‘Secrets of Dumbledore’ Plot Summary Now Available Online at Wikipedia

The third Fantastic Beasts film, The Secrets of Dumbledore, was released today in the United Kingdom, in Ireland, Australia, Germany, Japan, Spain, and in China. It has been on screens in Holland and Belgium since Wednesday and this weekend will expand into forty-four other markets, including France, Italy, Korea and all of Latin America. It will not be available for viewing in the United States until 15 April.

[Ugly Aside: Please explain to me that this delayed release was not simultaneously an acknowledgment that anti-Rowling animus is centered in the US and a way of preventing protests here and the attendant twitterati hate-fest that might distract from appreciation of the film elsewhere. I expect there are important marketing reasons, etc., but I am obliged to suspect the reason Warner Brothers intentionally diminished box office returns from the franchise’s opening weekend take was somehow related to the Transgender Tweet controversy.]

The film is receiving thumbs-up reviews for the most part, much of which seems to be relief that the new Magizoologist movie is a big improvement on the disappointing Crimes of Grindelwald installment. The Forbes review posted yesterday may be typical in its lede statement, “Yes, The Secrets of Dumbledore is better than The Crimes of Grindelwald, but it’s still (strong production values aside) mostly awful by any other standard.” Other reviews can be found here, here, here, and here.

I have not seen the film and have not read any reviews. My preference is to read the screenplay first, but that would mean missing the film first run in theaters because the hardcover will not be published until late July. I suspect I’ll give in and see it at the local Cineplex before the book comes out or it moves to HBO, 45 days from today. Iconoclastic as I find the medium, movies are made for movie theaters (or they used to be).

I may hold out, though, for the book and watch it on DVD. If I do, it will be just because this screenplay, unlike the first two, claims to be “The Complete Screenplay” rather than “The Original Screenplay,” a subtitle I have derided here again and again through the years as ridiculous and willful misrepresentation. My fantasy is that The Presence agreed — and this “Complete Screenplay” will include what she wrote rather than just a transcript of the cinematic sausage David Yates and David Heyman conspired with Steve Kloves to make of her work. As Kloves once put it, they have to make “the lady fit the dress,” i.e., Rowling’s genius hacked into block-buster formula…

Odds, of course, are very good, regardless of my holding out or giving in, that by the time I see it I will know more about it than any film since the Harry Potter adaptations were made, when everyone knew how each story would end, more or less. Not only are reviews now ubiquitous, but discussion here at HogwartsProfessor will necessarily include spoilers to get at the meat of the movie and to scorecard predictions. I look forward to reading the reviews here by our more film friendly faculty as much as our regular readers do though it will mean I will not experience the movie myself with anything like a suspension of disbelief (as if that were likely anyway).

To conclude with the point of this brief post, the plot of Secrets of Dumbledore has been posted at the film’s wikipedia page by an early viewer in a five paragraph summary that spills all the beans. I have not read it but Chris Calderon tells me that it is as complete an exposition of the story as you will find on wikipedia. Follow that link if you want to find out about the story before watching the film — and desist if you don’t! If you’ve seen the film, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment boxes below.


  1. Scratch my ‘Complete Screenplay’ fantasy above. The ‘complete’ part means it has a bunch of talk from filmmakers and actors, not Rowling’s work. From the Book description:

    This official screenplay includes behind-the-scenes commentary and content and serves as the ultimate companion to the film. Not only can readers explore every scene of the original script, but they can go beyond it with the special features too.

    Fans can read about director David Yates’ vision for the film in his foreword, and illuminating insights from producer David Heyman and key cast members including Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law.

    The screenplay is enhanced with behind-the-scenes bonus content from the multi-award- winning production design team, that includes costume designer Colleen Atwood, graphic design studio MinaLima and others.

    Patricio Tarantino of TheRowlingLibrary explained,”I think the idea is to merge two books into one: the original screenplays as we used to know, and the Case of Magic / Archive of Magic (the companion books that include interviews and behind the scenes content).”

    He’s almost certainly right, doggone it. Oh, well!

  2. Jan Voetberg says

    I have now seen it twice. I liked it, but at the same time I have mixed feelings. The new Grindelwald is convincing, and every scene with Lally Hicks is a joy to watch. The qilin foal is an adorable creature. All the Dutch newspapers rate it 3 out of 5. Their general comment: better than the last one, but a bit tame, and hardly any plot progression in the series. I would summarize the movie as follows (without giving anything away): GG tries to become elected as the world leader of the wizards, and team DD does everything they can to prevent that. The plot is based on this election and the role that the qilin plays in it.

