- Jeff Beck
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore: Another Sub-Par Return to the Wizarding World (Blu-ray)
As we come to the third entry in the "Fantastic Beasts" series, "The Secrets of Dumbledore," it hardly has to be said that this is a spinoff franchise that's been having quite a lot of trouble finding its footing. The first film, while not particularly bad, suffered from a rather odd lack of focus on its main storyline, while the second was dragged down significantly by an over-long, over-convoluted story that was quite simply dull. With practically nowhere to go but up, a third film could potentially get things back on track with just a few adjustments in order to truly bring out the magic in this "Wizarding World," but given the tendency to settle for sub-par in the past, is it perhaps too late?
Picking up five years after the second film, we find the threat of Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) continuing to loom. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), unable to challenge Grindelwald directly because of a blood pact, calls together his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Newt (Eddie Redmayne), Jacob (Dan Fogler), and others to assist in addressing the issue. Meanwhile, a very important election is about to occur that will bring with it a lot of power, and with Grindelwald being declared innocent of his charges, he decides to stand for the position. Dumbledore and his friends have to act quickly, for if Grindelwald is chosen, it would bring him within grasp of his goal of total domination.
The very first thing that needs to be said is that this latest entry is a major step up from the previous film ("The Crimes of Grindelwald") on just about every level. The story is more direct and is ultimately a little more exciting, and Mads Mikkelsen actually puts a little emotion into his portrayal of the villainous Grindelwald (unlike Johnny Depp, who unfortunately chose to sleepwalk through the role). That being said, the film as a whole sadly only gets up to about the level of the original outing, and for pretty much the same reasons.
Once again, we find a story that's a little distracted from itself, getting padded out to nearly two and a half hours with completely unnecessary sequences (including an escape scene that felt like it went on for at least 15-20 minutes), and featuring a main plot that was only mildly interesting in the first place. The first two films had been written solo by J.K. Rowling herself, showing that she's a much better author of books than a screenwriter, and while original "Harry Potter" screenwriter Steve Kloves tried to make this one better, he still had to contend with Rowling's original script and her input, which no doubt made it difficult to fix.
At the end of the lengthy runtime, it may have been somewhat amusing to spend more time with some of the more intriguing characters of this world, but it's hard not to come away indifferent to the film's stretched-out plot, which, like the previous entries, is rather forgettable. This was a series that had some decent potential, but it was always going to hinge on how engaging the story was, and over the course of these three films, it's unfortunate to find that it's never gotten up to the level it should be. The 4th and 5th entries remain up in the air (though chances aren't looking good), but unless someone else is allowed to try and steer the series in the right direction (Kloves on his own, preferably), then there doesn't seem to be much cause for optimism regarding its future.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The image looks fantastic throughout its entire runtime, highlighting the film's multitude of special effects and CGI. The Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio is marvelous as well, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and James Newton Howard's score in outstanding quality. As usual, Warner Bros. has done a great job with this home release, ultimately leaving you with a great experience in both departments.
The Dumbledore Family Tree (9 Minutes)
Dumbledore Through the Ages (7 Minutes)
Magical or Muggle (5 Minutes)
The Magic of Hogwarts (6 Minutes)
Even More Fantastic Beasts (6 Minutes)
Newt in the Wild (5 Minutes)
The German Ministry of Magic (5 Minutes)
A Dumbledore Duel (4 Minutes)
The Candidates’ Dinner (5 Minutes)
Erkstag Jailbreak (5 Minutes)
Battle in Bhutan (6 Minutes)
The Secrets of Cursed Child (5 Minutes)
Deleted Scenes (7 Minutes)
As far as extras go, we get approximately 75 minutes of goodies that include character history, breakdowns of major scenes, a look at the Harry Potter stage play, and a collection of five deleted sequences. Most of these featurettes are on the brief side, but there's plenty here for the fans to enjoy.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" is a significant improvement over the previous film in the series, but thanks to another padded-out story with just a mildly-interesting plot, it only manages to lift back up to the level of the sub-par first outing, ultimately making it yet another rather forgettable entry in the "Wizarding World" franchise.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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