Suffice to say, we have questions.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out in theatres, facing mixed critical and audience response, but if there's one emotion that unites all viewers, professional or amateur, Potterhead or pedestrian, wizards or muggles, after watching this movie, it would be: confusion.
The second film in the planned five-part prequel/spin-off series of the Harry Potter universe (officially termed "Wizarding World") answered some questions posed by its relatively clear-headed predecessor, and raised a hell lot more. A step up in the grand picture but also a teaser for what's to come, this movie, ironically, bears more marks of a literature adaptation than any of the Harry Potter films.
In the interim of two years where we painfully await JK Rowling to deliver the answers, only to tease more questions to be sure, here are some of the most pressing issues desperately requiring clarification.
1. How exactly did Grindelwald escape?
The film opened with the fantastic jail-breaking sequence of Grindelwald, showcasing his wickedness, immense power and a lot of personality. That's all fine and dandy, but is anyone just a bit perplexed as to the exact manner of his escape?
We learned that Abernathy, the MACUSA wizard, became a disciple of Grindelwald while he was incarcerated in America, and he helped orchestrate his escape. But if they had exchanged identity sometime before the transfer to Europe took place, presumably through Polyjuice Potion, then that would mean Grindelwald was actually OUTSIDE of his cell, with the Elder Wand and blood pack in his hands.
Well then he was already free, wasn't he?
So was the whole opening scene just his attempt to rescue Abernathy? If so, it's commendable for a dark wizard to show such loyalty to a new recruit, a quality that good old Voldemort most definitely lacked.
2. Why is McGonagall in the movie?
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does not shy away from chances to drop a few familiar names, such as Rosier and McLaggen. But by far the most surprising is Professor McGonagall, a younger version of whom appeared in the Hogwarts sequence, trying to stop the Ministry officials from entering Dumbledore's classroom. An even younger version of her appeared in Leta's flashback scene, docking 200 points from Slytherin due to Leta's misbehavior.
Now wait just one damn minute! Her appearance makes very little sense. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she told Umbridge that she had 39 years of teaching experience. Her official year of birth as per Pottermore is 1935, but the movie took place in 1927, over a decade before her birth. Leta's flashback would be dated somewhere in the neighborhood of 1910.
So how old is McGonagall supposed to be?
Let's not forget that in The Cursed Child, which takes place between late 2010s and early 2020s, McGonagall is still the Headmistress. Essentially, if we are to accept both projects into canon, she would have taught at Hogwarts for over a century. Sure, judging from Dumbledore, that's not out of the question, but is it really worth messing with established canon for a cameo that isn't even all that necessary?
3. How can there be more Lestranges?
You know a movie is getting a bit too crazy with exposition, when it requires a magical family tree to explain the plot. But hell, even that doesn't shed enough light on the situation. Throughout the movie, we hear the rumor that Credence's real identity is Corvus Lestrange, a long lost son from the esteemed French pure-blood family and the last heir in its patriarchal system. However, we later found out that the real Corvus died as a baby because he cried too much (tough there).
And with the death of Leta Lestrange before her impending marriage (after which she would likely adopt the surname of Scamander anyway), how did the Lestrange family line survive? But survive it did, there was a Lestrange among Tom Riddle's circle at Hogwarts, and of course, there was Rodolphus Lestrange, his brother Rabastan and his wife Bellatrix (from the House of Black), all three being Death Eaters.
If there are multiple branches of the Lestrange family, why would it be that big of a deal for Credence to potentially be Corvus?
4. What was Grindelwald's trap?
Grindelwald laid down a series of bread crumbs for Credence, the Aurors, Queenie and his followers, which all led to a secret gathering in the Parisian cemetery. Newt made the realization that "IT'S A TRAP" (sorry, can't resist).
But what's the end goal of his elaborate scheme? Well obviously, it did work. The Aurors are made to be the bad guys, the radical followers became the victimized freedom fighters, words are spread all over the world in his favor, and he got to eliminate an entire team of his enemies. All in all, not bad for one night's work.
