I saw an early screening of Crimes of Grindelwald on Wednesday and read the screenplay first thing yesterday when it came out, so keep in mind that these are just my preliminary thoughts. However, while I loved being in this world again and enjoyed the movie, I thought there were a lot of glaring plot holes, especially temporal inconsistencies, which this story opened up. Up until now (ignoring Cursed Child, which J.K. Rowling did not write) I always felt that J.K. Rowling knew her world inside and out, which is why this movie ultimately let me down. Yes, I know that sounds a bit contradictory, but I really did love watching the movie and was disappointed in it at the same time – I hope that makes sense 😉
First, though, some things I liked. I absolutely loved the relationships in this story. Newt and Theseus, Leta and the Scamander brothers, Newt and Tina, Credence and Nagini, Queenie and Jacob, Queenie and Grindelwald… I could go on, but these were some of my favorites and I really hope they’ll be explored further in the story. Newt’s relationship with his brother especially was something I enjoyed – they clearly love each other and have each other’s backs, but there’s so much tension there, too. I really hope we’ll get to see some more of their backstory in later movies!
Also, much to my surprise, I ended up really liking Leta. She was such a wonderfully complex character and – finally – a likeable Slytherin with actual Slytherin qualities. I loved the flashbacks to her time at Hogwarts and how she and Newt met (although I’m still really curious what ended up happening between them and why Newt got expelled…).
Another character I continued to love was Jacob. His reactions to the wizarding world are always so wonderful to see, and I also thoroughly enjoyed him trying to stop Newt from talking about Tina having eyes like salamanders. It was also heartbreaking to see how much he loved Queenie, couldn’t stop her from joining Grindelwald, but still stuck with what he knew was right. Jacob had so much more depth than just being there for comic relief, and I really appreciated that.
Plus, the setting and all the magical creatures just added so much amazingness! 1920s London and Paris where just so beautiful and fascinating, Newt’s basement is something I didn’t know I needed, and the Zouwu is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen (maybe even more adorable than the baby nifflers, to be honest…). In addition, I’m an absolute sucker for different languages being included in fiction, so I loved all the French snippets (and how Queenie started talking really slowly to the receptionist at the ministry – I was just reminded of many of my own American encounters…).
However, as much as I enjoyed the movie, there were so many inconsistencies to the original Harry Potter series that it really annoyed me, the most prominent ones being:
1) Professor McGonagall being at Hogwarts
Professor McGonagall is one of my favorite characters in Harry Potter, so it may come as a surprise that I wasn’t pleased to see her. However, I really don’t like all the age problems that are starting to come up in this franchise. I was already annoyed by how old wizards like Dumbledore and Grindelwald were (After all, I thought one of the main messages of the story was that Muggles and wizards only differed in their ability to wield magic and that wizards are not, in any way, superior to Muggles. And don’t tell me magic prolongs wizards’ lives due to better magical health care. As Grindelwald’s great aunt, Bathilda Bagshot would have needed some superb health care indeed to still have been alive at the beginning of Deathly Hallows… I don’t buy it.) But at least that was just one instance. Now, however, there are more of these problems. I never thought Professor McGonagall was older than 60 when I read Harry Potter, yet here she is in the late 1920s, clearly already at least 20 years old. I’ll let you do the math… And, if I may ask, what does she teach? Dumbledore might be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts now (something that also seems a bit out of character), but we know he’ll be teaching Transfiguration when Tom Riddle attends Hogwarts, so Professor McGonagall must be teaching something else?? Also, if McGonagall had been at Hogwarts then, wouldn’t she have mentioned something about also having taught him at the end of Chamber of Secrets, when the issue comes up? All in all, I would have liked it a lot more if we had gotten to see her as a student in one of the later films, not as a teacher… (Edit from me a day later: I completely forgot the most compelling piece of evidence! Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, p. 321: “‘How long have you been teaching at Hogwarts?’ Professor Umbridge asked. ‘Thirty-nine years this December,’ said Professor McGonagall brusquely, snapping her bag shut.” I don’t think this requires any further explanation. 1995-39=1956)
2) The Dumbledore-Grindelwald blood pact
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think Dumbledore being in love with Grindelwald would be a sufficient reason for Dumbledore to stand by and do nothing while Grindelwald commits his crimes. But the blood pact makes no sense at all. As we all know, Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Aberforth all get into a fight that ultimately kills Ariana when they are teenagers, so clearly they can’t have made the blood pact before then. However, we also know that after Ariana’s death, Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s friendship was never the same again, so would they really have made the pact afterwards?? Somehow, again, the timing here feels off. Even if they were horrified enough to use Ariana’s death as a reason to stop themselves from ever fighting again, I just don’t think they would have been in the mindset for the blood pact after Ariana’s death.
3) Who the heck is Credence?
