Seven Nonsensical Things About “Crimes of Grindelwald”
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an unfocused mess of a film. It’s a film that doesn’t know who its audience is. Is it trying to appeal to hardcore fans – those of us who have read, seen, and discussed the Harry Potter books and movies umpteen times – or is it trying to appeal to casual moviegoers? In any case, both sets of audiences are likely to be confused by Crimes of Grindelwald, a film containing underdeveloped characters, contrived plot devices, canonical errors, and forced Easter eggs. The total runtime for Crimes of Grindelwald is 134 minutes, but it really should be at least three hours long.
Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t all bad, though. It certainly hasn’t dispelled my passion for the wizarding world. That reveal at the end of the film? I’m generally intrigued by it. Furthermore, there’s plenty to dissect and theorize about in Crimes of Grindelwald. However, that’s not to the film’s credit. To echo Jacob, I was already “enchanted” by this world. It’s the same reason I stayed up all night reading the special rehearsal edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when it was released. I have this desire to want to know everything about the wizarding world, but this shocking revelation at the end of Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t earned. If this franchise isn’t related to Potter, why would we care about this character at all? If I’m not already a fan of the wizarding world, why would I care at all? And that’s where this film falls short.
While there’s a lot in Crimes of Grindelwald that will ignite fan discussion and theorizing, a lot of the things that happen in this movie will leave you scratching your head – not because you want to find out more, but because you’re astonished by how ridiculous they are. Here are seven nonsensical things about Crimes of Grindelwald.
This was a fantastic action sequence and a thrilling opening to the movie. But it also demonstrated how incompetent politicians are in the wizarding world (admittedly, a recurring theme). Ironically, in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Seraphina Picquery tells the Swiss delegate at the International Confederation of Wizards that she “will not be lectured by the man who let Gellert Grindelwald slip through his fingers.”
In Crimes of Grindelwald, Picquery tells Spielman not to “underestimate” Grindelwald, but her own actions don’t reflect this. From Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we know that Grindelwald doesn’t require Polyjuice Potion to transform into other people. So why did no one think to use the Revelio Charm on him?
The Dumbledore Family and Phoenixes
This doesn’t add to Dumbledore’s mystique – it just takes away from it. If Dumbledore’s connection to Fawkes is due to some legend or factors beyond his control, then that just takes away from their connection. Why does everything have to be a prophecy? Isn’t it enough that Dumbledore and Fawkes have a special bond? Why does it have to be left to destiny for Fawkes to find his way to Dumbledore?
Queenie’s Motivation for Turning to the Dark Side
Queenie aligning herself with Grindelwald wasn’t surprising. In fact, from all the promotional content prior to the release of Crimes of Grindelwald, everyone had pretty much accepted that Queenie would turn to the dark side. And so much of this makes sense in theory. It’s a great subplot that’s poorly executed. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we learn via Newt that the American magical community has a backward attitude toward Muggle relations:
I do know a few things, actually. I know that you have rather backwards laws about relations with non-magic people. That you’re not meant to befriend them. That you can’t marry them, which seems mildly absurd to me.
So when Grindelwald, disguised as Graves, talks about putting an end to the International Statute of Secrecy, it makes sense that Queenie, being in love with Jacob, would be swayed by Grindelwald’s ideas. Dumbledore was similarly swayed (in his case, wizards living freely among Muggles would have meant that Ariana would no longer have to be kept hidden).
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Queenie tells Newt that Leta Lestrange was a “taker” and that he needs a “giver.” However, in Crimes of Grindelwald, we see Queenie uncharacteristically enchanting Jacob and bringing him to London without his consent. Queenie asks Jacob why it’s wrong to want to marry him. However, Queenie’s whole motivation for turning to Grindelwald falls apart when you realize that she could have just married Jacob in the United Kingdom, where Rappaport’s Law doesn’t exist.
Grindelwald and Credence
In Crimes of Grindelwald, while convening at his Parisian hideout, Grindelwald says that “Credence is the only entity alive who can kill” Albus Dumbledore but that he must approach him “freely.” Why this is the case is never explained, but that’s not what I find nonsensical about this situation. Slightly past the halfway mark in Crimes of Grindelwald, Grindelwald appears on the rooftop of a building containing Credence and Nagini. When Grindelwald asks Credence what he wants, Credence says, “I want to know who I am.” Grindelwald flicks a piece of parchment, presumably a map to Père Lachaise. But why is this even necessary? What’s the deal with Grindelwald’s big trap? Couldn’t he have just asked Credence to come with him at that point and saved himself a great deal of time? Credence was already there, and he would have come “freely” if Grindelwald had told him right then and there that he knew his identity.
