Today, Warner Bros. announced the title of the second installment of its projected five-part Fantastic Beasts series: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which teases a major part of Harry Potter lore.
The film is set after the events of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander visits New York City and unwittingly disrupts the plans of a dark wizard named Gellert Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp), who was posing as a high-ranking Auror named Percival Graves (played by Colin Farrell).
“Grindelwald” should be a familiar name to Harry Potter fans. While Voldemort was the primary antagonist of that series, Grindelwald was, in many ways, his predecessor. He was first introduced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a reference that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore defeated him in 1945. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Hermione, and Ron meet Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, who tells them that when Dumbledore returned home to help his brother care for their ill sister Ariana in 1899. It was then that he met Grindelwald, and found a wizard with power and ambition that equaled his own. Together, the pair searched for three fabled, powerful artifacts, the Deathly Hallows, and began to plot out a new order for the wizarding world. “Grand plans for the benefit of all Wizardkind,” Aberforth recounted, “and if one young girl got neglected, what did that matter, when Albus was working for the greater good?” Rowling also established that Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald during this time.
The care for Dumbledore’s sister started a fight between the trio, resulting in a duel that left Ariana dead. Grindelwald fled, but continued his search for the Deathly Hallows. He eventually discovered and stole the Elder Wand, which he used to precipitate his brutal rise to power across Europe. It was in 1945 that Dumbledore fought and defeated him. Grindelwald was imprisoned in Nurmengard, a wizard prison he established, where he later died at the hands of Voldemort who was himself searching for the Elder Wand to aid his own rise to power.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1926, decades after Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s initial confrontation, and it depicts the dark wizard’s rise to power. Grindelwald is captured and taken into custody at the end of that film, but he won’t stay imprisoned for long. We learned earlier this summer that Scamander will team up with Dumbledore to help confront Grindelwald in 1927. Backstory with Dumbledore will clearly be a big part of this film, and will help recount an important part of the events that take place in the Harry Potter series.
In the lead-up to the title reveal, the production’s Twitter feed has been dropping hints about what fans might expect, including an image of the Elder Wand alongside Dumbledore’s, which teases another confrontation.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s final confrontation is still just under two decades away in the story, but this certainly hints at a more serious film than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was stuck somewhere between a lighthearted magical adventure with cool creatures, and a serious prequel that helps document the rise of the conflicts that will feed into the later Harry Potter series. The backstory of Grindelwald’s conflict during the 1940s came in a series of tantalizing hints and references in Rowling’s novels, and I’m a little bitter that we’re getting the Fantastic Beasts franchise instead of another series from her about this era. However, these details do point to a film that feels as though it’s focusing more on this rivalry between the two wizards, and I’ll take that over cute CGI animals any day.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is scheduled for theatrical release on November 16th, 2018.