Let “Fantastic Beasts” 3 Be All About the Women
One of my absolute favorite things about J.K. Rowling’s writing is her character development. Harry Potter is full of complex, multidimensional, fascinating characters. Particularly, Rowling is excellent at writing strong, well-rounded women who don’t just embody tired character tropes and aren’t pitted against each other. Tina and Queenie are my favorite Fantastic Beasts characters because they are both strong in unique ways. They have contrasting personalities and embody different kinds of femininity, but they are celebrated together rather than at each other’s expense.
I was so excited to meet Leta Lestrange and Nagini, but their portrayals in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald fell far short of my expectations. They, along with Tina and Queenie, were not given much of an opportunity to do anything productive, at least not on-screen. Crimes of Grindelwald reintroduces Grindelwald and Credence as major players, along with Dumbledore, Theseus, and Yusuf Kama, in addition to Newt and Jacob. Amid a dozen characters following five different plot threads, the women are quickly relegated to sidekick status, and what minimal work they get to do is swallowed up by the larger story. I haven’t yet lost faith in Rowling’s ability to write standout female characters, though, even if Crimes of Grindelwald did very little with the strong women we were promised.
Crimes of Grindelwald was mostly about men and their problems. It was a story about Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s past, Newt and Theseus’s conflicting loyalties, Jacob’s search for Queenie, Kama’s search for Corvus, and Credence’s search for his name. It’s only fair that in the next installment, the women of Fantastic Beasts get to take center stage.
At the beginning of Crimes of Grindelwald, Tina is on a mission to find Credence. Tina gets in some badass wandwork and one no-nonsense interview with Yusuf Kama before she’s thrown in the sewers. Newt shows up with Pickett to rescue her just as Kama conveniently collapses. Newt and Tina sort out their misunderstanding in a very sweet moment, and then Tina all but disappears from the picture, even when her own sister crosses the flames and joins Grindelwald.
In the next movie, I hope Tina gets to more fully exhibit her talent and tenacity. Maybe she’s the one leading teams of Aurors against Grindelwald, making decisions and taking charge, rather than Theseus. Maybe she’s determinedly tailing Grindelwald’s every move so she can keep a close eye on her sister. Let’s hope we get to see more of the driven, justice-minded Tina Goldstein we know and love!
Much of the character development leading Queenie to join Grindelwald happens before we meet her in London, though the movie makes it very clear how much has changed for her. She is probably the most active female character in the movie; she goes through a visible emotional struggle and ultimately takes charge of her life by deciding to join Grindelwald, and she quickly becomes one of his trusted advisors.
In the next movie, I would love to see Queenie play a much more prominent role in Grindelwald’s campaign. Let Queenie make speeches on Grindelwald’s behalf or reach out to potential followers as a representative of a softer, more compassionate side of Grindelwald’s movement. Or let her work as a double agent, formulate an escape plan for herself and Credence, and fight off Grindelwald’s henchpeople. We know Queenie is capable of more than just making magical strudels, so I hope she has the opportunity to be a true leader.
I was so excited to meet Leta Lestrange, but she never got the chance to be much more than a walking tragic backstory before Grindelwald killed her. There’s still so much we don’t know about who she really was. Why did Theseus fall in love with her? What happened between her and Newt that resulted in his expulsion? Above all, what made Grindelwald so sure that Leta would join him? I doubt she’ll be resurrected in subsequent movies, but somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Leta Lestrange.
So far, Nagini has not lived up to the hype surrounding her introduction. Credence breaks her out of the circus, and then she spends the rest of the movie following him around. She does get one excellent line, though, when she says to Credence, “[Grindelwald] knows what you were born, not who you are!” Nagini understands the truth behind Grindelwald’s movement far better than many of our main characters do. I think she’s going to be vital to his downfall.
I hope Nagini doesn’t go the way of Leta. There are still three movies in which I hope she’ll have the chance to be a fully developed person before she meets her fate. I want to see her do something, anything, that doesn’t have to do with Credence or her destiny. Maybe she befriends Tina and Theseus and learns to work with the Aurors. Maybe she helps Newt tend to his magical creatures. Hopefully, Nagini will get to be more than a damsel in distress or a tragedy waiting to happen.