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SYFY WIRE Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Critics say 'Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore' is more 'focused,' Potter-esque sequel

See what critics are saying about the third chapter in the Wizarding World franchise before it hits the big screen April 15.

By Josh Weiss
JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore

After four years away from the big screen, Warner Bros.' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise will return to theaters next Friday (April 15) with The Secrets of Dumbledore. The official review embargo has been magically lifted, allowing critics to share their unfiltered thoughts on the third chapter in what is planned to be a five-movie saga. But is the impending entry in the Harry Potter prequel series as delightful as a toffee-flavored Bertie Bott's jellybean or does it have more in common with the dreaded earwax option?

To quote Drew Taylor of The Playlist, "Fantastic Beasts "has finally found its footing," thanks, in part, to the addition of Steve Kloves, who was brought aboard to help J.K. Rowling with script duties. Tapping into his experience of writing nearly every film in the Harry Potter franchise (a cinematic phenomenon that brought in over $9 billion at the global box office) Kloves has apparently course-corrected some of the more head-scratching narrative choices of the previous two features.

Critics say the result is a more coherent adventure set within the whimsical confines of the Wizarding World. Of course, not everyone is bewitched with Secrets, which ramps up the conflict with the dark wizard known as Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp). Siddhant Aldlakha of IGN, for example, writes that the movie comes off as "scattered," while some others note the tonal shift does manage to recapture some of that Harry Potter era charm.

Head below to see what critics are saying about The Secrets of Dumbledore before making up your own mind on Friday, April 15. Right now, the film holds a 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the second-highest rated of the franchise thus far. For comparison, Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald sit at 74 and 36 percent respectively.

"Devotees will likely adore the various revelations in store, including a deeper commitment to the tragic love story between beloved Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and the wizard determined to settle a score with Muggle-kind ... While The Secrets of Dumbledore doesn’t exactly embrace simplicity, the screenplay — no longer credited to Rowling alone, but co-written by stalwart Harry Potter adapter Steve Kloves — feels far more focused. Happily, the execution proves that much easier to follow." -Pete Debruge, Variety

Secrets does a decent job streamlining the busy storytelling in the third of a planned five-movie series that, to be honest, doesn’t have the clearest overarching narrative. And with a surprisingly good climax to go along with Mikkelsen totally understanding his assignment, this Beasts is never a burden to watch." -Brian Truitt, USA Today

"While Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore finally makes Dumbledore canonically gay, it does little else of note, remaining scattered across half a dozen inconsequential subplots for most of its runtime. It looks drab and feels like it was made by people who want to leave its magical premise behind, even though the series refuses to have anything resembling grown-up politics or perspectives." -Siddhant Aldlakha, IGN

"The Secrets of Dumbledore is another very amiable and lovely-looking fantasy adventure with some great production design and visual effects, especially in the New York scenes. But it’s not about 'secrets' as much as new IP-franchise narrative components shuffled into the ongoing content and shuffled out again. Yet there is certainly something intriguing about the questions arising from the saga’s approach to the existing Potter timeline." -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"Part natural progression, part dramatic course correction, it’s the kind of fun, lighthearted adventure that the series probably should have been in the first place and hopefully will continue to be (there are two more films supposedly planned) ... Fantastic Beasts has finally found its footing. This latest entry is the most fun and most buoyant in the relatively young series. And it’s enough to make you actually look forward to a subsequent installment (should there be one) instead of actively dreading it. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore pulled off the most impressive magic trick of all: making you care about this franchise." -Drew Taylor, The Playlist

"Should the Fantastic Beasts saga continue for its remaining two films as planned, things should only get better from this point out. That is, if Steve Kloves’ writing talents can be secured for those future installments. Weaving together the wizarding war we know is coming into a story of forgiveness, love, and protection of the beasts with which we coexist, Kloves massively corrects the course of the Wizarding World with Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore." -Mike Reyes, CinemaBlend

"This latest entry in the franchise mostly goes through the motions, making a big deal out of revelations that fans will find old-hat, unceremoniously closing the door or ignoring storylines that previously seemed to be important, and sidelining characters who used to be the protagonists. There’s not a CGI monster that can distract from how un-fantastic this Beasts is." -William Bibbiani, The Wrap

"Quite a few of these plot threads hang loose, making no sense. There was an entire chase sequence where I had no idea who was doing the chasing. That didn’t make sense either. But never mind. It’s the Wizarding World. It’s fun to be there, along with the lovely beasts. The fans love it. And perhaps that’s enough. More than enough, all round." -Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline

"Doses of Potter nostalgia are methodically positioned along the route like bolts on a climbing wall, to give the otherwise bamboozled viewer something to cling to. Look, it’s Hogwarts! Here’s some Quidditch! And who remembers that spell book with teeth? That these details do provide jolts of delight amid the confusion is testament to the imperishable brilliance of Rowling’s original creation. But for these particular beasts, the glue factory beckons." -Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, falls into precisely the same traps as its predecessor, offering up an unwieldy, mostly unsettling mash-up of adult themes and childish whimsy, made still more inscrutable by too many subplots, too many characters, and a tone that veers wildly off-course at every possible turn. And while there are moments in which it seems to be settling into something cohesive, The Secrets of Dumbledore can’t ever crack the own mysteries at its core." -Kate Erbland, IndieWire

"Compared with the previous two films, Secrets of Dumbledore feels more like a Harry Potter film than a Fantastic Beasts one. While a few magical creatures make appearances — one is even central to Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s plans — they are by no means the anchor. This installment revolves around Dumbledore, a more interesting character than the series’ purported hero, Newt . That shift focuses the film’s narrative, but it doesn’t do much for those of us trying to figure out the purpose of the series." -Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter

"[Newt's] presence has been reduced to a handful of whimsical interludes that feel severely out of place in what’s otherwise a morose political thriller. An evident attempt to right the ship has turned into a calamitous case of mission drift, as a property with no identity travels in nonsensical circles, looking for a sustainable new direction." -Charles Bramesco, Polygon