J.K. Rawlings’ latest prequels to the magical Harry Potter fantasy universe have started to lose, well, their magic.
What may be the final part of the franchise that introduced movie audiences to quirky magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives on the 4K disc format in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 143 minutes, $49.98).
Newt — with help from brother Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), baking muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Hogwart’s charms teacher Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) and the mighty Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) — must stop the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelson replacing the Amber Heard embattled Johnny Depp) and minions such as Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) from starting a muggle genocide and a war to take over the world.
Director David Yates returns again to salvage the withering franchise but must deal with a story that has lost the charm of Newt and his wondrous creatures as well as his welcomed flirty romance with witch Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston).
Sure, it’s fun to see Hogwarts again and even the sterile German Ministry of Magic, but the entertaining moments from the wondrous creatures are at a minimum.
The stars are a baby Asian unicorn called a Quilin being a pivotal part of the plot (introduced in a scene that will make a child cry from terror), Dumbledore’s Phoenix and the return of Newt’s buddies — the too-cute platypus Niffler named Teddy and the stick-like Bowtruckle named Pickett.
Ultimately though, Viewers must endure a sullen and to serious suffocation of the universe that will cause unfamiliar members to occasionally doze off and only the most ardent of fans to stay the course.
4K in action: An appreciation of Mr. Yates’ pure, richly vintage Potter-esque production design makes it a delight to watch the presentation in ultra-high definition.
Lavish and vast sets pieces worthy of mention include the great hall at Hogwarts; the Hogsmeade Inn; the cavernous German Ministry of Magic; the vintage streets of Brooklyn (under the bridge and by the Kowalski Quality Baked Goods shop); and the bricked back alleys as well as the mountainous panoramic backdrop of the headquarters of the International Confederation of Wizards in Bhutan.
When focused on detail, look to something as simple as a floating magical water droplet, a metallic hood ornament flapping its wings or for more broader strokes of the 4K upgrade, watch the sealing of a wizard in a wall or Dumbledore’s phoenix with its wings slightly aflame.
On a bigger scale, examine Credence unleashing the magical deconstruction of a city block of buildings to attack Dumbledore, Jacob running on a bridge of floating papers as they burst into flames, and a massive scorpion spitting lava.
Best extras: The included Blu-ray version of the film offers more than 60 minutes’ worth of featurettes.
What’s important in the collection to new fans of the Fantastic Beasts and even the Harry Potter film series is the background information afforded in some of the segments.
Most urgent would be a 15-minute segment on Albus Dumbledore as well as his family tree that helps explain some of the plot points.
Production featurette highlights include breakdowns of the Bhutan Battle, a duel between Credence and Albus, the Erkstag jailbreak and an introduction to some of the fantastic beasts.
Most time-wasting but fun is watching the cast decide if some strange words are from the muggle or magical universes. It’s hard to believe that Mr. Redmayne or Mr. Law had time to play in this segment.