But why bring Credence into the rally as well? In fact, the event was prepared more for Credence than anything else. If he needed to lure Credence with the knowledge of his real identity, he had a chance of doing so when they met on the roof. Surely his political speech meant very little to Credence.
The likely explanation is, Grindelwald wanted him to first experience desperation. He arranged the death of Irma, the half-elf servant who sent him up for adoption, right when Credence found her. He led everyone to the Lestrange family tomb, so Credence can learn the fact that the real Corvus was dead, and he remained nameless. After these experiences, it became more understandable that Credence would ally with Grindelwald, the only one left who can offer him what he craved for.
That, however, only adds to the disjointedness of the narrative, as it essentially means two separate storylines are converging simply because they happen at the same place, which was exactly the issue with the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Moreover, wouldn't it seem really obvious that Grindelwald was being manipulative? He told Credence to go to the Lestrange tomb, only to reveal he's someone else entirely. Does Credence not wonder at all?
5. How does Blood Pact work?
Close to the end, we learned that the reason Dumbledore would not personally go up against Grindelwald is more than the fear of digging up his own shameful past, but that he physically cannot do it, due to a Blood Pact he made with Grindelwald when they were "closer than brothers", which meant they can never be enemies.
This explains so much! It's a clever plot device to keep the obvious deus ex machina in a supporting role until his due time. But like everything else in the movie, this raises questions. For one thing, the wand young Albus used to cut their palms looked eerily like the Elder Wand, which is impossible. Grindelwald was the one who stole the Elder Wand from wandmaker Gregorovitch, after Albus and him had fallen apart. Is it because Dumbledore saw it in the Mirror of Erised, that the image isn't 100% factual? It sure is possible. Dumbledore desires to possess the Deathly Hallows, including the Elder Wand. But that's just intentionally messing with your audience.
Another burgeoning question is despite the Blood Pact supposedly forbidding them fighting each other, they most definitely did fight each other. It was a three-way duel between the two and Aberforth Dumbledore that accidentally killed Ariana, the troubled sister highly suspected to be an Obscurial. Did that happen because of the Blood Pact? If so, there should be no more doubt as to who was responsible for her death.
6. Aurelius Dumbledore - how is it possible?
In a twist of fate, the real identity of Credence was revealed by Grindelwald to be Aurelius Dumbledore, a previously unheard-of younger brother of Albus. You are shocked, I'm shocked, the whole theatre is shocked, Luke Skywalker is shocked (by the Emperor, in case you didn't get it), Credence...well, I wonder if he knows Dumbledore at all.
The question is how! And when! And where! And WHAT?
Let's fall back to what we know, which right now seems very little. Percival, father of Albus, Aberforth and Ariana, was sent to Azkaban for attacking three Muggle children, after their assault on his 6-year-old daughter, and as far as we know, died in prison. That was supposed to be the 1890s. Their mother Kendra died during an accident when a 14-year-old Ariana lost control of her unstable magic (basically the Obscurus, but it's technically not confirmed) in 1899. Credence, on the other hand, was born circa 1901, which was the year the ship to America capsized (not Titanic, for anyone who's wondering). Even if Kendra gave birth to another boy just before her death in 1899, that did not look like a 2-year-old kid.
So obviously, there's a hole in our established knowledge, and we shall enter the mystical realm of guessing. Maybe, Percival had a child in Azkaban, although that seems unlikely under the supervision of the Dementors. Maybe, Percival escaped Azkaban and, wishing to spare his family of his tarnished reputation, chose to fake his death and start another life, and had fathered another child. But surely he wouldn't retain the surname of Dumbledore if he's starting anew.