This was an appearance over 20 years in the making, but Flamel “turned out to be a bit of a joke” (SS 8). We know from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that Nicolas Flamel was “the only known maker of the Sorcerer’s Stone” (SS 13) – so I was expecting great things from him. Instead, Flamel’s contribution to Crimes of Grindelwald was to offer some comic relief. His bones are apparently so feeble that simply shaking someone’s hand causes him intense pain, which raises the question, if the Sorcerer’s Stone doesn’t stop your body from deteriorating, who on earth would want to live eternally in a decrepit state?!
Flamel does have his big moment in Crimes of Grindelwald, though. He saves the day by arriving at Père Lachaise just as Grindelwald’s blue flames turn into dragons, telling everyone to form a circle, point their wands into the earth, and recite the incantation Finite. Why no one else (especially since there were several Aurors present) thought to use this simple spell is a mystery to me.
This has already been discussed to death, and honestly, I’m over it. I don’t actually blame J.K. Rowling for this disturbance in the canonical timeline of the Harry Potter books and information from Pottermore, though. I’m laying the blame squarely at the feet of Warner Bros., who I believe wanted more tie-ins to Potter. I have written about this previously:
According to the Harry Potter Lexicon, based on a conversation she had with Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and her entry on Pottermore, ‘McGonagall was born on October 4, 1935, and started Hogwarts in 1947, aged 11 years, 11 months.’
The most frustrating part about McGonagall being in Crimes of Grindelwald is that she served no purpose. She was just there to provide fan service no one asked for. I would be a little more forgiving if she played some pivotal role to the plot of the film, but Crimes of Grindelwald literally rejects Potter canon for no reason whatsoever. And to make things more nonsensical? Not only do we see McGonagall teaching at Hogwarts in 1927, but we also get a flashback of McGonagall teaching during the time Leta and Newt attended Hogwarts – how old is she supposed to be?!
Dumbledore Teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts
As everyone who read the Harry Potter books knows, canonically, Dumbledore taught Transfiguration at Hogwarts before becoming Headmaster. When it became clear from the trailers for Crimes of Grindelwald that Dumbledore would be the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, instead, this to me highlighted Warner Bros.’ insecurity regarding the Fantastic Beasts series. In Crimes of Grindelwald, Dumbledore teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts so we can get a boggart scene to parallel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. But this is so unnecessary. Why can’t Fantastic Beasts be allowed to be its own beast? If you have to keep relying on callbacks to Potter, then you’re not expanding the universe – you’re making it seem a lot smaller.
Some fans have reconciled this break from canon by suggesting that it’s not inconceivable that a wizard as talented as Dumbledore could have taught multiple subjects across his lifetime – and this is true of teachers in the real world. However, remember when I questioned how old McGonagall is supposed to be in Fantastic Beasts? Well, according to Pottermore’s entry on Minerva McGonagall, Dumbledore was McGonagall’s Transfiguration teacher. McGonagall is older than Newt in Fantastic Beasts, but we see Dumbledore teaching Newt Defense Against the Dark Arts. We know that Dumbledore taught Tom Riddle (who is younger than both Newt and McGonagall) Transfiguration because “Diary Riddle” calls Dumbledore “the Transfiguration teacher” (CoS 17). To complicate matters, we also know from the books that when Tom Riddle graduated from Hogwarts, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Merrythought, had been at the school for “nearly fifty years.”
Placing all of this to the side, the explanation given in Crimes of Grindelwald as to why Dumbledore stops teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts and presumably, becomes the Transfiguration professor is such an afterthought that it’s laughable. In Crimes of Grindelwald, Travers, who questions where Dumbledore’s loyalties lie, tells Dumbledore that he “will no longer teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.” This sounds like a great plan! It’s not like preventing Dumbledore from teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts will stop him from pursuing the Dark Arts if he wanted. It’s not like there’s also another major character in the Harry Potter universe who was refused the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts professor and still turned out to be evil anyway.