SALT LAKE CITY — J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World has grown beyond the cupboard under the stairs where readers first met Harry Potter two decades ago.
Potterheads have come to experience Rowling’s brand of magic through books, films, stage and digital media. That world is expected to grow even more with the latest film, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," due in theaters on Friday, Nov. 16. The upcoming film looks to mark the convergence of Harry’s story with the story of Newt Scamander, who was first introduced to audiences in 2016’s "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." While the first film referenced places and characters in the Harry Potter series, "Crimes of Grindelwald" seems to bring those Easter eggs into the limelight.
With the continued growth of Rowling’s world, it shouldn’t take a remembrall for moviegoers to know that they may have forgotten a thing or two about Harry’s and Newt’s adventures. Even behind the scenes, there’s been a lot of talk and controversy concerning some of the cast and characters. So here’s a handy guide detailing everything you need to know going into "The Crimes of Grindelwald."
(Note: Expect spoilers for the original Harry Potter books and movies as well as the first "Fantastic Beasts" film ahead.)
The Fantastic Beasts movies take place roughly 70 years before the events chronicled in the Harry Potter series. The first movie, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," set protagonist Newt Scamander in 1926’s New York City.
What’s happening during this time?
In America’s wizarding world, interaction between the wizarding community and the non-magical community — “muggles” or “no-majs” — is strictly forbidden out of fear of witches and wizards becoming exposed. Fears are heightened throughout the world with the rise of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, who arrives in New York City about the same time as Newt.
Meanwhile, in the non-magical community, the world is in what historians have dubbed the "interwar period." The First World War, or the Great War, that lasted from 1914-1918, has left a scar on the public consciousness. The market crash of 1929 and the rise of Nazi Germany are on the horizon. This might seem unimportant to a story about witches and wizards, but Rowling hinted well over a decade ago that these events are tied to Grindelwald’s story.
"(Someone) asked about Grindelwald," Rowling told websites the Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet in a 2005 interview. “He said, 'Is it coincidence that he died in 1945?' And I said 'no.' It amuses me to make allusions to things that were happening in the muggle world, so my feeling would be that while there's a global muggle war going on, there's also a global wizarding war going on."
When asked whether the muggle and wizarding wars are connected, Rowling responded, "Yeah, I think so," before reportedly going quiet and then laughing "maniacally."
Of course a world as vast as Rowling’s means there are plenty of characters to keep track of. Here are some of the most important to the "Fantastic Beasts" storyline.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne):
Thus far, the "Fantastic Beasts" films have followed magizoologist Newt Scamander. In Harry Potter’s time, Newt is the renowned author of the Potter-world textbook, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." In the new films, we see that Newt is currently writing his future best seller, which details magical creatures and promotes their preservation. We know he’s been expelled from Hogwarts, although the reasons behind his expulsion are unknown at this point.
At the end of the last movie, Newt helped wizarding authorities capture Gellert Grindelwald. He leaves New York at the end of the film, mentioning that he’s headed back to England to deliver his manuscript and live "a quiet life."
Rowling actually wrote and published Newt’s textbook under his name in 2001. Since the movie’s release, Eddie Redmayne has recorded the audiobook in character as Newt.
Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp):
Most of what’s known about Grindelwald comes from the Harry Potter novels. Potterheads know he attended Durmstrang — one of the international schools Harry Potter encounters in "Goblet of Fire." (The same school that Quidditch star Viktor Krum attends.) In "Deathly Hallows," we learn that he became a close friend of Albus Dumbledore shortly after they completed their wizarding studies. We also learn that he carried the Elder Wand before it comes into Dumbledore’s possession.
During "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," Grindelwald arrives in New York and infiltrates the American wizarding government, assuming the role of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell). He’s discovered by the end of the film and taken into custody.
Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller):
Credence is the adopted son of Mary Lou Barebone, the fanatical leader of an anti-witchcraft group. Despite living in an abusive household that wants to exterminate magical-folk, we learn that Credence is a wizard himself, one who’s been forced to suppress his magic. The suppression of his magic has caused him to produce a dark magical parasite, an obscurus, which has incredible, deadly power.
In "Fantastic Beasts," Grindelwald (under the guise of Graves) manipulates Credence. Grindelwald wants to unleash the obscurus to expose the wizarding world and pit wizards against no-majs. Credence eventually unleashes his obscurus but is taken down by wizarding law enforcement. He’s believed to be dead, but we catch a glimpse of a black smoke-like substance surviving the assault, suggesting that Credence is actually still alive.
Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler):
Unlike the rest of the characters, Jacob isn’t a witch or wizard — in fact, he doesn’t come from the magical world at all. He’s a no-maj who fought in World War I and is looking for a loan to start his dream of creating a bakery. His life is turned upside down when his briefcase is switched with Newt’s magical briefcase, exposing him to the wizarding world.
Throughout the first movie, Jacob uncovers the wizarding world alongside Newt, in awe of the magic and its creatures. Unfortunately, per wizarding law, a forgetfulness charm is placed over him, making him forget everything he experienced. Unbeknownst to Jacob, Newt provides him the funds needed to start his bakery by supplying him with silver eggshells.
Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein (Katherine Waterston):
Tina is the disgraced auror (think "wizard cop") who apprehends Newt at the beginning of "Fantastic Beasts." She was dismissed from her job due to her meddling with Credence and his family.
Tina eventually teams up with Newt to find his missing monsters. She re-encounters Credence along the way and tries to help him as she did before, helping expose Graves as Grindelwald. In the end, she’s reinstated as an auror.
Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol):
Queenie is Tina’s sister, and has a special gift few witches possess: she can read minds to identify feelings and memories. She accompanies her sister as they chase Newt and his beasts through New York City.
From the outset, it’s clear that she and Jacob share a special bond with each other. At the end of the film, right as Jacob has his memory wiped, she shares a kiss with him. In the final scene of the movie, she visits Jacob’s bakery and he appears to recognize her.
Harry Potter and the Things to Remember
Seeing as the movie is set in the same universe as Harry’s, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there will be ties to the original seven books. Based on the first movie, as well as the movie trailer, we already know some of the characters that are set to return.
Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law):
Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and Harry Potter’s mentor, is set to return in this film, though his younger self will be missing his iconic white beard. While we don’t know all the details about what Dumbledore is up to in the 1920s, it’s almost sure that his close relationship with Grindelwald — revealed in "Deathly Hallows" — will come to play in some way.
Nagini (Claudia Kim):
The final theatrical trailer introduced a new character to the "Fantastic Beasts" story: a woman named Nagini who transforms into a snake. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the name of Voldemort’s snake (and horcrux) in the Harry Potter series, suggesting that the Nagini in this film will eventually become the right-hand serpent of The Dark Lord.
Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky):
Flamel, while never appearing in the Harry Potter books, plays a large off-screen role in the very first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" ("Philosopher’s Stone" outside the States). He’s the creator of the Sorcerer’s Stone, a powerful object necessary for achieving immortality. Voldemort, through Professor Quirrell, tries to procure the stone but is thwarted by Harry and Dumbledore through the use of the Mirror of Erised, which shows a person’s deepest desire.
Flamel is one of the few Harry Potter characters who lived in real-life. A French alchemist who lived in Paris during the 14th and 15th century, we can still see his headstone today in Paris's Musée de Cluny. The fictional Flamel makes an appearance at the end of the "Crimes of Grindelwald" trailer, so we know he’ll have a part to play in this new film, although how he’s connected to Grindelwald is unclear at this point.
The Lestrange Family:
The most famous Lestrange is Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter), one of Voldemort’s most trusted confidantes. It’s not likely that we’ll see Bellatrix in "Fantastic Beasts" (it’s a bit too early for her at this point), but a Lestrange is referenced in the first film: Leta Lestrange. She’s apparently a close friend of Newt's. Actress Zoë Kravitz will play Leta in "Crimes of Grindelwald," so expect to see a lot of her in the upcoming film.
The Deathly Hallows:
While not characters themselves, the three items that make up the Deathly Hallows — the cloak of invisibility, the resurrection stone and the Elder Wand — are three powerful relics that are incredibly important to Grindelwald. The symbol of the Deathly Hallows (a triangle enclosing a circle with a line running down the center) already made an appearance in the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to disappear anytime soon.
The expansion behind Rowling’s wizarding world hasn’t come without growing pains. Many fans have become wary of the new films for a number of reasons.
Casting Johnny Depp:
Depp’s surprise reveal at the end of the first film left a sour taste in many fans’ mouths. Depp lost favor with some of Rowling’s fan base after his bitter divorce from actress Amber Heard, who alleged that he abused her while they were together. And earlier this year, a film crew member sued Depp for allegedly punching him on a Los Angeles movie set.
"Fantastic Beasts" director David Yates defended Depp to Entertainment Weekly after fans made their outrage known. Rowling also weighed in.
"Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies," she wrote on her website.
Controversy surrounded the movie again when the final theatrical trailer reached audiences, revealing that Voldemort’s snake, Nagini, had once been an Asian woman. Nagini’s inevitable and permanent transformation as a snake upset fans who felt it was racially insensitive for one of the few prominent women of color’s story arcs to end with her becoming the pet of an evil dictator.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald:
Rowling first revealed that Dumbledore had romantic feelings for Grindelwald in 2007, months after the release of the final Harry Potter book. Earlier this year, when Yates was asked whether or not Dumbledore’s sexuality would be referenced in "Crimes of Grindelwald," he responded, “Not explicitly."
Since that original interview, movie trailers have suggested that Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald will still be present in the story. Yates also added in an interview last month that while the movie doesn’t focus on the romantic relationship between the two characters, it will still be "clear."3 comments on this story
At the time of this writing, the movie holds a 56 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes — making it the worst-reviewed Harry Potter film to date (the other two lowest-rated wizarding world films are the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie, at 74 percent, and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" at 77 percent).
Despite the controversy and mixed reviews, there’s no question that Rowling’s world still casts a charm over audiences. "Crimes of Grindelwald" is expected to bring in $65 million to $75 million during its opening weekend, according to CNBC.
In an interview with CNBC, Fandango’s managing editor Erik Davis said, "It's the most anticipated fall movie."