The Secrets of Dumbledore Movie Review: High Quality Visual, Low Quality Story
In this video I will be doing a review and story analysis of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Another poorly paced mess of a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. I will also save everyone time that just wants to know what I think about the quality of the film. It was bad, don’t pay to see it in the theater, and just go back and watch the Harry Potter films. They are much better and have a magic about them that quite frankly all of the fantastic beasts films are missing.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive a little deeper as to why I came to this conclusion and why you may not want to see this film.
I grew up on the Harry Potter movies as well as the books. By the time The Order of the Phoenix was released, I was old enough to read and understand the books and since the first few films were also out, I was already a fan.
So, when the first new prequel movie “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” was released, I went and saw it several times. The movie wasn’t as good as the Harry Potter films, but I still loved it. Though, looking back, aside from the two times I saw it in the theater, I have not rewatched it even though I do own the blu ray.
I thought the second film “The Crimes of Grindelwald” wasn’t very good. The movie felt like the first act of a book with an ending tacked onto it. The pacing was all wrong and I no longer felt any sort of investment with the characters. That, along with some strange character decisions and the resurrection of Credence, I didn’t really like the film and have only watched it once.
Without further delay, let’s get into the full review of the film. Spoiler warning, there will be major spoilers since I will be covering details for the entire plot of this film. If you don’t want to know these details, now is the time to click away from the video.
Now it’s time to get into the meat of things. Break down the story and figure out why the story was so lackluster. For me, it is one thing to express how you feel and another to explain why. I feel that our gut reactions are often right and sharing those is important when critiquing a story, it is a much greater value to break down what doesn’t work. Now, I think of this review as feedback. If I were an editor reviewing the script, what my notes would be back to the writer. It’s not my world or my story, so I will not be prescribing specific solutions. I just want to share what did not work for me and why. Let’s get started.
A meandering, anticlimactic, and boring plot.
The film starts off with what I think is a memory of Dumbledoor and Grindlewald having tea together. I assume that this takes place before Grindlewald started his criminal activities and his attempts of starting the war between the Wizarding World and the Muggles. This scene, like many in this film, is lackluster both in conception and execution. It’s inclusion only confirmed that they were in love at one point and no longer see the world together despite still having “feelings” for eachother.
Not a strong start.
The next notable scene, we move to Newt who is helping a magical deer thing with long tentacle whiskers deliver a baby. This should have been the opening scene, but whatever, I’ll move on since it is a mess of a scene anyway.
The creature is called a Chillin, and after giving birth, Credence and a few other evil wizards show up and hit it twice with the killing curse. This is something I have an issue with, but we will come back to it. Newt tries to escape with the baby Chillin only to be struck with a spell and knocked unconscious. Credence and the other wizards take the creature, and leave Newt alive. Why they did this, who knows. We’ll just chalk that up to plot armor.
Newt eventually gets up, returns to the Chilin mother, who is still not dead. Another foal, or baby creature shows up and what would you know, they are twins. I wonder if this will somehow be important for later?
After telling the mother that she had twins, it sheds a sad teer, and dies. This whole scene left me wondering, why didn’t the killing curse immediately kill the creature? It was hit twice and every other time it has been used in the universe, it has killed instantly.
But wait, there’s more. Why was Nute there helping? How did he know the Chilin was going to give birth? How did the other wizards know where to find him? Don’t worry, we won’t get the answers to these questions. Just accept that it happened and move on.
I’m not trying to be a dick by being hyper critical of the story. This scene and the next one I will break down are just prime examples of the writing and story problems that plague this move. Things just sort of happen and we are supposed to take them at face value. If you stop to question motivations, purpose, or think at all, the less this movie will make sense.
Next we move to Jacob, who is moping about his run down bakery, mourning the betrayal of Queenie when Diverse Witch Number #1 shows up. Her accent was a little over the top for me, and in the next scene, she “word vomits” the entire plot of films one and two to Jacob (who was there) only to have him say “Ya, that about right.” This to me is bad writing, which only continues through the rest of the film.
To avoid making a review that is longer than the two hour twenty minute snooze fest of this movie, I will summarize the rest of the plot then continue with my review, only picking apart plot points rather than entire scenes.
From here, we are on a train where Newt gives everyone tasks from Dumbledoor because Grindalwald can see the future. Since he has this extremely useful and rather OP power, the plan is to confuse him.
Also, remember the macguffin from the previous film, the silver thing with their blood that prevents Dumbledoor and Grindelwald from fighting each other? That’s still a thing and for some reason if dumbledore tries or thinks about moving against his former love, it tries to kill him. Yet somehow he can still plot against him. Make sense to you? Ya, me neither. Just trust the writers, it will all make sense in the end, but not really. We’ll come back to that.
