The latest epic tale based in the Wizarding World is upon us. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in theaters now, and J.K. Rowling has absolutely packed it way past capacity with new canon. If you'll forgive me, she aimed the "canon cannon" (patent pending) right at the screenplay, and fired it off with reckless abandon. (Editor's note: We don't forgive Brian.)
There are little gems and details all over the place in the new film, so I, a stalwart adventurer like Newt Scamander himself, will do my best to sift through all of it and start to (hopefully) make sense of what our new Wizarding World reality includes. Incidentally, if you want to check out a ranking of some of the film's weird new creatures, accio this article onto your screen right now. Wands out, everyone, and do not listen to a word that Grindelwald says.
SPOILER ALERT: If it isn't already clear, this article will come close to being a list of spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. If you haven't seen the film yet, apparate directly to a venue close to you that shows moving pictures and get some new canon shot at you.
TITLE CARDS, FLASHBACKS, AND NEW MIRROR TRICKS
We've seen flashbacks in these films before, but they've always involved the Pensieve or an evil diary that turned out to be a Horcrux. One time we got a flashback thanks to some accidental legilimency from Harry, much to the annoyance of Snape. For the first time in the canon of the movies, this film gave us flashbacks that were not generated by any magical device or spell. (The closest we've come is the brilliant "Tale of the Three Brothers" animated sequence from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1.)
Leta Lestrange has the biggest flashbacks, as she remembers her old days at Hogwarts (when she became friends with Newt) after seeing their initials carved in a desk. Later on, she confesses to doing a certain thing (more on that in a bit) and we see all of that too. There are no magical devices at work — she's remembering, and we're seeing. It's a first.
We get some of this with Albus Dumbledore as well, though this time a magical artifact is involved. It happens when he looks into the famous Mirror of Erised, which is not just for showing us pictures of dead family members anymore. In this movie, the mirror shows Albus an abstract short film (soon to hit the festival circuit, stay for the Q&A) about his past experiences with Grindelwald. We didn't know that the mirror could do this. Perhaps it gave up its dreams of streaming distribution by the time Harry came around and just did its regular job.
Additionally, we'd never before gotten subtitles letting us know what location we're seeing. It's not a huge deal, but it does stick out. This film is full of subtitles, possibly because it jumps around the world far more than any of the films before it. From MACUSA in New York to the French Ministry for Magic to Grindelwald's Austrian fortress of Nurmengard, you never have to wonder where you are — the movie is nice enough to tell you. This has been accomplished in the past with magical newspaper headlines and the like, but we've officially made the jump to subtitling locations. We also get the occasional "X years later" subtitle, which is also new.
WIZARDING SOCIETY (PARIS EDITION)
We are introduced to how the Wizarding World operates in Paris in this film — a moving statue and a secret entrance (similar to the entrance to Platform 9 and 3/4) gains you access to a magical area of the city.
This is where we meet up with the Circus Arcanus, a traveling magical circus that is also new to canon. It's run by a morally dubious fellow, and it has no shortage of House Elves. It is able to magically pack itself up very quickly.
We also spend some time in the French Ministry for Magic, which is accessed through a branch and vine enclosure. The attendant there is a little snippy, but the ministry itself is gorgeous.
NEWT'S HOUSE AND ASSISTANT
Surprise, surprise — Newt doesn't live in his magical case. He actually maintains a residence in London, and though the upper floor is boring (yet functional), the basement is a whole other story.
Like his case, Newt's basement appears to be a bottomless magical menagerie. It's where he seems to keep the bulk of the creatures that he cares for when not traveling, and it's so big and deep that it contains a sunlit lake, which is seen when Newt tames the Kelpie.
Newt also doesn't work alone — he has an assistant named Bunty, and she's pretty much in love with him. He is completely oblivious to this.
The French Ministry for Magic is well defended by creatures called Matagots — they are freaky-looking cats with bulging eyes. It turns out that they aren't really creatures at all; they are "spirit familiars" that take the form of creatures. When they appear in the Muggle world, they take the form of simple domestic cats.
This is the first time we've heard about the concept of "familiars" in the Wizarding World— they are found in many other magical stories, but they're new to Rowling's world. We've only ever met pets, creatures, and fantastic beasts.
THE BLOOD PACT
One of the biggest mysteries that we all had when going into this film was why Dumbledore had to enlist Newt to go after Grindelwald. We know he's reticent to face him personally because of their past history, but surely there was more to it than that. As it turns out, he had a very good reason.
Throughout the film, we see Grindelwald in possession of a small silver vial. This item is stolen by Newt's Niffler friend during the final confrontation, and he brings it to Dumbledore. Albus fills Newt (and the audience) in on what this is — it contains the young blood of both Albus and Gellert, blood we see them shed when Dumbledore looks into the Mirror of Erised earlier in the film.
They didn't just put their blood in a vial for the fun of it. Turns out that the two young idiots made a pact when they did it, and the pact was that the two of them can never fight each other. We don't know what happens when this pact is broken, but Dumbledore is in possession of the vial at the film's end, and he is determined to figure out a way to break this magical pact. He admits that he and Gellert were "more than friends," but that time is past — he has to do what he has to do, and though we know that he ultimately does fight (and defeat) Grindelwald in 1945, he's not going to want to wait that long.
THE McGONAGALL OF IT ALL
Another surprise: When we go back to Hogwarts in the film, we see a young Professor Minerva McGonagall. Usually, this would be nothing more than a fun cameo, except for the fact that it flies into the face of established canon.
Or does it?
The main issue is that the film takes place in 1927, and even when Leta flashes back to her own times at the school (many years before that), McGonagall is still there. The current thinking is that McGonagall wasn't born until 1935, so how could Minerva be at Hogwarts when she wasn't even born yet? Is she really just that good?
Pottermore contains a wonderful story about her, but the story does not list the year of her birth — the year is generally accepted by fans because of a line in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the book) where McGonagall tells Delores Umbridge (yuck) that she's been teaching at Hogwarts for 39 years, placing the start of her teaching career in 1956. How then can she be professorially present in 1927, as well as in flashbacks that take us back even further into the past?
One theory that we can debunk is that the young McGonagall seen in the movie is a relative of McGonagall Prime. Though Minerva's mother Isobel did have a grandmother (also named Minerva and also a talented witch), it couldn't be her because she wouldn't have the last name of McGonagall. One theory that might still be possible is that a Time Turner is involved for some reason. McGonagall gave one to Hermione in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so she is definitely familiar with them. Maybe Dumbledore asked her to go back in time and get some extra teaching in? I don't know why this would need to happen, but when wizards time-travel, anything is possible. I have firsthand experience that proves it.
The simplest explanation, however, is that Pottermore lists her birthday as being on October 4 but does not list a year. She still could have learned Transfiguration from Dumbledore, as he may have taught that subject prior to Defense Against the Dark Arts (and then gone back to it after the events of this film). The only other snag is the number of years that she gives to Umbridge, but well, maybe she just lied. Or forgot. Umbridge sucks, so she doesn't need to know the truth.
Whatever the reasoning is (Rowling herself will surely weigh in on it at some point), she's there. It's the Minerva McGonagall that we all know and love, and she was present at Hogwarts much earlier than we all thought.
THE PREDICTIONS OF TYCHO DODONUS
A few characters make reference to this mysterious book, which contains predictions that may or may not involve Leta Lestrange, her brother Corvus, Credence Barebone, and new character Yusef Kama.
Prophecy no. 20 reads as follows:
"A son cruelly banished
Despair of the daughter
Return, great avenger
with wings from the water."
Many believe that constant Fantastic Beasts McGuffin-boy Credence Barebone to be the subject of this prediction, especially Torquil Travers, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic. Kama also believes in it, and the both of them use it as a basis for their wanting to kill Credence. Kama at least has an Unbreakable Vow in the mix, so he has to kill Credence to save his own life; Travers just strikes me as a jerk. There was a Death Eater named "Travers" in Harry's time, and I don't think that this is a coincidence.
It's probably not the last time that we'll hear about this set of "predictions," but Dumbledore at least doesn't seem to take them too seriously. Still, if Rowling actually were to write this fictitious book (as she did with The Tales of Beedle the Bard) I'd buy it immediately.
A LESTRANGE WHO ISN'T HORRIBLE
I almost couldn't believe it: Leta Lestrange, former best friend to Newt and fiancee to his brother Theseus, actually turned out to be a good person. She's the only member of the Lestrange family who isn't awful.
Her father, we find out, was utterly terrible just like the rest of them. Corvus Lestrange decided to ruin the happy marriage of Mustafa and Laurena Kama, the parents of the aforementioned Yusef Kama. Corvus put her under the Imperius Curse, married her, and the result of their union was Leta. Laurena died giving birth to her, and Mustafa was driven mad — he made an Unbreakable Vow with his son Yusef, and the vow was to kill the one who Corvus Lestrange loved the most.
Corvus went on to marry his second wife, Clarisse Tremblay. This marriage produced a son, also named Corvus. He never loved Leta and never loved his second wife, either— Yusef would find no fulfillment for his vow in killing them. Corvus only had love for his male son, as the Lestrange men were, adding to everything else, highly misogynist. Their family tree makes plenty of room for the males, but keeps the female members separate. Those Lestranges, so respectable! Uck.
Leta was no saint as a child. At some point, she was traveling on a ship to America with her baby brother, and he wouldn't stop crying, so to get some peace, she swapped the crying Corvus with a baby who wasn't crying. (Who among us hasn't done that? Be honest.) The non-crying baby was Credence, and right after the swap the ship had an accident and sank. Leta and her half-elf caregiver Irma Dugard survived, as did baby Credence, who for some reason was afterward given to the awful Mary-Lou Barebone. The crying baby Corvus drowned, as did Leta's aunt. This is the reason why Leta's boggart is a drowning baby.
Whereas every other member of the Lestrange family would laugh and celebrate the mere notion of a drowning baby, Leta was haunted by it for the rest of her life. She sacrifices herself at the end of the movie for the side of light, and proves to be the only good thing to ever come out of that family.
THE LOST DUMBLEDORE
Speaking of Credence and baby-swapping... for most of the movie, we're led to believe that Credence is Leta's brother, the miraculously un-drowned Corvus. This would be proved false when Leta makes her confession — when we find this out, the real question once again becomes, who exactly is Credence? If he was the quiet child in Leta's infamous swapping of the babies, what family was he a part of? We need to talk about Credence.
The end of the film gives us an answer to the Credence conundrum. Something that Dumbledore says early in the film bears mentioning here: He tells Newt that a relative of his once had a Phoenix as a pet, and that when that relative died, the Phoenix flew away and was never seen again. We instantly think of Fawkes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and also ascertain that Dumbledore has yet to meet Fawkes when this movie takes place. He finishes his story by saying that there is a legend in his family: A Phoenix will always appear when a member of the Dumbledore family is in need.
This matters a great deal, because good ol' Gellert tells Credence who he really is in the finale. He tells him to reclaim his name, which (according to Grindelwald) is Aurelius Dumbledore. Normally I'd just assume that Lyin' Gellert is lying to Credence (not for the first time), but right after he tells him, the little bird that Credence has been caring for throughout the movie bursts into flames, ultimately revealing a beautiful Phoenix.
For the sake of sanity, let's take Grindelwald at his word. There's officially a new member of the troubled Dumbledore family on the block. There's quite an age difference between Credence and Albus (and Aberforth), so we don't know yet if they are siblings, cousins, half-siblings, or possibly even fathers and sons. We don't know much about the lives of Percival and Kendra Dumbledore (Albus' parents) aside from the fact that Percival spent most of his life in Azkaban, and that they liked giving their children names that began with A.
After moving to Godric's Hollow, perhaps Kendra gave birth to another child? Maybe Aberforth got along with another human being more than his goats at some point in his life? Could Aurelius possibly be the child of Albus himself? Does Albus plus Arabella Figg plus Time Turner plus being ridiculous equal Aurelius Dumbledore, or as we shall now refer to it, A+AF+TT+BR=AD?
The biggest factor to consider in all of this is Albus and Aberforth's tragic sister, Ariana. He mentions her to Leta in the film, and he admits that he didn't love her as well as he should have. We knew this already, but the direct mention of her in the same movie makes me think that Aurelius and Ariana are connected in some way.
We know that after being attacked by some Muggle boys, Ariana refused to use her magic — it came bursting out of her in unstable moments, and one of these moments claimed the life of Kendra. She's never referred to as having an Obscurus (the term hadn't been invented by Rowling yet), but it's likely that one was involved. We know for a fact that Credence-Aurelius is all about Obscuruses, and that he himself is the bearer of the most powerful one around. Could the connection possibly be that Aurelius... stay with me here... is actually Ariana's Obscurus in human form?
I've gone off the deep end now, haven't I? That's what happens when you throw AURELIUS DUMBLEDORE right in my face at the end of a film. How dare you, but also, hey, very cool. Whatever the deal with Aurelius is, there is no mention of him in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which is where we get almost all of our Dumble-history. Even Rita Skeeter would admit that there are secrets buried in that family that almost nobody knows about. Aurelius Credence Barebone Dumbledore, first of his name, could be one of them.
I'm just going to write the name one more time: Aurelius Dumbledore. For now, he's canon. Why else would the Phoenix have appeared?