  3. Here’s just some two cents, the best conclusions I’m able to arrive at, based on what there is to read in the plot synopsis above. Warning: some minor spoilers follow.

    The two biggest things to note, story wise, is that we can look forward to two major resolutions in FB3. The first is that Queenie and Jake’s storyline gets brought to a point. The more important, however, is what becomes of the character of Credence. Here is the point where I guess it helps(?) to switch from straightforward description, and instead tackle the plot point from the vantage of artistic criticism proper.

    Without giving too much away, the entire Credence storyline does find itself getting resolved. What’s interesting to note about it is that it sounds like its meant to be something that is supposed to provide a greater amount of context to what we already know about the figure of Aberforth Dumbledore, by the time we catch up with the character years later in “Deathly Hallows”. I can’t shake the idea that there might be a sort of problem here, however. For one thing, the way he’s written in the initial “Potter” doesn’t seem like it contains enough in it for things to tie in neatly with what’s being presented in the upcoming film. The major gripe Aberforth has in “Hallows” revolves around him, his brother, and their sister. That’s where his main focus and grief lies. There’s no demonstrable concern there with either Credence or Grindelwald. He just comes off as a character concerned with a different set of tragic priorities. It’s an entire passage the author would have to re-write if she wants to tie it into this film. No offense, yet that sounds like a storytelling headache she just didn’t need to get drawn into.

    It also raises a few questions in my mind, at least. And it does lead me to speculate that what’s happened is more down to a case of the writer having her hand forced by the studios. If that’s the truth, then does the final product count as a legitimate story? My own take on the matter is that such circumstances can result in little more than an abortive sort of patchwork, Frankenstein Monster, at best. The darker scenario is where the story, in the strictest sense, doesn’t exist. Instead, it would be a mere tool to the kind of ideological claptrap discussed in books like “The Abolition of Man”. Either scenario is fundamentally antithetical to the creation of all possible genuine artistic endeavors.

    The ironic part in all this is that the synopsis does, or can help the reader to gain a rough idea of what might be in store next for the franchise. The main plot point for this next movie concerns Dumbledore, his brother, and Credence. All of which is brought to a final resolution by the time the credits roll. Jake and Queenie, meanwhile, seem there to provide this kind of subplot story echo. If nothing else, then it could be a pointer to the kind of structural plot circularity that Rowling is known for. So there’s that, at least. The trouble there is it brings us back to the seeming off-note about this film’s resolution, and the way it does, or doesn’t, successfully tie into what was previously established in the novels. It begs the further question if such circularity can hold up if too much of a story contradiction is introduced? Something tells me that’s a question to keep in mind with this film series, I’m afraid.

    Despite this, it is at least possible to claim we know where this movie’s focus is going to be. With the spotlight on Grindelwald and the Dumbledore clan, expect them all to take precedence over all other concerns. This means expect Newt to once more be something of the carry-on baggage of what is ostensibly his own series. If that’s even the case anymore. From what I can also tell, Tina doesn’t even put in an appearance in this entry until near the end, at the story’s alchemical wedding closure. If you stop and do the math here, it means we’ve now got two entries in the franchise where Newt and Tina have been unceremoniously pushed to the side for the moment. I say for the time being, because with the whole Credence subplot set for resolution in this film, it leaves us with just two final places left to go.

    The first is the budding romantic tension between Tina and Dr. Dolittle. The rest is what it says on Dumbledore’s wizarding card, about how he was known for having defeated Grindelwald in 1945. So there we have to two main plot threads left to tie up. Since the wizard card information can’t come true right away (the happy ending cannot come in the middle of a story, after all), it makes sense that the main focus of the next film will be aimed more at the Magizoologist and his new American friend. In practical terms, this appears to mean we can expect the franchise to remember it originally was there to follow Newt around on his adventures, and something tells me if things in FB4 don’t end in another wedding, then it will at least conclude with the promise of one, somewhere down the line.

    I suppose this means Film 4 is the closest we can get to an Albedo for this series. If that’s the case, then look for Beasts 5 to be a crimson soaked Rubedo as Dumbledore and Grindelwald duke it out, with Newt presumably offering assistance in some fashion. Assemble all the puzzles pieces together and you’ve got what looks like a very mixed bag. This is just all I can surmise, based on what I’m given, however. I would like nothing more than to be surprised by the rest of these films. However, based on what I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look like anything here is going to amount to much. Say sorry, yet there’s my two cents.

