The Best And Worst Moments In Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

Warning: This article contains spoilers for "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore."

Morally, it's hard to recommend seeing "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" in theaters. The franchise feels cursed, between its past and current cast members embroiled in legal issues, and its creator continuing to use her voice and platform to harm the trans community. Seeing the film in theaters not only puts money in the pocket of a transphobic woman in a time where anti-transgender rhetoric and legislation are at an all-time high, but it also encourages Warner Bros. to continue a franchise that should probably just move on before things get worse.  

It's also not a great movie. "The Secrets of Dumbledore" sees Gellert Grindelwald, now played by Mads Mikkelsen, absolved of his crimes and running for Supreme Mugwump — the magical leader of the International Confederation of Wizards. The position is one that "Harry Potter" fans have technically heard of before, but has been fairly insignificant to the goings-on in the wizarding world thus far. Since Grindelwald can see the future and anticipate his enemies' movements, Dumbledore and the team he assembles must behave irrationally and act out a plan without knowing what it is. This, unsurprisingly, makes for a confusing and meandering plot.

That said, it is better than "The Crimes of Grindelwald" and worth checking out on (presumably) HBO Max after the 45-day theatrical window. If your curiosity gets the better of you, here are the best and worst parts of "The Secrets of Dumbledore."

Worst: Doubling down on Minerva McGonagall teaching at Hogwarts in the 1940s

If you were annoyed that "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" introduced a young Professor McGonagall in a 1910 flashback even though the previous canon on Pottermore said that she didn't start teaching at Hogwarts until the '50s — and therefore would not have been alive in the 1910s — prepare to stay disappointed. McGonagall returns in "The Secrets of Dumbledore," played once more by Fiona Glascott, and is explicitly called "Minerva" in dialogue, making it 100% clear that this is the future Transfiguration professor we know and love. 

Even if we ignore what Pottermore once said, if Minerva was a young professor at Hogwarts in 1910, that would make her over well 100 years old when Harry Potter shows up in 1991. Yes, wizards do live a long life. Yes, Albus Dumbledore was canonically over 100 when he died. However, there has been no indication since the publication of the "Harry Potter" books that McGonagall was that old. The books make it clear that Dumbledore is unusually ancient. Sorry to nitpick, but the "Harry Potter" books were so intentionally detailed that fans were trained to pay attention to every little thing. You can't expect us not to pick up on stuff like this. We learned it from watching you! 

Best: Newt and Lally's first meeting

The second and third movies in the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise are kind of more about Albus Dumbledore and less about Newt Scamander, the original protagonist of the spin-off series. Just like a Gryffindor to steal the spotlight from a Hufflepuff, isn't it? This is a shame, because Eddie Redmayne's bumbling and curious performance as the Magizoologist and hero is endlessly watchable and delightful. He's an underdog like Harry Potter once was, but a very different kind of underdog. 

This is exemplified in a scene early on in the film. Newt meets Eulalie 'Lally' Hicks in person for the first time after corresponding through letters, and they spend a good minute on the train geeking out over each other. They're so stinking cute, and it reminds us why these movies were exciting in the first place: We got to meet new characters and see new places, not rehash old characters and old relationships. 

Worst: Jessica Williams' accent

Eulalie 'Lally' Hicks is a great addition to the franchise. We've met a handful of American witches in the "Fantastic Beasts" films. Lally was just a touch more whimsical than Tina Goldstein with her career frustration, and Queenie Goldstein after she joined Grindelwald. She also seemed to have chemistry with both Newt and Theseus Scamander, though the movie appeared uninterested in exploring that.  

What was her mid-Atlantic meets Southern accent all about, though? Picking on something so specific is mean, but it was a terrible accent that couldn't pick a lane. A bad Southern accent is annoying enough, but this was trying to do multiple things at once and ended up sounding like April Ludgate doing Janet Snakehole on "Parks and Recreation." It was so confusing, my friend thought she was a Hogwarts professor, instead of an Ilvermorny professor, and that Williams was trying (and failing) to do an English accent. Speaking of, why haven't we seen Ilvermorny yet? There's no reason to spend so much time at Hogwarts in these movies. Fans know what Hogwarts looks like; show us something new.

Best: When Grindelwald erases the memory of Yusuf's sister

Mads Mikkelsen did what he had to do in the role of Gellert Grindelwald. He didn't have to do much: The "Hannibal" and "Casino Royale" actor is great at being menacing, quiet, and emotional at the same time. While the tension he brought to his character's scenes with Albus Dumbledore told us everything we needed to know (and, frankly, knew already), about their relationship, one of his greatest moments had nothing to do with Dumbledore. Early on in the film, Yusuf Kama offers to join up with Grindelwald as a spy. To test his loyalty, Grindelwald removes the memory of Yusuf's half-sister, Leta Lestrange (who the dark wizard killed in the previous film) like an evil "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." 

