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Despite Harry Potter’s cinematic adventures having concluded, there’s no curbing the interest in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. During its presentation at San Diego Comic-Con, Warner Bros. revealed a new look at Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, the second in a planned five-film series. Although 2016’s fantasy film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, didn’t break the $1 billion mark of the last Harry Potter film (2011’s Deathly Hallows — Part 2), it still made a sizable $814 million worldwide and proved the staying power of Rowling’s magical world, even in the absence of Harry and his friends. The sequel sees Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander team up with his former Professor, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), to defeat the rise of Gellert Grindlewald (Johnny Depp) and his followers.
The stakes in the new film are certainly higher than the last time around. While the first pic felt very much like a Pokemon Go-esque quest to collect the monsters, at least until the third act’s revelations, Crimes of Grindlewald seems much more focused on the brewing war between magicians and muggles. The trailer opens on a lighter note though, showing Newt Scamander’s instruction by Dumbledore, setting up the future friendship between the two men while also allowing audiences to return to Hogwarts for the first time in seven years. While presumably not much of the movie will take place there, it will be nice to revisit the halls of the school and see the differences in tutelage between the events of this film and the Harry Potter series.
Each entry in Fantastic Beasts is rumored to take place in a different part of the globe, showcasing how the culture of magic operates across the world. Departing from the first film’s New York 1926 setting, Crimes of Grindlewald takes place in 1927 Paris. Despite defeating Grindlewald and capturing him, Newt and auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) have been blamed for the Obscurus incident. Although Credence Barebone, the abused wizard who carried the Obscurus parasite, was seemingly killed in the first film, he has returned. Based on the way he’s looking at the posters depicting those from the magical world as circus freaks, Grindlewald won’t be the only threat Newt and Tina face as their actions in New York follow them to Paris.
Grindlewald’s escape finds him in a position of power, one where he attempts to lead the magical population to rule over muggles. Driven by visions, Grindlewald’s plan for revolution amounts to a racial cleansing, one that will see Newt and his friends, both magical and muggle, struggling to defeat him in the midst of an ever-changing world that is driving magical creatures out of the shadows. As detailed in the Harry Potter novels, Grindlewald was not defeated by Albus Dumbledore until 1945. In other words, Grindlewald’s villainy is only just be beginning, and will likely take us through the end of the film series. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Grindlewald’s plan and ultimate defeat in 1945 is meant to parallel Adolf Hitler. Given the film’s title, this chapter will undoubtedly show how Grindlewald became known as the most infamous dark wizard until the rise of Voldemort. While the Harry Potter series was grounded by the fact that its central characters were children in school, Fantastic Beasts may enter darker territory as the struggle to defeat Grindlewald evolves into war.
Dumbledore’s sexuality has been a point of contention among fans, with those involved not providing clear answers as to whether Dumbledore will be gay as Rowling announced the character was after the conclusion of her book series. While we don’t get any exact answers, the fact that Dumbledore sees Grindlewald in the Mirror of Erised and admits that he can’t move against the dark wizard alone does allude to Dumbledore’s feelings for the man. In the novels, and a subplot briefly visited in the films, Dumbledore and Grindlewald enjoyed a friendship as teenagers, one that had a profound effect on both men and led to them seeking out the Deathly Hallows and starting a revolution in the wizarding world. When a three-way battle between Albus, his brother Aberforth and Grindlewald resulted in the death of Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, Grindlewald fled and began his rise to power. Rowling has stated that Albus had romantic feelings for Grindlewald, though those feelings were not necessarily reciprocated. With Grindlewald’s turn to villainy and an appearance that screams evil, it will be interesting to see how Dumbledore confronts his former love.
Dumbledore won’t be the only character with his heart on the line. One of the film’s new characters is Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who was briefly glimpsed in a photo in the previous film. Newt’s former love interest and the reason behind his status as a persona non grata in many circles within the wizarding world, Leta, is engaged to Newt’s brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), which is certain to create some tension. Beyond her romantic entanglement, Leta is a member of the famed Lestrange family, pure-blooded masters of the Dark Arts whose surname would eventually become infamous after Bellatrix Black married into the family. It looks like Leta will keep her allegiances close to the chest as she acts as the film’s femme fatale.
Along with quick glimpses of other returning characters like Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and several new and fantastic beats, Crimes of Grindlewald introduces another character with ties to the events of the Harry Potter series, Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky). Flamel is the creator of the Sorcerer’s Stone, the item that Voldemort sought in the first Harry Potter entry. A friend of Dumbledore’s, Flamel will likely join the battle against Grindlewald as the latter seeks to acquire the stone.
While the connections to Harry Potter were sparse in the first film, Crimes of Grindlewald and the rest of the series seem likely to find their greatest success in embracing the connections to Rowling’s popular series, rather than straying from them. As fun as it is to discover new characters and places, the Wizarding World is most exciting when it delves into the corners of history and secret allegiances that made up the history books during Harry’s years at Hogwarts. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them provided a fun and entertaining setup, but Crimes of Grindlewald seems primed to be the film that will really deepen the magic of this Wizarding World.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald will be released Nov. 16.
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