  4. Jan Voetberg says

    In response to ChrisC: I didn’t want to go into spoilers, but here are the three (!) plot progressions: the relation between Credence and the DD family becomes clear; Queenie returns to Jakob; and the bloodthrot is – unintentionally – destroyed. Katherine Waterston looked a bit peaky to me, as if just recovered from an illness. That might explain her absence during most of the movie. Bunty is Bunty. Forget all the polyjuice theories about her. I enjoyed how important (even crucial) her role is. At the end of FB1 two love connections are established, and at the end of FB3 there is the wedding between Jakob and Queenie. In the light of the ring composition and literary alchemy I expect FB5 to end first with the defeat of GG (who is defeated at the end of FB1 and FB3) and after that the wedding between Newt and Tina: the redhead and Goldstein: red and gold.
    What to expect from FB4? First DD again in front of the Mirror of Erised (: the mirror is mirrored in FB2) but than seeing his parents and Ariana (: see HP6: King’s Cross). He falls to his knees and says: “I’m so sorry!” And Fawkes turns up: we reach 1938, the year when Tom Riddle enters Hogwarts and buys his wand, the core of which stems from Fawkes.

  5. Jan Voetberg,

    I just had an interesting thought. Does the story even properly belong to Harry Potter anymore? If that sounds like an odd question, then I guess all can do is apologize. It’s just that I started turning recent events over in the mind, and I realized it all sounds like the franchise is reaching this ironic sort of turning point.

    Since the late 1990s, this secondary world was known strictly as centering around Harry, his friends, and Hogwarts. Now, however, with the addition of this new multi-part plot twist, it looks as if the greater focus is now shifting, more or less to Dumbledore. It’s a shift that even the marketing department seems to be aware of, as they’ve gone from calling it things like “Pottermore” to the generic title of “Wizarding World”. If this is the case, and this is how the fans are starting to view it, then it could mean we’re reaching a turning point in the public’s perception of Rowling’s secondary world.

    It could be that they no longer see it as the original Hero’s Journey it was written as. Rather than Harry being the face of the franchise, the main figure looks like its shaping up to be Dumbledore. It’s an ironic turn of events, to say the least. It makes me wonder if, instead of the Potter Saga, this will shape up to make people think of it as more like the Dumbledore story. Just an odd sort of observation about the way fan perception of a story can change, based on the storytelling choices that can be made over time.

    Like, I know this sort of thing has never happened to “Lord of the Rings”, or “Narnia. However, the reason for things remaining the same on those two fronts is because no one has been able to significantly tamper with the books since they were written. They’ve a pantheon status that is proving difficult to warp or mold into something else. As a result, there’s this cozy sense of homogeneity about Middle Earth and the Land Beyond the Wardrobe. The Wizarding World, meanwhile, seems to be caught in a precarious state of flux, and I do wonder how this is going to impact that creation’s fortunes over the coming years.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    Thinking off the top of my head – and therewith risking talking through my hat – might we compare Dumbledore and Harry with Merlin and Arthur – or even (somehow) Merlin and Arthur and Galahad? Would FB in this comparison be something like Merlin and Vortigern compared with Dumbledore and Grindelwald – or might Newt prove to be like the young Merlin of Geoffrey of Monmouth?

  7. D.L. Dodds,

    Well, there’s one way of looking at it. It could be that in cases like this your guess is as good as mine. All I know for certain is I’m wondering how the current direction is going to make the overall secondary world as a whole, and its character look in comparison to how it was.

    I guess my main worry is how far things can go before things start to lose cohesion. One of the things that makes Middle Earth and Narnia notable is that the author’s knew to keep track of things, and not wander too far afield. The Wizarding World used to be the same. Then again, would Tolkien and Lewis still have as easy a time of it if they had been born as contemporaries with Rowling, and then tried to get “LOTR” and “Wardrobe” et al published in the beginning half of today’s book market? Something tells me it would have been a different tale then the one we have now. Then again, who knows?

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says


    What a lot of food for thought- you’ve got me brooding! E.g., Sauron – whom everyone got to know first from Tolkien (and half of the assorted playful Sauron/Voldimort comparisons) – turned out to be less monstrous than Morgoth, but this does not seem to detract from LotR (or The Hobbit with Sauron retro-revealed as The Necromancer). Lewis: the White Witch of LWW, attractive to some in PC, part of Witches in SC, elaborated hugely (yet comically) in MN, yet it is the rise of the Colormenes in H&HB which has a cynical play with ‘Tashlan’ informed by the demonic reality of Tash (cf. THS) in LB followed by….!