We know that wizards can pull memories from their brains thanks to Dumbledore's Pensieve, but we've never seen this magic used like this. It's cruel. Taking away the pain of a lost loved one like that goes against everything the "Harry Potter" series stands for. It's scary. It really makes it seem like Dumbledore's plan, whatever it is, is not going to work. If Yusuf can't remember Leta, will he remember why he's fighting against Grindelwald? It's one of the only moments in the film that feels truly unexpected and surprising, and it is stronger for that. 

Worst: The creepy stabby crabby thingies

Sure, it's funny to see Newt and Theseus waggle their hips with the crab-like baby manticores in the dungeon where the older Scamander brother has been imprisoned. Yes, Teddy and Pickett (the franchise's best duo) pulled off an epic escape while this was happening that served as one of the film's lighter moments. But at what cost? The big manticore that attacked the brothers was gross, scary, and extremely unpleasant to watch. It was the same jump scare over and over and over. 

Also, what was the deal with Newt tossing a leftover bit of it into the lake at Hogwarts? It seemed pointed, but if it was supposed to be an Easter egg, it wasn't entirely clear. There aren't manticores in the "Harry Potter" series. The closest is Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts, which were a crossbreed between manticores and fire-crabs. Was that meant to be the reference? 

Best: The dinner party scene

The best side mission in the film occurs midway through the movie when Lally and Jacob go to a fancy dinner party in Germany to stop an assassination attempt. Everybody is well-dressed in this scene; there weren't that many opportunities for formal wear in the "Harry Potter" series, so this stands out. Did "The Secrets of Dumbledore" forget that witches and wizards in this fictional universe wear dress robes, not gowns and tuxedos? They sure did, but everyone looked hot, so let's let that bit of canon inaccuracy slide. This scene was not teased in the trailers really at all, so every moment was a surprise. 

What goes down actually raises the stakes, as Jacob's presence gives Grindelwald an excuse to paint muggles as dangerous and garner support in the wizarding community for his cause. It also, potentially, adds some depth to certain character choices. Did Dumbledore give Jacob a coreless wand with the hope that Grindelwald would frame him, thus making his evil intentions easier to expose? That seems like the kind of manipulation and baiting thing Albus would do, doesn't it?

Worst: When Jacob gets his flirt on

For the majority of the film, Jacob is a needed source of brevity. When he screams, "He murdered people! I was there! Were you there?" about Grindelwald to the members of the International Confederation of Wizards, it was relieving, relatable, and therefore, oddly funny. Even though "Harry Potter" fans have been well-versed in this fictional universe for two decades, it's nice to have an audience stand-in commenting on the stranger aspects of the wizarding world. 

However, there is a moment towards the end of this movie where Jacob, emboldened by Dumbledore, turns the charm up to eleven and starts aggressively flirting with his ex-girlfriend Queenie — who, by the way, is one of Grindelwald's supporters — in the middle of a battle. It's so jarring that it almost seems like someone is impersonating Jacob to distract her. What was the deal with this weird moment? It doesn't match what we've seen of Queenie and Jacob's sweet romantic vibe at all. It wasn't bad, necessarily, but the moment was so bizarre and out of place in the movie.

Best: The Aurelius Dumbledore retcon

One of the more confusing parts of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" was the reveal that Credence Barebone, an American orphan and magical Obscurial, was secretly the younger brother of Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore and actually named Aurelius. The timeline didn't work out; it felt like a cheap ploy to connect an original character to the "Harry Potter" canon. So, imagine our delight when "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" quickly and efficiently said never mind, and revealed that Credence was Aberforth's son, not his and Albus' brother. Turns out, while Albus and Gellert were falling in love and plotting wizard domination or whatever, Aberforth was having a hot girl summer of his own with a local girl in Godric's Hollow. 

This twist is much better, and makes the stakes of Credence's story smaller and more manageable. He's not the Chosen One, he's just a boy reuniting with his father. More major franchises should be this blasé about rewriting canon that no longer fits the narrative. It was actually kind of refreshing that they just switched gears with confidence. 

Worst: The reveal as to who had the briefcase

In a move that feels like a copy of a Christopher Nolan plot, the characters in "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" are not allowed to know the plan due to Grindelwald's ability to see the future and anticipate their moves. Dumbledore, therefore, sends them on tasks that are meant to feel irrational — though some of them, like stopping an assassination and rescuing Theseus Scamander, feel pretty rational. In the film's final act, each main character is given a briefcase identical to Newt's so that when they go to stop Grindelwald from getting elected, not even they know who has the one with the precious Qilin inside. That makes sense, and even sounds like cause for suspense as various cases are compromised. The person who ends up having the case is the person who had it for the majority of the film ... Newt's secretary, Bunty. Needless to say, it's a very boring reveal.

