Harry Potter fans were in for a treat last month when Warner Bros. officially released the title of its third installment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. The film will be called Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, a reveal that has left some viewers feeling enthusiastic about the sequel and others admittedly less so.
What secrets could the title be referring to? Dumbledore’s sexuality? That’s not much of a secret anymore, at least according to J.K. Rowling, who has confirmed that Dumbledore’s homosexuality is canon—even though she has yet to convincingly illustrate that on screen. Will Secrets mark her first attempt at finally doing so, or does the film’s title allude to a different Dumbledore?
For months, there’s been speculation about what the new film will offer fans, especially in light of some major casting changes and a growing desire for the third installment to be better than its predecessors. Here’s what we know so far about The Secrets of Dumbledore, a film that could very well make or break the entire Beasts franchise.
Many Of The Original Cast Members Will Be Back
Fans of the first two Fantastic Beasts films will be thrilled to know that many of its original stars are returning for the third film. This includes Eddie Redmayne as Magizoologist Newt Scamander, Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore, Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone, Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, and Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander.
David Yates, who directed the last four Potter films and the first two Beasts, will also be returning to direct Secrets. Additionally, he is set to direct the remaining two films in the projected five-film series if said films proceed as planned. Fans who have kept tabs on the franchise already know that it’s on thin ice as it is, and that the last two films might get scrapped altogether if Secrets doesn’t perform well at the box office. They also know that even though most of the original cast will be returning for Secrets, one major player will not.
Johnny Depp Will Not Be Returning As Grindelwald
After an ongoing legal battle with ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp was fired from Fantastic Beasts, leading Warner Bros. to immediately begin searching for his replacement. Though Depp has claimed that he was the victim of domestic abuse, Heard maintains that it was the other way around, leaving Depp to pay the ultimate price. Not only has the actor been universally canceled in the wake of his lost libel suit, but if Disney decides to follow Warner Bros.’ lead, he may have to say goodbye to the role of Captain Jack Sparrow too.
Although fans had mixed feelings about Depp’s Beasts casting in the first place, his firing makes things complicated for loyal viewers by ruining casting continuity across the films. Many fans now wish that Warner Bros. had a real-life Time-Turner it could use to turn back the clock and recast him with someone who better fit the role (and wasn’t in danger of being fired and ultimately replaced). We’ve already had to say goodbye to one Dumbledore and grow comfortable with another. Having to experience that again⏤not because of an actor’s untimely death, but rather the implications of his personal life⏤detracts from the viewing experience and threatens to quash enthusiasm from fans who still support Depp. One can only hope that this doesn’t become a trend in the Potterverse moving forward, especially if Warner Bros. is banking on the remaining films getting made.
Mads Mikkelsen Is Respectfully Stepping In
As unfortunate as losing Depp is to the franchise, it didn’t take long for Warner Bros. to find his replacement. Mads Mikkelsen, who Marvel fans will recognize as Kaecilius from Doctor Strange, will be stepping into the shoes of the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald. Mikkelsen was shocked and honored to even be considered for the role, telling Entertainment Weekly in December of 2020 that he had some big shoes to fill.
“There has to be a bridge between what Johnny did and what I’m going to do,” Mikkelsen said. “And at the same time, I also have to make it my own. But also we have to find a few links [to the previous version of the character] and some bridges so it doesn’t completely detach from what he’s already masterfully achieved.”
Mikkelsen later expressed that he wished he could have spoken with Depp about the character after agreeing to take over for him. Unfortunately, the two actors didn’t share that kind of off-screen connection, and as Mikkelsen told the Sunday Times, “[Warner Bros.] called me and they were obviously in a hurry, and I loved the script and so said yes.” Even without his desired sidebar with Depp, Mikkelsen has a lengthy acting resume that will hopefully put fans at ease regarding the quality of his impending interpretation. He certainly gets points for enthusiasm and professionalism in the wake of Depp’s departure, and with any luck he’ll do the role justice⏤perhaps even churning out a better performance than Depp managed to.
Dumbledore Will Be Playing A Much Larger Role
There were several memorable moments in the Harry Potter films when Dumbledore stepped in and saved the day, but so far in Beasts he hasn’t had much to do. This makes sense given that the series is supposed to be centering around Newt Scamander, but now that the third film has Dumbledore’s name in the title, it’s clear that Jude Law’s younger version of the character is about to get a lot more screen time.
