I am still working on a full review of the film itself, but these are my initial thoughts on many of the new elements introduced in this film and its characters. Also, inferences and deductions on some of the things stated by characters in different scenes.
Grindelwald/Graves and the “revelio” spell – There seems to be confusion, criticism, and accusations of JK Rowling overlooking the rules she has established on the use of disguising spells. It is never stated HOW exactly Grindelwald has disguised himself as Graves. However, if we look back a Deathly Hallows, there IS a spell that Hermione uses in Chapter 26 to disguise/transfigure Ron when they try to break into Bellatrix Lestrange’s Gringotts’ vault. She takes Polyjuice Potion, but for Ron she just “shapes” his face. Harry is said to be able to recognize Ron under the spell only because he knows him so well and no one else recognizes Ron at Gringotts. The back of Grindelwald’s (Depp’s) head in the opening scene is similar to Graves’ (Farrell’s) head. Additionally, they have the same body shape, same haircut, etc. Therefore, it is VERY likely Grindelwald used the spell Hermione used on Ron, on himself. This spell is never actually named in the book, nor its limits and parameters, so presumably Revelio could undo the spell, especially if cast by a powerful wizard and it is clear throughout the movie that Newt is a very accomplished wizard. Vision – There’s definitely a theme of dark wizards misinterpreting visions/prophecies in the wizarding world; Voldermort misinterpreted Trelawney’s vision and Grindelwald misinterprets the one he mentions.
Newt Scamander – From Fred & George Weasley, we know that you don’t have to stay in Hogwarts after taking your O.W.L.s, therefore if Newt was expelled after fifth year, it would not have necessarily negatively impacted his career. Also, if he was naturally a gifted wizard and already excelled when he was expelled, then not graduating would have no impact on his ability. Remember, Hermione, Ron, and Harry did NOT finish their studies in Hogwarts either but Harry later becomes an Auror and Hermione becomes Minister of Magic. Fantastic beast conservationist? – As far as Newt’s commitment to protecting and nurturing the magical creatures under his care, his use of them, and whether he will eventually free them all. I think it is implied in different instances that some of these magical creatures are being hunted to the brink of extinction (he has the final breeding pair of a grapplehorns). If he were to release them, the creatures would just be captured or killed, therefore resulting in their total extinction. I understand that his goal is to study these creatures AND to ensure that they do not disappear forever, at least until the wizarding world passes laws for the conservation and protection of magical creatures. Also, he does mention that he fought in the Eastern Front of WWI as a dragon handler and he presumably works for the Ministry of Magic under this capacity. So he is not against the use of magical creatures for war, much like dogs are used to sniff out drugs or enemies hiding, etc. He may just be advocating for the humane use of them, not just as tools, but as living creatures who deserve to be treated with respect and not abused. His goal is to learn everything about these creatures and one can also assume that he knows their limits. Scene where Newt might be the bad guy – He is inside his suitcase and Jacob finds the oscurial and Newt warns him away. When Jacob asks why, Newt evades. It is a tense and dark scene. However, it can be attributed to his knowing the dangers of the oscurial and being tormented by his inability to save the young Sudanese girl. I do not believe Newt is bad, but I do believe he is naive and this may have led him to commit acts which had bad consequences, which would also be related to his apparent friendship with Leta Lestrange. Queenie says Leta was a “user” and she “used” Newt. I agree that it is probable that he took the fall for an accident related to the release of some creature in Hogwarts to protect Leta and that, afterwards, Leta was not as grateful as he would expect or she cut off contact with him now that she could no longer use him.
Obscurial – This may be one of the most interesting elements introduced into the wizarding world in this film and it brings up SO MUCH possibilities and explanations. First, let us remember that Albus Dumbledore’s sister Ariana suffered a traumatic event (being attacked by Muggle boys) when she was six because she was caught practicing magic by them. We know this caused her to lose control of her magic. The possibility is that she developed an obscurial because this attack resulted in her fearing the use of magic, making her magic uncontrollable. Additionally, we know she killed her mother when she was fourteen when she threw a “fit” that caused an explosion. Albus does go out of his way to hide or not discuss his childhood, which would explain Newt’s confident statement that there is “no recorded case of an obscurial living past the age of ten” (the one he encounters in Sudan dies at age eight). This is why no one considers Credence. HOWEVER, Grindelwald should have known differently because Ariana dies at the age of fourteen! NOT because of her obscurial, but by a spell that hit her when her brothers were battling Grindelwald. This battle between the young Dumbledores and Grindelwald will definitely be of import, because it might have been ABOUT Ariana herself. This may have been Grindelwald’s first attempt to try and “use” an obscurial, but the Dumbledore brothers would have objected, thus causing them to battle Grindelwald to protect their sister. Nevertheless, if this was not the cause of the fight, this is still ANOTHER case of a child developing an obscurial and living past the age of ten. Also, this would explain, Grindelwald’s own knowledge and interest in tracking down an obscurial and “using” it; he would have witnessed its power through Ariana while he lived in Godric’s Hollow.
Leta Lestrange – Newt, when the topic of Leta comes up, mentions that they “grew apart”. When being interviewed by Graves with the implication that he wants to expose the magical world, he is quick to call out the implication, as if he is familiar with this logic and has heard it before. He is the one who says, sarcastically, “mass murder for the greater good”…perhaps something that Leta would have said? Linked to the accident at Hogwarts?
Thunderbird & Swooping Evil ending scene – I actually saw the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them twice and was able to pick up on possible reasoning behind some of the things that may appear as plot holes in this scene, such as why Jacob had to walk out in the rain itself to be obliviated but other muggles were indoors. (1) First, Newt says the swooping evil venom is capable of erasing “bad” memories. It’s important to note that because it would explain why Jacob is able to retain some memories; his memories of magic are not all bad, rather in various scenes he is shown to be fascinated and overjoyed at discovering the existence of the wizarding world. In addition, his memories of Queenie are particularly not bad, which would explain why Queenie kissed him: to further cement herself as a “good” memory that would not be erased by the rain. (2) Second, in the scenes where it shows people inside their homes while it rains outside it shows a woman drinking water (which would have come from the tap in 1920s New York) and then her husband taking it from her hand. For a moment she stands still or slows, as if the memories are being erased. The next scene is a man showering and a woman brushing her teeth. As one of you said in the podcast: the water system in NY in this period was questionable. Also, when the newspapers change under the rain (maybe you guys missed it but the rain water washes out the news cover of magic) the new front cover article is about the rainiest November in New York. Presumably, the Thunderbird would have kept the rain going for a few days, so everyone would be doused.