The rest of the plot moves kind of slowly and without much purpose. Grindelwald is somehow pardoned or let off the hook for his crimes because there is a lack of evidence. Why? So the plot could happen. Again, doesn’t really make any sense and to me, it would be like if in Harry Potter, after Voldemort returns, the ministry of magic just said, he’s not a bad guy, we don’t have any evidence to convict him. I know he was imprisoned at the beginning of the last film, was on the run and hiding in New York before that, and also just murdered a whole bunch of people with very credible witnesses, some of whom are present in this scene. But na, we need him to be pardoned so he can run to become supreme leader of the Wizarding World because there is an important election going on that none of the characters are talking about. It just feels like a strange direction to take the story in.
Newt’s brother Thesius is taken for some reason and no one but the main characters seem to notice. They try to get him back at the German ministry of magic only to be gaslit that they have no idea who they are talking about. But don’t worry folks, all is soon to be well. As they leave, Dumbledoor has the solution. He hands Newt everything he needs to free his brother from, somewhere, and then takes off through the city.
If I get the order of the events wrong, I apologize. I didn’t want to put myself through watching this film again to make sure I memorized all the plot points. I will continue with Newt’s story then move on to what happens to Dumbledore. The order really doesn’t matter since up to this point everything that happens doesn’t really make a difference for the third act. But we will get to that.
So back to Newt. He arrives at some old, dark, mustly looking chamber and saves his brother. This whole scene felt constructed just to give Newt something to do and to have him perform a weird dance with a bunch of magical cockroach crab things. There’s a whole tentacle monster that eats you and throws back slime covered bones for the cockroach things to eat. It’s all weird and while fun, pointless and strange. In the end, the little twig leaf dude from the first two films helps save the day and they escape.
Back to Dumbledoor. After offering the information to Newt on how to save his brother, he goes and fights with Credence who is now Aberforth’s son. Dumbledoor uses some sort of magic mirror dimension to fight his nephew and he get through to over emotional, I’m so lonely and sad and alone, Credence who was trying to kill him. He sees the dying phoenix and realizes Credence is going to die just like his sister. Let’s not forget to mention she was an obscurial too. If we are going to be retconning things, we might as well change her origin as well.
I just want to take a moment to point out how useful the mirror dimension trick would have been in all the other Harry Potter movies. Just saying, you have to be careful when adding new things to an already existing story. Every story has rules and just because you have new ideas, doesn’t mean you should break them. That’s why prequels are so hard to do right and why they always impact the original series in negative ways.
Eventually we all end up at Hogwarts. Why, because nostalgia. This is where we get told by Dumbledoor that nothing the characters did made a difference or in fact made it worse and now we have to stop Grindalwald for real this time.
Back to the Chillin, the one Grindalwald had captured is killed and brought back to life. We learn that this creature is special because it can look into your soul and know if you are a good person. I wonder where this is going?
So, the plan is to stop Grindalwald from taking control of the Wizarding World with his bewitched dead Chillin by presenting the live one at some magical tower place at the top of the mountains. Dumbledoor has each of the characters take a case, one which has the Chilin hidden inside, and the others are decoys. They need to reach the top before it’s too late.
I know that there was supposed to be tension, but I didn’t feel any. It just sort of played out and each case that wasn’t the real one, got discovered and ended up being some sort of magical trap. They make you think that Newt has the real case and he makes it to the top where he is going to present it and stop the fake one. The rest of the characters aren’t far behind and end up escaping the suspicious group of wizards who are policing the village. Not conspicuous at all.
Oh, and remember Queenie, she switched sides again and is good now because, reasons. They didn’t really give her a great reason for switching in the first place and the way it is written out of the story in this movie just goes to show that it was a bad story decision in the first place. The only character I still like is Jacob and he is the highlight of this movie. I was able to make it through this disaster because he made the most out of what he was given to work with.
Now I want to break down the ending in a little more detail because I think it’s sloppy, anticlimactic, and dumb. One of Grindalwald’s followers stuns Newt, takes the case, and starts up the stairs where the election is being held at the top. I guess Newt recovers and no one tries to stop him as he races up the stairs after the woman who took the case. As soon as he tries to take it away, it bursts into flames, and no one shows up to stop him from ascending because they didn’t think they had any security in this area. Even though there were other evil wizards in the crowd. Come on, this was so lazy written.
At the top, the bewitched Chillin bows to Grindalwald who is then elected as the ruler of the Wizarding World since he is deemed pure of heart. Then he immediately declares a war on muggles because they are inferior and need to be eliminated, mocking Jacob in the process and deeming his relationship with Queenie as wrong.
