Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald leaves me questioning so much

Harry Potter's world has gotten so, so complicated. Let's unpack everything we can.

Warner Bros. Pictures

It's hard to admit to myself, but in the interest of honesty I must: the latest Fantastic Beasts film left me, a lifelong Harry Potter fan, deeply unsatisfied and a little cold.

Yes, I gladly admired the epic sets, cute creatures, charming performances and gorgeous costumes. And I was delighted to see the return of floppy-haired Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his magical menagerie of creatures, as well as a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and fresh details to flesh out the backstory of this much-beloved character.

But The Crimes of Grindelwald, in theaters now, failed to provide answers to any of the questions I had at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts film. Questions I've been wondering about for two whole years now.

Not only did I feel deprived of the delight of discovery and the resolution of mysteries, but the film left me with even more unanswered questions than I started with.

Here are some of the big issues playing on my mind. Warning, major spoilers ahead.


Who the holy heck is Credence Barebone?


Credence is as in the dark about his identity as the rest of us.

Warner Bros. Pictures

All through the film the audience waits patiently to find out who the creepy boy from the anti-witchcraft group in Fantastic Beasts really is. Credence (Ezra Miller) is similarly invested in finding out his own origin story -- in fact it's his overwhelming motivation. The most likely scenario was that he was Corvus Lestrange, the brother of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz).

But then, in a twist ripped straight from a soap opera, we find out Leta accidentally killed her brother years earlier when she briefly swapped the crying baby Corvus with another child, but could not swap them back before the boat they were on began sinking.

After Credence chooses to align himself with Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) at the end of the film, the dark leader drops a truth bomb like the Darth Vader "I am your father" moment at the end of The Empire Strikes Back: Credence is actually Aurelius Dumbledore, the long-lost and never-before-mentioned brother of Albus Dumbledore.

This is technically possible, and yet it seems unlikely. Credence was born in 1904 and Albus was born in 1881. To be a Dumbledore, Credence and Albus would at the very least have to share a father in Percival Dumbledore (if not both parents). Percival, we know, died in Azkaban sometime after 1890, so if Credence was his son he would have had to be conceived -- and perhaps even born -- inside the wizarding prison. A place where the security is not only tight, but terrifying.

Of course, it might not be true and Credence might not be Albus' brother at all. In fact, it feels like this is exactly the kind of lie Grindelwald would tell Credence in order to effectively weaponize him against Dumbledore.

Grindelwald uses the fact that a phoenix comes to Credence as proof he is indeed a Dumbledore (Dumbledores and phoenixes have a longstanding magical connection). But Grindelwald had also just murdered a slew of wizards with blue fire by this point of the film, so how much more effort would it have taken to conjure up a phoenix image while lying through his teeth?

In conclusion, the jury's still out for now on Credence's true identity. Frustrating.

What is a blood pact?


The Mirror of Erised reveals the blood pact between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.

Warner Bros. Pictures

After hearing multiple times that Grindelwald and Dumbledore can't fight each other, we finally find out why. They made a "blood pact" when they were younger, it turns out, by cutting their hands and smushing the blood together. And for some reason this means one cannot defeat the other.

We know about the Unbreakable Vow from the previous Harry Potter series, thanks to Snape (the late Alan Rickman) making one promising to kill Dumbledore if Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) failed to do it. So how is a blood pact different? We saw the pact being created, and we know it's stored in that little orb on a pin that the Niffler stole from Grindelwald.

But we don't know its terms -- what would happen if Dumbledore and Grindelwald did try to fight each other, for example? Or whether it can be broken, and if so how? We must presume that it can, or that Dumbledore can find a way around it, because we know from the Harry Potter novels that Dumbledore defeats Grindelwald eventually. Following this, Grindelwald was imprisoned for decades and is seen in the Harry Potter series when Voldemort visits him in pursuit of the Elder Wand.

This is a new and intriguing type of magic, and probably the thing I'm most excited to find out more about in the next film.

Did Leta love Newt, or did Newt love Leta? Did anything ever actually happen between them?


Zoë Kravitz gave a glistening performance.

Warner Bros. Pictures

After watching the first Fantastic Beasts film I got the sense that whatever had happened between Newt Scamander and Leta Lestrange had left Newt heartbroken. Surely the fact that he lugged her picture around with him meant that he still carried a torch for her?

But during the Crimes of Grindelwald, it became increasingly apparent that if anything, the opposite was true. Leta had clearly fallen in love with Newt as a girl and was still in love with him. But it's not clear whether they were ever actually in a relationship or just shared a close friendship at Hogwarts.

Why and how Leta had ended up engaged to Newt's brother Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) was even more of a mystery. Some of Leta's motivations and actions, including her self-sacrifice to save both brothers, were never fully explained, and it left her character feeling a little undercooked. Zoë Kravitz, who gave a moving performance in the role, deserved better.

How does Nagini end up becoming Voldemort's pet?

Of all the fantastic beasts that intrigued me in The Crimes of Grindelwald, the Maledictus Nagini was the most fascinating.

