Back in April, the Wizarding World expanded a bit further with the third entry in the struggling “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. What was once planned as an epic, five-film story meant to explore new corners of the “Harry Potter” universe is now limping into the halfway point and facing a less-than-certain future. As “The Secrets of Dumbledore” makes its home release debut on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital, it’s anyone’s guess what’s next for ol’ Newt Scamander.
Coming four years after the drawn out events of “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the third film finds Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) once again teaming up with a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) in an attempt to thwart the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (a newly re-cast Mads Mikkelson) from taking over the international wizarding world. After a charming, but honestly forgettable first film, the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise pushed Newt to the back burner to instead focus on Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and the latest film continues to double down on that decision.
The Dumbledore-Grindelwald story in “The Secrets of Dumbledore” is closer to what we should have had from the start — with enough forced fantastic beasts to justify the film’s title — yet it still suffers from too many nonsensical plot points, unearned character reversals, and a general willingness to make things up as they go. There are a few nice moments and nods to the main “Harry Potter” series that land well amongst the other fan service, but not nearly enough to matter.
This series knows what it wants to be, but is so far from it because of its unwillingness to cut the “Fantastic Beasts” title and go all in on Dumbledore-Grindelwald. The result is a mess with so many identities that it has none. For a series with two movies left, “The Secrets of Dumbledore” certainly felt like a soft ending to the “Fantastic Beasts” story, making it clear the filmmakers aren’t holding out hope for a fourth or fifth installment either.
As far as the 4K Ultra HD release goes, the film’s dull, monochromatic palate of grays and blacks is represented well on screen, with sharp details, texture and contrast. The Dolby Atmos mix balance crisp dialogue with the louder action sequences and sweeping score. If only the technical elements could help improve the film’s story.
Special Features on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital
- The Dumbledore Family Tree – “Deathly Hallows” expanded on Albus Dumbledore’s family, but nowhere near as much as the “Fantastic Beasts” films have. Explore the wizard’s family tree in this nine-minute featurette.
- Dumbledore Through the Ages – From the wise, bearded wizard of the original films to the new take on Dumbledore courtesy of Jude Law, this extra dives into the different versions of the character with cast and crew interviews.
- Magical or Muggle – A fun, light-hearted guessing game in which cast members must ID items as being from the wizarding world or real world.
- The Magic of Hogwarts – The “Fantastic Beasts” cast dives into what it was like to return to Hogwarts for the new series.
- Even More Fantastic Beasts – At this point in the series, the titular beasts are an afterthought, but this quick extra explores some of the film’s new and returning creatures.
- Newt in the Wild – “The Secrets of Dumbledore” marks the first time Newt is seen in his natural element helping creatures in the wild. This extra with Redmayne explores this new character development.
- The German Ministry of Magic – Dive into the production design of the German’s take on the Ministry of Magic, as the Wizarding World continues to expand.
- A Dumbledore Duel – A look at the battle between Albus Dumbledore and Creedence.
- The Candidates’ Dinner – A behind the scenes look at all the coordination that went into this sequence.
- Erkstag Jailbreak – Explore how practical effects helped bring this comical and intense sequence to life.
- Battle in Bhutan – Dive into the climax of the film with this featurette that breaks down the creation of the final showdown.
- The Secrets of Cursed Child – A five-minute promo for the “Harry Potter” sequel stage play.
- Deleted Scenes – Five bonus scenes add a bit of extra context to the Wizarding World, but nothing too crucial. Still, worth a watch for “Harry Potter” fans.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.