The verdicts for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore are in, and with critics sharing decidedly mixed reactions to the Harry Potter spin-off.
With a fraught production impacted by Covid-19 and Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp in the role of Grindelwald, the third film in the series has been long-anticipated by fans. The last Fantastic Beasts film, The Crimes of Grindelwald, was released in 2018.
Positive reviews have praised the writing in The Secrets of Dumbledore, while negative ones have criticized the plot. Mikkelsen’s performance has been roundly praised.
Find a roundup of reviews below…
Guardian -three stars
“By invoking fascism and the approaching world war, the film is gesturing at something overwhelmingly evil, and yet by the end you might find the essentially non-committal storytelling style of franchise film-making, with its suspended resolutions, works against this.. .. And what of Grindelwald himself? Is he more or less important and evil than Voldemort? Well, surely Rowling has all this mapped out. It’s good-natured entertainment, though there is still something weightless and formless about the narrative.
Empire -three stars
“The Secrets Of Dumbledore doesn’t quite cast a Potter-like spell — but with solid action and moments of genuine heart, it delivers a little light in the Wizarding World’s darkest hour.”
Daily Telegraph -two stars
“So many sequences here feel like free-floating trailer fodder: surplus to plot requirements, but too expensive to cut. Why do Redmayne and Turner spend around 15 minutes dancing with scorpions in a cave? And what’s the purpose of Law’s duel with Ezra Miller’s antagonist Credence Barebone, who once looked like the tortured lynchpin of the franchise but has now been demoted to a glum hanger-on?”
Evening Standard -four stars
“Secrets of Dumbledore shows an impressive willingness to mess with the HP formulas (and formulas in general). It’s a work in progress and within a whisker of being fantastic. Note to Warners: don’t panic. There may be dark days ahead, in terms of box office receipts. But Rowling’s got this and should be allowed to see her wild experiment through to the end.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“If Secrets of Dumbledore has a reason for existing, it’s perhaps as evidence of coping with disenchantment. It’s difficult to remain in love with the Wizarding World when its production is mired in controversy and its creator frequently espouses dangerously myopic views. This inevitably influences perceptions of the work, revealing, at least to this critic, just how obsessed these films are with binaries — good and evil, poor and rich, love and hate, light and dark. But life, like storytelling, is far more complicated, and that’s a lesson the franchise would be wise to embrace.”
The AV Club
“What’s saddest about The Secrets Of Dumbledore is the importance of what it actually has to say. It’s not only a tale of good versus evil, but a story about embracing change and progress, accepting culpability for wrongdoing, learning from mistakes, and growing as a good citizen of the world in a maddening era of both-sides equivocation.
“Based on the headlines they’ve generated over the four years since the last film, some of its creators might want to explore those ideas a bit more closely in their real lives. Up on screen, it’s clear they were too busy digging through a mountain of their own mythology to extract the more relevant lessons underneath.”
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is released in theaters 8 April.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.