We know Nagini as Voldemort's beloved pet snake, a violent and murderous creature who also became one of the Dark Lord's Horcruxes -- until she was killed by Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). But now, thanks to The Crimes of Grindelwald, we know that she was once a woman, born with a blood curse that would see her transform back and forth between snake and human until one day she remains a snake.

But it doesn't seem clear from the film how she becomes evil, never mind how Voldemort turns her into one of his most powerful weapons.

Nagini the woman, played by Claudia Kim, appears to be hesitant, nervous and almost sweetly in love with Credence. When Credence joins Grindelwald's army, however, she doesn't follow, and doesn't seem convinced by his decision to effectively join the dark side. And yet somewhere between the Fantastic Beasts series and Harry Potter arriving at Hogwarts, she changes sides. How? And why? And how does she come to meet Voldemort? We demand answers and like to think this little subplot could be a movie of its own.

Is everything we know about the history of Hogwarts and its teachers a lie?


It's always nice to see Hogwarts again.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Let's start with Albus Dumbledore, who we already knew to have one brother and one sister. It was a duel between Albus, his brother Aberforth and Grindelwald that resulted in his sister Ariana's death. But apparently he now had another brother? Did he know about this brother? Are there other lies about his past that we don't yet know about?

Dumbledore was also known to be a Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts, but in the film we see him clearly teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts. Is there a reason that this fact was obscured from us before?

Finally there's the appearance of Minerva McGonagall (Fiona Glascott), who, it has widely been pointed out, was supposedly born in 1935, but is seen teaching at Hogwarts in the film in the 1920s. How is this possible?

All of these issues wrap neatly into one overarching question: is The Crimes of Grindelwald full of canonical inconsistencies, or is there an explanation for all these apparent plot holes that will make itself clear later?

Why does Queenie make such a bizarre decision and what does this mean for her relationship with Jacob?

One particularly strong feeling I came away with after watching The Crimes of Grindelwald is that Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) was robbed. One of the most enchanting and interesting characters from the first film was not given either enough screen time, enough depth or nuance in this sequel.

Queenie comes face-to-face with Grindelwald halfway through the film, and immediately knowing who he is, threatens him. But it seems that after just one conversation about how he wants to fight for her right to marry a muggle, she's considering aligning with him.

This doesn't click properly with what we know of Queenie, because of all the characters ripe for manipulation, she is surely at the bottom of the list. She can literally read minds, which means she can see people's true intentions in spite of the words that come out of their mouths. Perhaps Grindelwald's mind is impervious to her powers? I'd like an explanation, please.

I'd also like to know what her abandonment of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) in order to join Grindelwald's followers means for their relationship. Even poor, simple muggle Jacob can tell that Queenie is making a huge mistake. Plus, she is effectively abandoning him to join Grindelwald, which seemingly kind of defeats the object.

Then again, Jacob did begin the movie with his entire mind under an enchantment cast by her, so maybe some separation is a healthy decision for him.

What are Grindelwald's crimes exactly? Where did all these 'followers' spring up from?


Suddenly: an army of followers.

Warner Bros.

Maybe I missed something, but Grindelwald's so-called crimes did not actually seem that bad to me? OK, he definitely killed the guards who were supposed to keep him imprisoned in the flying carriage. And those people whose fancy Parisian mansion he stole. And murder and house theft are not unproblematic behaviors, I think we can probably all agree.

But because of the title of the film, I was expecting the crimes to be greater in number and in scope (the Avada Kedavra killing curse is overused in my opinion). I was hoping that once Grindelwald escaped, he would be off around the globe on a terrifying, wickedly thought-out spree -- like a magical, malevolent James Moriarty.

If anything, he really phoned in his criminal instincts and instead spent his time transforming himself into a silver-tongued dictator in waiting. And somehow he quickly collected a whole arena's worth of followers. Were they always following him? Otherwise, where did they spring from?

Is Grindelwald right? Is wizard fascism better for us muggles?

Look, this is Grindelwald's biggest crime as far as I'm concerned: his use of political mind games. His rhetoric and masterful manipulation have not only gained him followers in the wizarding world, but potentially turned me -- a committed devotee of democracy -- into a fascism apologist.

In order to persuade others that wizards should rule over muggles, Grindelwald shows his followers visions of muggle warfare -- like the mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion -- to detail the harm that humans inflict on each other. His point? Wizards can prevent this from happening and stop the muggles from going crazy and tearing each other to shreds.

And it made me stop and think that if the wizards were in charge of us, perhaps they could save us idiot muggles from ourselves after all.

But I feel like we haven't yet seen Grindelwald's truest colors and the full extent of his evil. I know in my heart of hearts that Grindelwald's way could never be the right way, but to find out why and to have my instincts proved correct, I will have to wait until the next film. Goodness only knows when that will be, but when it does arrive it better start giving me the answers I now so desperately crave. But there's no guarantee for resolution, the eventual Fantastic Beasts 3 will be the third of a planned five-film series, so I could have a long wait ahead of me.

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