Grindelwald speaks of Dumbledore being his brother, but Dumbledore’s 45 in the screenplay and Credence is around 26 (which I also think is much older than he seems in the first movie – I thought he was like 18 or something – but, we know he is a baby when Leta takes him in the ship in 1901). Still, the age gap is pretty big. And sure, sometimes one child can be born a lot later, but we know that Dumbledore’s father was in Azkaban for attacking the muggles responsible for tormenting Ariana after Ariana was six (and Albus was still at school and definitely younger than 19=45-26 because he and Grindelwald didn’t meet until later, after Kendra had died). So how, may I ask, can there be an Aurelius Dumbledore? If it weren’t for the phoenix (Fawkes?) I would be convinced that this is an elaborate plan of Grindelwald’s. And maybe it still is. Grindelwald could have planted Fawkes for Credence to find. Credence could still be Corvus – after all, we know that there has to be some male Lestrange still alive, since we have Lestranges in Harry Potter and Corvus is supposed to be the last of his line. Maybe some elaborate memory charm was put on Leta so she would remember having been on that ship when she really wasn’t, all so that people would think Corvus was really dead. After all, why send Leta with him when hiding him? As a mixed-race child in the 1920s, she’s not exactly inconspicuous. And the whole point was to hide Corvus, right? I don’t know. I’m just not really very convinced about anything, especially since the script really does make it sound like Corvus drowned. However, I still have hope that this stuff can be fixed. There better be some hidden purpose to this! (Plus, if Dumbledore had a little brother who supported Grindelwald, how could Rita Skeeter not have found out and put it in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore? Anything dirty like that, you basically couldn’t keep Rita from sinking her claws into…)
4) The Mirror of Erised
I must admit, I’m more convinced about this than I was immediately after seeing the movie. At first, I was very bewildered because if the mirror shows you what you want the most, why would it show Dumbledore memories of the blood pact? Wouldn’t the Pensieve have made more sense here? After talking about this with a friend, I’m a bit more convinced, though. Since what if what Dumbledore wants more than anything in the world is to go back to a time when he and Grindelwald trusted each other so much that they swore never to fight? A time when they might still have had a future together, a time when Dumbledore still had his family? Of course, we still have the timing problem with the blood pact in this case, but at least it would help explain the mirror…
5) What are the crimes of Grindelwald?
I mean – we know he’s wanted all across Europe and I thought, considering the title, we might learn a little more about what he did. But no one really goes into detail and then the Ministry just strolls into his rally with a few men, when he’s supposed to be highly dangerous. That just seemed a bit of a stupid plan to me. Plus, why does Grindelwald want to kill Dumbledore when he can’t harm him anyway (see blood pact) and he obviously protects his tomb from Voldemort in Deathly Hallows? I really, really hope that there will be more (romantic) backstory to the Dumbledore-Grindelwald relationship that doesn’t get messed up by these movies…
6) Magic is supposed to be secret?
From all we’ve learned about this time period so far, it sounds like consequences of wizards revealing themselves to Muggles were even harsher than in the 1990s. So why does Newt use that ventus spell on Stebbins out in the middle of a crowded street? How does no one in Paris notice any evidence of the magical havoc being wrought? In addition, there were a bunch of other magical inconsistencies that bothered me. Why can people suddenly apparate on Hogwarts grounds (at least, it definitely looked like they can…)? Why do Newt and Tina mention an Unbreakable Vow leaving scars? I don’t remember Snape having any when he made that vow to protect Draco…
7) Queenie’s sudden change of heart
I actually really like that Queenie joined Grindelwald. It’s realistic and it’s an interesting view on the boundary between good and evil. It’s how things are, it’s what happens when a charismatic leader comes along promising a better future. I just think that Queenie changed sides rather quickly. I get that she would be interested in what he had to say and listen to him. But then she’s suddenly part of his inner circle at Nurmengard? Really? I think the issue here was that there weren’t enough scenes detailing how she got from one point to the next. I need a bit more on-screen character development here to believe this switch!
Anyways, those were my major inconsistency complaints. I think so many of these could have been easily avoided by just leaving them out, and that they were added simply to name drop characters from Harry Potter. Professor McGonagall was there with no real purpose, just so she could be mentioned. The same goes for Nicholas Flamel. Don’t get me wrong – I did like seeing him. I just wish he had been a bit more involved in the plot because apart from crystal gazing and telling people what to do at the cemetery, he was pretty much superfluous. Other characters could easily have taken his role and nothing would have been lost plot-wise. He didn’t even need to have had a major role, but maybe at least some cool side story about him doing alchemy? The same goes for Nagini – she was there, and I liked how supportive she was of Credence, but I barely know anything about her. I generally would have liked some more side stories because the plot basically boiled down to “Who is Credence?” and “Grindelwald gains supporters”… From Harry Potter, I’ve just come to expect something a bit more layered than that. To me, it felt like some of the character development and backstory time was sacrificed in favor of fancy magic scenes, like the one where Newt, Tina, and Leta escape from the French ministry on the Zouwu. I don’t need that much drama, I want to know more about the world and the people in it! Also, as a side note: Jude Law should really work on his British accent! I absolutely could not take Dumbledore seriously when he kept slipping back into American sounds mid-sentence. Not when I had imagined him to be one of the most posh RP-speakers out there!
Still, although I know this sounds pretty negative, I did enjoy Crimes of Grindelwald on the whole. Yes, I was disappointed in some aspects, but the movie did have a compelling story, fleshed out characters, new magical creatures, and it examined the boundary between good and evil in a way I really enjoyed. Apart from the inconsistencies and the little amount of time we sometimes got to spend with the characters, this was a fun movie and the screenplay is a good companion read for those wishing to examine it further. There are some compelling new threads that I really want to know more about, such as who Credence really is (please, please don’t let him really be a Dumbledore – I refuse to believe that all that would have been kept quiet) and how he came to be where he is today, how Newt got expelled, what the deal with Tycho Dodonus is and how the entire prophecy goes, and, of course, what will happen next! I really, really hope all this will come together in a satisfying way.