show us how he did it and explain why/how he did that with Grindelwald at the beginning of the film and the end too. The lack of explanation really bothered throughout the entire running time of the movie, I hated the concept and felt like they were ripping off Doctor Strange. When Dumbledore was fighting Credence and Grindelwald using the mirror dimension made the fights feel there were no stakes to them (nobody was in danger). I think had more attention been paid to why Dumbledore was doing it I would have gone along with it better. The mirror dimension is in theory a good idea, especially if it establishes Dumbledore as an extremely gifted and innovate wizard, but no attention was given to the how's or whys. The opening scene involving Dumbledore and Grindelwald was great, as was any time you could have Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen working together. Those two actors were great in this film, and I hope they continue to explore the story between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.

The Fantastic Beast series has done a good job of introducing likeable characters like Jacob, Lally, Theseus and Yusuf. The one thing that I wish they would do is focus on character development; I do not feel that any character in this film went through a change. We had gotten to know Yusuf, Jacob and Theseus in the other films, but Lally made her debut in full form (she appeared on the cover of a book Nicolas Flamel owned). I really liked Lally, I thought she was fun, smart, brave and kind; but we never got to know her reasons for helping. I thought Lally and Theseus formed a bond, but it was never developed beyond that, I wanted to learn more about Lally's past. I also felt Theseus was kind of wasted in this film, I really liked at the end of the second movie Newt and him worked together. I wish Theseus was given more development, when last we saw him, he was dealing with the loss of Leta. I can't remember if Leta was even mentioned in this film, I think it was a missed opportunity for his grief and anger to be left unexplored. The movie had a running time of close to 2.5 hours, but there was little to no character development, which is why the film did not work for me. The magical fights were not that great, especially when you go back and watch Dumbledore fight Voldemort at the end of Order of the Phoenix. Theseus and Lally proved to be very capable in their fight against Grindelwald's men, and I wish we got more of that if character development was taking a backseat. There were moments where the film did work for me, like Newt's rescue of Theseus.

Newt going to rescue Theseus might have been the highlight of the whole movie for me, it was thrilling and also very funny. Teddy has become of the cutest and funniest creatures to ever appear in a film, when he and Pickett were flying through the air, I knew Teddy would go after the shiny stuff leaving Pickett. Newt using his knowledge to walk weird to get to Theseus and then to see Theseus need to walk weird was hilarious. The relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald was everything I had hoped and more. Both Dumbledore and Grindelwald are such interesting characters, they both share a bond, but they appear to be very different at their cores. Dumbledore did not want to rule when given the chance, and he had wanted to stop Grindelwald from getting power. The chemistry between Jude Law and Mikkelsen was great, from their performances I could feel the tension between them. Dumbledore is probably my favourite character in the Potterverse, he embodies so many great character traits. I think Jude Law if give another film or two could supplant the combined efforts of Richard Harris and Michael Gambon's portrayal of the character. I thought Dumbledore choosing to not join in on the celebration at the end was a very fitting character choice. Dumbledore is a truly good person, but he knows that his poor choices has led to a lot of the bad things that happened. Dumbledore chooses to remove himself from people because he doesn't believe they should become attached to him because he is unworthy of their love. I also think he pulls away because he knows just how powerful he is, he knows his destiny will be something special, he will be a leader and he will need to make hard choices. Dumbledore says as much to Harry in Order of the Phoenix, he says that he protected Harry for too long because he had grown too close to him. Dumbledore knew what Harry's future would entail, but he couldn't help but care about him and let him be happy for as long as he could.

I am going to give The Secrets of Dumbledore a 5/10, I just think the film mishandled too much and the climax of the film did not work for me. While I liked the characters and the performances, I found the lack of character development/growth a missed opportunity. I found the story choices to be poorly thought out, like the mirror dimension and the two-way mirror that Aberforth and Credence communicated with. Where did that two-way mirror come from, how was Credence and Aberforth able to use the mirror like that, it was poorly explained choices that left me frustrated. Why could the ending not featured Dumbledore and Newt combining their knowledge to remove the obscuris from Credence, I thought that is what they were building towards. It would have closed Credence's story arc, while also making use out stuff previously used in the other films. I do wonder if we will see more films in this series, I think Fantastic Beats will be put to rest in favor of a story more focused on the Dumbledore and Grindelwald battle to come. I could see an ending to this story where Dumbledore and Grindelwald realize they cannot kill each other, and Grindelwald gives himself up knowing that Dumbledore is the better wizard. I hope the story continues, but it does feel like they tried to give an ending to the story that will wrap the series up. I want more Potterverse stories, but I would like them to take some time and plan out the story better.

Thank you for reading my review of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, please let me know your thoughts on the film.

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