Newt makes it to the top and accuses Grindelwald of killing and bewitching the chillin and is brushed off because there is no proof. All seems lost, but wait, Newt’s assistant comes to the rescue and hands him the real case with the live Chillin. And what do you know, the bewitched one suddenly dies and Grindelwald is discredited. So, the election is deemed void and the new Chillin bows to Dumbledoor who is pure of heart now for some reason. Even though the entire movie shows that he’s sort of a flawed individual who isn’t really pure of heart. The thing is, having flawed heroes is a good thing. If every hero was perfect, they wouldn’t be interesting.
Anyway, Grindelwald now gets angry and fights Dumbledore in another mirror dimension created by the macguffin and they end the fight with wands pointed at each other, hearts on their opponents chest. Dumbledoor sort of lets him go and they return to the normal world. The Macguffin breaks for some reason and Grindelwald escapes. Somehow, Dumbledoor got around the magic of the macguffin by fighting to protect and this somehow worked. When Newt questions him the explanation to why the magical unbreakable vow thing breaks is “fate”. Well, that was almost the most lazily written thing in the film which is impressive since the whole film feels this way.
Oh, let’s not forget. Credence dies, again, having served as little purpose in this film as he did in the last. Which makes me wonder why he needed to be included at all. In fact, this whole story feels like that.
The film goes on and has another long scene for Jacob and Queenies wedding which just feels tacked on.
By the end, I just didn’t care. The story ended as it began, with Grindelwald in the wind, and nothing the characters went through seemed to make any difference. As far as I am concerned, they could never make another film and I wouldn’t care. I’ve lost all investment in this story and the one dimensional characters that are pulled through it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are stories that have interesting plots and thin characters. There are stories that have thin plots and interesting characters. And then there are stories with both. I would argue the original Harry Potter films and books have both interesting plots and interesting characters. There is no doubt that they are amazingly successful and popular with people all around the world. But both are missing from this film and I am unsure why. I guess the story was fine. Again, it was just meandering, lackluster, and in the end extraordinary underwhelming. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of Character development and as I stated, it ended with nothing more accomplished than where it had begun.
J. K. Rowling still wrote the story the original screenplay was based on. Even if the final version was co written with Steve Kloves, her involvement could not have been small. It is worth noting that writing a novel is not the same as writing a screenplay. That being said, if she had written the novel and had Steve Kloves write the screenplay from that, would it have been any better? Perhaps, but there is a strong argument to be made that it wouldn’t be.
At the end of the day, this movie had a story that didn’t really need to be told. In fact, turning the Fantastic Beasts into a 5 film franchize was truly as bad of an idea as turning the Hobbit into a trilogy. Funny that both of these bad decisions were made by Warner Brothers, Hollywood’s dumbest company.
Now that Discovery has purchased Warner Media, it is still up in the air to what happens next with the franchise. I just have to say, because I still have love for the universe and for Harry Potter, that if they do make the next two movies, that they will find a way to tell more compelling stories and recapture the magic they once had.
This movie is a prime example on why it’s probably a good idea to have a plan before announcing a series of movies. As well as why revision is an important part of the writing process, and most importantly that you are never too big to fail. Sure, everyone involved has experience and Rowling has written 7 great novels, but that doesn’t mean that you can turn a shit idea into gold. And that’s another point, sometimes if you have a pile of shit, you can’t stir it around over and over again and make something great out of it. Sometimes it is best to start over, scrap bad ideas, and try for new ones.
This film feels like every idea that popped into her head made it into the film, rather than for anyone to take into consideration if these ideas were good, coherent, and interesting.
Anyhow, this is something that has always bothered me about Hollywood. Can’t you tell if your movie is worth making based on the screenplay. Sure, you may have outliers like Mad Max Fury Road that are concepts that don’t require traditional screenplays but use storyboards. Whatever the case, it seems that if you are going to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a project, you would want it to be good. But what do I know? I’m just some guy who got sucked out of his money and paid for this dross anyway, like the dump consumer drone they wanted me to be.
Perhaps it seems I was too harsh on this movie, but it bothers me when I have seen amazing quality from past products made by the same people or company, and they slack off and deliver something that feels half assed. I’m not the one who set expectations for this film, J. K. Rawling and Warner Brothers did with the original Harry Potter movies. Or at the very least, they could be as compelling as the first Fantastic Beasts movie which I already admitted was good and that I liked it.
At the end of the day, if my review helps you know if this film is for you or not, or if it helps you one day write a story that isn’t trash like this one, then I will consider my job done.
Thanks for sticking around this long. If you liked what you heard, please like and subscribe to the channel and hit the bell for notifications so you will know when the next review is out. I’ll see you next time.