To add insult to injury, Bunty tells Newt that he wasn't allowed to know she had it, implying she knew the plan all along. In addition, Dumbledore nudges Jacob away from choosing a certain case, and then later tells him that he does not have the Qilin. Meaning, he knew the plan all along as well. That also obviously implies that there was a plan all along. So, why couldn't Grindelwald have read the future and figured out that Bunty had the Qilin the whole time?!

Best: Katherine Waterston's cameo

Tina Goldstein, who was once a major character in the spin-off series and Newt Scamander's love interest, appears in two scenes with gritted teeth. Her absence has been the subject of fan speculation. Katherine Waterston has vocally opposed J.K. Rowling's transphobic views, and while there is no official word from Warner Bros. about her absence, some have wondered if that has something to do with why she's sitting this film out. Perhaps Rowling wrote the character out herself, or Waterston asked for her role to be reduced as much as possible without breaking her contract — but nothing has been confirmed regarding the changes made to her role in the films.

When she does appear towards the end of the film, though, it's a nice moment for two reasons: First of all, her character was missed! Tina, an American Auror, was a really interesting character in the first two "Fantastic Beasts" movies. On the other hand, it is kind of nice to see that some actors can get out of this franchise with their souls intact.

Worst: When the Qilin bowed to Dumbledore

"Harry Potter" fans know that Albus Dumbledore was offered various leadership positions in the wizarding world over the course of his adult life. We also know that he refused those positions out of caution and fear. Given how easily he was corrupted by his love for Gellert Grindelwald, that power could corrupt him as well. Knowing these things, how can fans be expected to accept that a magical creature would look into the soul of a man with such doubts and determine that he is pure of heart? There's no way! Clearly, the Qilin can't see into the future, either. 

Even if it is noble of Dumbledore to refuse power, fans know what he gets up to in the '90s with Harry Potter. We know that he manipulated a teenage boy to his death, essentially, in order to save the world. It's certainly not a bad thing that Dumbledore has flaws. The complexity of the characters in the "Harry Potter" series is one of the many things that make them so good. Still, don't introduce a creature with one job and have them do it poorly. 

You know who is actually pure of heart, and in attendance at that gathering? The so-called protagonist of this spin-off series, Newt Scamander. He just wants to take care of his beasts. Or what about Jacob? At least the Qilin ultimately bowed at a woman, Vicência Santos, and therefore invented feminism. Good for her!

Best: "Who will love you now, Dumbledore?"

There are two lines that specifically label Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald's past relationship as romantic: "I was in love with you" and "the summer Gellert and I fell in love." Both lines, a total of six seconds, were removed from the film for Chinese audiences. That royally sucks, but the emotion in Jude Law and Mads Mikkelsen's performances cannot be edited out and amounts to way more than the exclusively gay moments we've come to expect from Hollywood blockbusters. At the end of the film, after a duel with charged touching and magical lightning, Gellert says, "Who will love you now, Dumbledore?" and the camera cuts back to Albus with tears streaming down his face. If only this moment had a better movie attached to it!

It cracked open a window, briefly, into what the wizarding world could be. The "Harry Potter" franchise raised a generation to be tolerant and fight against injustice, but when you examine the books with just a little bit of distance, they are still overwhelmingly white, cisgendered, and heterosexual. One has to look to fanfiction, or works inspired by "Harry Potter," such as "The Magicians" or "The Mortal Instruments," to see characters that don't fit those molds represented in this fictional world.  

Worst: Dumbledore resigning himself to a life of loneliness

It's no secret that Albus Dumbledore is dramatic. After watching this movie, though, it is wild that he never dated after Grindelwald. The "Who will love you now, Dumbledore?" line is so good, until a moment later when you remember that you read the "Harry Potter" books and the answer is nobody. He's so lonely and heartbroken at the end of this movie, he refuses to attend Queenie and Jacob's wedding. He sits across the street, making it very clear to the audience that he doesn't think he belongs. We're just supposed to be cool with the fact that Albus chose his homophobic brother over his own happiness? 

No wonder he and Severus Snape got along. Remember, this isn't the first time that a "Harry Potter" character has held a torch for an extended period. In the books, at least, Snape was only 38 years old when he died. He wallowed over Lily Potter for less than three decades. Dumbledore let his heartbreak cut him off from the world for over a century.

Sure, homosexuality did not become legal in the United Kingdom until 1967. It's easy for us to look back from the relative comfort of today and criticize his actions. However, Albus Dumbledore is a wizard, and a very good one at that. He's not going to get arrested; he could eschew the law for a tryst. He's smart, powerful, and hot. Go on a date, Dumbledore!