    A prize-winning children’s novelist told me some years ago of the experience that no ‘main stream’ UK publisher would accept new novels with evident Christian content – so, I wonder how successful Tolkien or Lewis would have to have been, to get published today – if it were possible… (actual reprinting and assorted new publications of previously unpublished works notwithstanding)?

  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says


  10. D.L. Dodds,

    Here’s a further bit of something to think over. What is it that makes an audience pay attention to something like “Potter”, “LOTR”, or “Narnia” to begin with? A large part of the premise of this site has been an almost unconscious response to to presence of traditional symbols and tropes within the writing of these stories. I’m willing to admit that plays an important part. However, my experience has shown me that in many ways, the success of each of these stories has depended just as much on the part the audience “decides” to play in terms of overall reception and reader response. Let’s put it this way.

    In each case, what Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling had in their favor, traditional writing techniques aside, is the presence of what I’m sort of forced to think of as a Favorable Audience Paradigm. In other words, the respect house they had to perform in was composed, at the time, of an mental climate, or personal environment, which allowed their readers to gain the best possible reception that they were capable of at the time. Recall something George MacDonald once pointed out. A reader can never see whatever he wants in any given work of fiction, merely whatever he is capable of grasping. Rowling put it another way. “Books are like mirrors”, she said. “If a dullard looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out”. It’s a sentiment as harsh as it is proving to be all too prescient. Experience, again, helps to confirm the insights of both writers.

    What this appears to mean is that the paradigm of the audience itself can shift and change over time. It’s the phenomena that helps account for the names of certain literary titans can fall through the cracks. Do you recall, for instance, a time when John Fowls was regarded as a very big deal? If so, where is his reputation now? The answer: it has become a victim of the shifting taste of the audience over the course of time. The interesting part is the names that manage to cling on over the course of history, a kinder reserved for the likes of Dickens, Austen, Shakespeare, et al.

    One of the questions this begs, however, revolves around the problem of audience literacy. Looked at from this perspective, it isn’t too far out of left field to posit the idea that some reigning paradigms are more well read than others. Nor does this lead to the most obvious sounding conclusion. It is just possible, for instance, that a broad spectrum of medieval peasants would have a wider range of informed audience responses compared to one of Rowling’s fans today, with only a handful of possible exceptions.

    In practical terms, this would mean that a medieval audience, though completely illiterate at the textual level, would still be capable of possessing a higher literacy capability at the imaginative one. Whereas the exact opposite seems to be in play with the current paradigm. The audience for Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkien contains a high degree of textual literacy, yet there is a distinct, and observable lack at the qualitative level as that possessed by, say, a mere groundling taking in a show at the Globe Theater during the height of its popularity. The human mind has had it mental furniture shifted so much from that era to this one, that it is almost like the creation of an entire alien landscape.

    With all this in mind, I find that the following might be possible. to answer your question, Rowling and Tolkien might have been able to squeeze by, whereas Lewis, if he were sticking to his original approach with the series, then it seems most likely that he would only have ever gotten picked up by one of those niche publications with a very limited readership, thus guaranteeing that even success for Lewis in this case would have meant consignment to a very limited variety. Not enough the for the books to leave an impact on the public imagination, in other words. Such a paradigm setup appears to leave little for it. It is much more of an enclosed, of siloed society, more often than not.

    In the same light, it is also possible that neither Rowling nor Tolkien would have fared much better under the same circumstances. Consider, for instance, the accusations of racism that have been leveled at Tolkien’s work in recent years. It may not be a cohesive argument, yet in a way the audience itself would make such considerations cease to matter, all because of the nature of the ruling paradigm that it is currently operating under. The irony is that this begs a further question. Where does the reputation of Mythopeic literature go from here? The answer is something of a further irony.

    Because we are dealing with the ruling worldview of human minds, there’s no real telling where it could all go. Because people and hence whole societies are constantly making up and changing their minds through the run of years, it’s a mistake to believe there is anything sort of determinism at work in the way that audience paradigms are constructed and implemented. For the moment, the paradigm has placed the reputation of all three on a precarious tightrope, where opinion could fall into either a favorable or unfavorable mass point of view. Several years from now, who can say?

    Because neither literature nor human minds follow an inexorable law of progress, or at least are free to check such possibilities, then it always possible for people to reshape things in ways they aren’t always conscious of. It is therefore just as much possible for the reputation of Rowling and the Inklings to reach a series of high and low points throughout the ages, as time goes by. It merely proves another point made to the author of Harry Potter. It really all does appear to be little more than a simple matter of choice.

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