There are some fun moments in the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Jude Law enjoying being the master of understatement as Dumbledore, not to mention a soulful Mirror of Erised moment between his and Grindelwald’s younger selves; and Newt getting the upper hand, er, wand, on his brother Theseus.
Then there is the headscratching reveal about Claudia Kim’s circus attraction character, who had featured in previous trailers but never been named, until now. And she’s someone we’ve met before…
It turns out that Kim plays Nagini—yes, Voldemort’s beloved snake and most powerful of his Horcruxes. As an attraction at the Circus Arcanus, she shapeshifts into a snake for gasping Muggle audiences—but this is not an Animagus who learns to transform; instead, she is a Maledictus, described by Pottermore as “a carrier of a blood curse which will ultimately destine them to transform permanently into a beast.”
This revelation confirms a fan theory that has existed since last year, when early Pottermore articles about the movie mentioned that Kim’s character was a Maledictus without making the Nagini connection. Rowling made sure to clarify the distinction between Maledictus and Animagus on Twitter; Kim also addressed Nagini’s fate in an Entertainment Weekly interview tied to the trailer’s release:
Kim says Nagini is far from the villain one might expect from a character who, after all, eventually kills Severus Snape. “It will be so interesting to see another side of Nagini,” Kim tells EW. “You’ve only seen her as a Horcrux. In this, she’s a wonderful and vulnerable woman who wants to live. She wants to stay a human being and I think that’s a wonderful contrast to the character.”
The actress reveals that when Crimes takes place in 1927, Nagini can transform from human to snake at will, yet due to her mysterious blood curse she knows that eventually, she’ll become a snake permanently. “She does feel sometimes it’s not controllable,” Kim says. “She is bound to [permanently] transform at some point to a beast so she feels this pressure that the clock is ticking.”
This reveal is being presented as an exciting Easter egg, but there is something intensely problematic about depicting one of the franchise’s rare women of color as a literal snake. Not to mention, the fact that Nagini was a cursed woman imprisoned in snake form completely undercuts Neville Longbottom’s big heroic moment in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald comes to theaters November 16.