A synopsis of the film was recently released by Wizarding World, giving fans an idea of what to expect from Secrets:
Professor Albus Dumbledore knows the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is moving to seize control of the Wizarding World. Unable to stop him alone, he entrusts Magizoologist Newt Scamander to lead an intrepid team of wizards, witches and one brave Muggle baker on a dangerous mission, where they encounter old and new beasts and clash with Grindelwald’s growing legion of followers. But with the stakes so high, how long can Dumbledore remain on the sidelines?
With the film exploring the Wizarding World’s involvement in World War 2, some fans are nervous about how Rowling might handle potential Jewish characters in the wake of both her controversial transphobic tweets and concerns over antisemitism in the Harry Potter series proper. That aside, the synopsis also alludes to the possibility of young Dumbledore doing a lot more than he did in Crimes of Grindelwald. Fans have been mourning the loss of the beloved HP character since Half-Blood Prince, so getting to see him once again use magic⏤as a young man, no less⏤is certainly an enticing prospect.
We may even get to witness the legendary duel that finds Dumbledore ultimately defeating Grindelwald. Longtime HP fans have known since Harry’s very first adventure that Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in 1945⏤that is, unless what actually transpired between the two men happens to be one of Dumbledore’s secrets, a potential revelation that could make fans question everything they think they know about his character.
Fans Are Split On The Film’s Title
The second the new title was released, Twitter immediately exploded with jokes regarding Dumbledore’s sexuality. We all know thanks to Rowling that Dumbledore is gay, but as much as fans want to see that play out on screen⏤potentially even with Grindelwald himself⏤the title might not be referencing Albus at all.
It may be referring to Ezra Miller’s character, Credence Barebone, who was revealed at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald to be Albus’ secret brother, Aurelius Dumbledore. Prior to Grindelwald’s revelation to Credence at the end of Crimes, viewers were under the impression that Credence was an Obscurial⏤a witch or wizard who develops parasitic magical forces at a young age. But the third film’s title might mean that there’s even more to uncover about the mysterious character.
Meanwhile, other fans are upset that the film is moving back into familiar HP territory as opposed to the “new” landscape Rowling set out to create with the first Fantastic Beasts. Yes, there were hints of Harry’s world in Newt Scamander’s, but it was exciting to meet brand new characters and equally thrilling to wonder who from Harry’s future world might pop up in Newt’s, even just in conversation. Making Dumbledore⏤whether Albus or his brother⏤the centerpiece of the new film feels to many like a deviation from Rowling’s original intent, which was to explore characters and parts of her universe that fans hadn’t yet seen. These fans argue that making any Dumbledore the focus of the film is doing the franchise a disservice, especially when it could (and should) be diving even deeper into the world of its intended star, Scamander.
The Film’s Success Will Dictate The Franchise’s Fate
While there were numerous enjoyable elements from the first two Fantastic Beasts films, most HP fans will agree that Newt Scamander’s story is nowhere near as gripping as Harry’s. This might be because Rowling is a better novelist than a screenwriter, or simply because Beasts has turned out to be an experiment gone wrong. Additionally, fans who have become disenfranchised with Rowling herself in times of late have simply chosen to step away from the franchise and no longer support it financially. This could make for disappointing box office numbers for the third film regardless of how good it is, which will in turn determine whether or not the fourth and fifth films are even made.
Since the series’ inception, the Fantastic Beasts storyline was always meant to span five films. However, their lackluster reception and low Rotten Tomatoes scores have put a great deal of pressure on Secrets of Dumbledore. If the acting and plot twists majorly level up and the film wildly exceeds expectations, then it has the potential to not only breathe new life into the franchise, but save it from an early demise. But if Secrets disappoints the way many argue its predecessors have, then it may signal a premature end to Newt Scamander’s time in the spotlight.
While the creative team behind the films would be disappointed in the latter outcome, fans would likely take it in stride. Most Potter die-hards will never say no to a fresh foray into the Wizarding World, but three consistently mediocre films will yield the same result as a poorly-brewed Polyjuice Potion: A botched final product evoking cringes rather than thrills. At that point, it would either be back to the drawing board (or Potions class), or perhaps filmmakers would do well to peek into one of Professor Trelawney’s crystal balls to see whether or not a different Potter spinoff might be a better investment.
The Film Has A New Release Date
After being pushed back numerous times due to COVID-19, we now know when we’ll be able to dive back into the Wizarding World. If post-production goes as planned and the pandemic doesn’t take a turn for the worse, then The Secrets of Dumbledore will be released on April 15, 2022⏤three months earlier than the film was originally slated for release.
Whether or not the new film will outshine its predecessors remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: It will likely give us a better idea of whether we can expect more Fantastic Beasts films in the future, or if it would be wise to consider our next Newt Scamander sighting his last.