Dumbledore's secrets reveal their 4K glory in new disc release
By Jim Bray
The Potterverse is back with the third in the "Wizarding World" movies in a new 4K disc package from Warner Brothers. I'm not sure why (other than profitability reasons) these "prequels" exist, but they do and that's that.
So, we have Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, where it appears the long-time Hogwarts' headmaster (though he isn't yet in that position) has put together a kind of Justice League-type group of witches/wizards/muggle to help fight for truth, justice, and the Wizarding Way.
I didn't see the second movie in the series "The Crimes of Grindelwald," so was kind of at sea when firing up the 4K disc Warners sent me for review. But it appears that Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelson, replacing Johnny Depp, who was probably a tad busy to take time to be in this installment – though that's complete speculation on my part) plays a part eerily similar to that of Lord Voldemort in the Potter stories – the evil wizard who wants to take over the world, including attacking the world of muggles and bringing them under his tyrannical rule. He's like a Bond villain with magical abilities. Kind of appropriate that Mikkelson (le Chiffre in Casino Royale) was cast.
Hence Dumbledore (Jude Law) and his rag tag band of little friends riding to the eventual rescue – but not before Grindelwald steals his way into power via a fixed election thanks to some corrupt "magical movers and shakers" in a manner reminiscent of how Biden was installed in the real world. In fact, there are some delicious homages – whether intentional or not – to today's real-world situation, though fortunately we don't get beaten over the head with Hollywood ideology.
Anyway, the story is okay but I wonder why (other than the dollars hoped for) they bothered because this is really just a prequel-ish rehash of events from the original Potterverse Rowling created with her Harry Potter books. If you're a Wizarding World fan and/or aficionado you'll probably like this film (I'm not, really, but I have to admit I did enjoy the movie reasonably well, even though I wouldn't have sought it out had Warners not sent me the 4K disc for review).
It's a pretty straightforward "good versus evil" story, and there's nothing wrong with that, but other than some interesting new "fantastic beasts" we don't really get a lot here that we haven't seen before.
It's a pretty good disc package, however. It contains a 4K disc, and a Blu-ray of the movie coupled with a set of reasonable but not particularly inspiring extras. You also get a code for a digital copy of the film.
The 4K picture is very good, though by no means the best I've seen. It's given the high dynamic range treatment, too, which can make the picture pop off the screen even more – though some 4K TV's seem to use HDR as an excuse to turn down the brightness substantially.
Still, the picture offers excellent fine details and textures, lovely colour and contrast, and is very enjoyable overall. It's an appreciable uptick from the Blu-ray – though the BD also looks really good – and that makes it worthwhile if you're into the Potterverse.
The audio is Dolby Atmos, which is backward compatible to Dolby TrueHD for most real-world consumers who haven't bothered adding the extra channels and speakers to their home theatres.
There are quite a few extras sandwiched onto the Blu-ray, and while I thought some of the insights offered were pretty interesting, most of the short featurettes (usually about four to seven minutes each) are more promotional than educational. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I'd have liked to see more "making of" stuff like how they show the sets at were enhanced textures and the like digitally (that part's pretty cool!).
Here's what you get:
The Dumbledore Family Tree looks at Albus Dumbledore's family, as envisioned by Ms. Rowling.
Dumbledore Through the Ages has director David Yates, producer David Heyman, actors Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Jude Law (all of whom have played Dumbledore), and others opining about the history of the wizard hero.
Magical or Muggle is a pretty dumb guessing game featuring members of the cast and crew. I bailed on this one after a minute or so.
The Magic of Hogwarts sees some of the thespians involved (such as Jessica Williams, Law, Callum Turner and more) comment about the "virtually-enhanced" sets, as mentioned earlier.
Even More Fantastic Beasts gives a quick boo at the new critters (and some oldies) used in the film.
Newt in the Wild features actor Eddie Redmayne, producer David Heyman, and some others involved in the film, opining about Newt (Redmayne) "in his natural environment".
The German Ministry of Magic looks at that particularly location, while "A Dumbledore Duel" is a quickie about the climactic showdown between Albus Dumbledore and a character that lends "Credence" to the proceedings.
The Candidates' Dinner is another quickie, this one obviously focusing on the big banquet scene and the marvelous effects it took to pull it off.
Erkstag Jailbreak is another look at another reasonably memorable scene, which I found quite reminiscent of the Roman prison to which Judah Ben-Hur's mother and sister were sentenced in Ben-Hur (except this one appears a lot more challenging to get out of, even without the "bloody Romans"!).
Battle in Bhutan is another scene focus, this time featuring producer David Heyman, VFX supervisor Christian Manz, producer designer Neil Lamont (whose father, Peter, was also a respected production designer) outlining how it was pulled off.
There are also some five deleted scenes, though there's no opportunity to pick and choose which ones you want to see (it's basically "play all" or "play none") and even a blatant shill (though a good one!) promoting the stage production of "Harry Potter: The Secrets of Cursed Child" that appears interesting but not so much that I wanted to run out and find a production of it in my neighbourhood (I think I'm pretty well over the Potterverse).
So, yeah, it's a pretty interesting, though hardly a masterpiece, Potter-less outing in the Potterverse, and it's well worth seeing at least once if you're into this particular franchise. But if you're more of a casual viewer or, like me, consider yourself Pottered out, you might find some other titles more interesting, despite the good performances, and the high quality of picture and sound, that you get on this 4K disc package.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray