We need to talk about “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.”
(Disclaimer: Spoilers abound below, so proceed at your own risk if you haven’t watched the movie.)
I saw the earliest showing I could find in Austin, yesterday at 6 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse’s Slaughter Lane location. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan (I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo, for goodness’ sake), but even I had really low expectations of the film, to be totally honest. I’ve been skeptical of J.K. Rowling expanding the wizarding world beyond what is necessary and turning it into something that’s cheesy and overdone, especially since reading “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” this summer and having seriously conflicted opinions about it.
But I loved “Fantastic Beasts.” Sure, the plot was a little predictable, but the world that J.K. Rowling and David Yates created together was unbelievable. We got a look inside the gilded and golden Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), a mention of the American wizard school Ilvermony and a step inside of Newt Scamander’s case of magical creatures, which hosted multiple rooms, climates and beasts (Bowtruckles, Cccamies, Mooncalfs, Murtlaps and more).
Even more impressive were the intricacies woven throughout the story. If you look beyond the predictable and sometimes cheesy plot, there’s Rowling magic: foreshadowing the big reveal at the end of the film, hints at what’s to come in the next four films and plenty of oblique references back to the wizarding world we know and love from Harry Potter’s time.
Those little hints left me with excitement for the next four films in the franchise but also with way more questions about what’s to come. Here are a few, in no particular order:
Was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurial?
In this film, we’re introduced to Obscurials, children who have suppressed their magic. Frequently the suppression is due to psychological or physical abuse as a result of their latent powers, and usually the child possessed by an Obscurus (the dark entity itself) dies around their 10th birthday. In the film, Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is revealed as an Obscurial who lived well beyond the age of 10 due to the strength of his magic. I couldn’t help but think about Ariana Dumbledore the entire time we discussed Obscurials. Potter fans will remember Ariana as Albus Dumbledore’s younger sister, who was attacked when she was 6 years old by three Muggle boys who saw her practicing magic. Afterward, she was traumatized and couldn’t control her magic (sound familiar, Credence?), causing an explosion that killed her mother when she was 14. She died during a three-way duel between her older brothers Albus and Aberforth and the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (more on him later).
Is Credence Barebone still alive?
While we’re talking about our good buddy Credence, it’s quite possible he survived the attack from MACUSA agents at the end of the film. His Obscurus exploded into a billion tiny pieces, but viewers might have caught a moment where Scamander spotted a piece of the Obscurus that didn’t seem like it was completely, well, dead. And, after all, there have been multiple reports that Credence is going to be a “notable” character in the Harry Potter universe. What does it mean?
Will we see the real Percival Graves?
Colin Farrell’s electrifying Graves (who, let me just say, really knows how to wear a suit) was revealed at the end of the film to actually be the big bad Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp (Surprise!), at the end of the film. But who is the real Graves? How long has Grindelwald been pretending to be him? Did anyone at MACUSA have suspicions about him before the big reveal?
What do the No-Maj’s think happened to Senator Henry Shaw?
Now that the New York City No-Maj community had their minds wiped clean thanks to the venom of the aptly named Swooping Evil, there’s still the fact that Senator Henry Shaw Jr. (Josh Cowdery) is dead, killed by Credence at a campaign rally. What do they think happened to him? It’s not like his father, Henry Shaw Sr. (Jon Voight) is just going to forget that his son is dead. Typically, a Memory Charm (Obliviate) just wipes memories clean, while a false memory charm implants new memories in a person’s mind. Were the No-Maj community’s memories altered to give a reason for Shaw’s death?
What’s next with Jacob and Queenie?
The most heart-wrenching scene of the film was undoubtedly Jacob Kowalski’s decision to step in the memory-clearing rain and wipe clean his knowledge of the wizarding world, Newt Scamander and the Goldstein sisters, Tina and Queenie. The film reveals that maybe his memory isn’t totally wiped, though — when he finally opens his bakery, the baked goods have some familiar shapes: that of Scamander’s magical creatures. His bakery is filled with pastries shaped like Erumpents, Demiguises, Nifflers and more. Enter Queenie, who stands in his shop as the two smile at each other. What now?! I ship this so hard, and I really want to see Dan Fogler’s character in the next four films.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald: When? Where? Why? How?
I have a lot of questions about Grindelwald. He went to school at Durmstrang Institute but was expelled and later befriended Albus Dumbledore, and the two made plans to find the Deathly Hallows, end the International Statute of Secrecy and dominate the non-magic community after the wizarding world was exposed (sound familiar? This was Graves/Grindelwald’s mission in the film). However, their friendship fell apart after the aforementioned duel that left Dumbledore’s sister Ariana dead.
Grindelwald, who was born around 1883, is presumably around 43 years old in “Fantastic Beasts,” set in 1926. Grindelwald was defeated in 1945 at the height of his power by Dumbledore himself and imprisoned in his own fortress for more than 50 years until Voldemort comes along and kills him to steal the Elder Wand.
We already know that Dumbledore is going to appear in the upcoming four films in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, but we have no idea what that’s going to look like. My guess is that we’ll see flashbacks to Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s friendship (and rumored romantic relationship?) leading up to the big duel in 1945, but one can only hope.
Most importantly: What’s going to happen in the next four films?
Rowling has said the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise will take place over a period of 19 years . . . meaning it will end in 1945. This means that big Dumbledore-Grindelwald duel will almost definitely take place in the final film. It also means we may get a look at young Tom Riddle, Lord Voldemort himself. He was born on Dec. 31, 1926 and finishes his Hogwarts education in 1945, the same year Grindelwald is defeated. Even if we don’t get a look at Riddle, the film franchise will undoubtedly help us understand the climate in which he rose to power.
The next “Fantastic Beasts” movie doesn’t come out until 2018, so we’ve got a while to wait. Until then, you can find me researching how to make Giggle Water at home and figuring out where I can get a stuffed animal that looks like a Demiguise, because that guy was so cute.