Another interesting theory floating around focuses on the phrase "dark twin", which was used to describe an Obscurus. Perhaps Ariana's Obscurus was powerful enough to survive when its host died, then it manifested itself as a baby, which makes Credence a reincarnation of Ariana? Wow, that's a bit too wild. More likely, the Obscurus simply attached itself to another new-born. In that sense, maybe Aurelius Dumbledore is not Credence's real name after all, but the name reserved for the Obscurus, Ariana's dark twin, like a hidden personality that took on a life of its own.
That could potentially make sense. In the last movie, Grindelwald was looking for a child carrying an Obscurus, without knowing who it might be, how old it might be, or even the gender of the child. He was ready to believe it was little Modesty. All signs point to the fact that he wasn't looking any particular kid, but whichever the kid that's carrying the Obscurus. The fact that the carrier now suddenly has a secret heritage is too convenient to be believable.
If Grindelwald was truly referring to the Obscurus all along, then Credence's tragedy is only made worse. He grew up in the tight grip of his stepmother, tortured and controlled by someone else's Obscurus, and now manipulated by Grindelwald on a path of vengeance that isn't even his.
But all that is speculation. There's no way to know for sure until the series ends.
7. What is the significance of the new prophecy?
Another bloody prophecy! We've seen the likes of them in the Harry Potter series and in The Cursed Child. I really hope this doesn't become a poor habit of JK's, that each major event has to be driven by a prophecy. In this movie, however, the prophecy of Tycho Dodonas is merely mentioned and not very clearly recited. From what I can find, here's the whole thing:
A Son Cruelly Banished
Despair of the Daughter
Return, Great Avenger
With Wings from the Water
Yusuf erroneously believed the poem referred to the end of the Lestrange family line, with Corvus (Credence in his belief) being the banished son, Leta being the daughter in despair, and himself the Great Avenger. Poor Yusuf, who doesn't want to be the protagonist?
Now that his interpretation was easily debunked, it's time for us, the fans, to do what we do best (and worst), and speculate away.
It's not all that hard to link these words to the final revelation of Credence's identity, is it? He could be the son banished from the Dumbledore family, sent to America for some reason. Ariana could be the daughter in despair. Now Credence has regained his name, he may be the Great Avenger to go up against his family, namely his brother Albus. The bit about Wings from the Water remains unclear, but given the ambiguity of these prophecies, it could mean his Obscurus form or, really, anything.
If the above theory of Aurelius actually referring to the Obscurus and not the host proves to be true, it would mean the Obscurus is the Son and now the Avenger.
Or it could simply mean Credence is going to become an Avenger and help fight Thanos. You never know.
Bonus: About the Elder Wand
This is actually a left-over question from the last Fantastic Beasts movie, but I doubt it would be formally addressed. Shouldn't master of the Elder Wand be Newt or Tina by now?
Grindelwald, the preceding master of the Elder Wand, was defeated in the last movie. Based on what we know, the ownership of the Elder Wand should transfer to his conqueror. Sure there are a few catches. Firstly, Grindelwald wasn't wielding the Elder Wand during his capture. Secondly, Newt only shackled Grindelwald with some kind of magical vine (unclear if it's a spell or some other creature), then Tina disarmed him. Who is deemed the defeater is unclear.
But that shouldn't matter. In The Deathly Hallows, Harry became the master of the Elder Wand, because he had defeated Malfoy previously, who got the mantle by disarming Dumbledore. Malfoy wasn't using the Elder Wand either, heck, he didn't even know about the damn thing. It's even more outrageous in the movie, where Harry, instead of using the Disarming Charm, physically wrestled Malfoy's own wand from his grip. And it still worked! Apparently, anything goes with that whore of a wand. So either Newt and Tina should be the real master of the Elder Wand, right?
That sure doesn't seem to be the case. Cursed wandlore, so elusive.
Unfortunately, the answer is probably going to come down to: it's all made up so don't think too hard on it. Well, too late.
So these are my biggest questions after watching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. What do you think? Do you have any insights or ideas to any of them? Am I missing any other major gap that demands to be filled? Let me know in the comments.