Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
I’m not shy about my love for the Harry Potter books and their film adaptations, which is why Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them made my list of most anticipated films of 2016. I’m excited to explore another corner of J.K. Rowling‘s wizarding world. I’m glad that director David Yates is back. I’m very curious to see how Rowling herself fares in her screenwriting debut. So naturally, I had to go through the new trailer frame-by-frame and collect my thoughts and observations on this still-mysterious movie.
Story details that have already been revealed and idle speculation lurk below, so proceed with caution.
It’s actually pretty admirable that this trailer never name-drops Harry Potter in any way. Warner Bros. is counting on J.K. Rowling’s name, a whole bunch of familiar imagery, and that memorable theme music to help audiences make the necessary connections here. Early and often, this footage sells the number one appeal of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: a chance for fans of the wizarding world to journey across the pond and explore the American corner of Rowling’s universe. This footage feels at one with director David Yates’ Potter films (he directed the back half of the series), but the fact that you can see the New York skyline through much of it is a satisfying shot of total newness.
One of the main focuses of this trailer – and apparently the main focus of the film’s plot – is the suitcase owned by Eddie Redmayne‘s Newt Scamander, an introverted “magizoologist” who likes animals and monsters more than people. Like many magical objects seen throughout Rowling’s wizarding world, this case is much bigger on the inside than it appears. In fact, this thing contains an entire menagerie of magical creatures that Scamander has smuggled into the United States for one reason or another. As we’ll soon learn, Scamander isn’t the most respected wizard in the world, but it’s still not entirely clear why he would do this or what his exact intentions are.
The trailer also offers a look at Porpentina Goldstein, who is played by Inherent Vice star Katherine Waterston. In addition to having a name torn straight out of a Harry Potter book, she sounds like a classic Rowling heroine: an employee of MACUSA (the American wizarding government) who “stood up for the wrong person” and has been forced into a less prominent position for trying to do what’s right. Whether she and Scamander become friends or something more is unknown, but Waterston does wear the hell out of those 1920s fashions.
“You’re an interesting man, Mr. Scamander. Just like your suitcase, I think there’s much more to you than meets the eye. Kicked out of Hogwarts for endangering human life with a beast. Yet one of your teachers argued strongly against your expulsion. I wonder, what makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you?” And like that, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gives us a reason to care about Newt Scamander. Sure, we don’t know much about him, but we do know that he has an admirer in Dumbledore, who was one of Scamander’s teachers long before he eventually became headmaster at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For many people, that’s more than enough to get them invested in Newt’s quest. As for the voice telling us about him and his past, that’s Colin Farrell‘s Percival Graves…but we’ll get to him soon enough.
If you do want to know more, Rowling herself has been fielding some questions on Twitter.
Albus Dumbledore is fond of Newt Scamander for the same reasons that I am fond of Newt Scamander. You're welcome. https://t.co/bNdwX6Tf40
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 11, 2016
Dumbledore was a young teacher at the time Newt was expelled. He wasn't able to revoke expulsions. https://t.co/UskHwSQvtJ
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) April 11, 2016
I’ve always been fond of how Rowling’s magical characters hide their abilities and equipment in plain sight. In this case, Newt’s suitcase has a special latch that will make its appearance “Muggle Worthy,” allowing for non-magical folks to examine it without finding an entire collection of animals inside. Interestingly, the term “muggle” may not be used very often in the New York-set Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as American wizards and witches refer to people without magical abilities as “No-Maj.”
This appears to be our first look at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), the American counterpart to England’s Ministry of Magic. It’s not quite as ornate and classical as its British counterpart, but the Art Deco style certainly gives it a look that is all its own. You will also note the giant image of President Seraphina Picquery, the leader of the American wizarding world played by Carmen Ejogo.
One of the key players in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a No-Maj group dedicated to hunting down and eradicating people with magical abilities. In fact, the level of distrust and fear simmering between the magical and non-magical communities in the United States will play a major role in this film and you can see that reflected in this shot. The newspaper looks like its British counterpart (complete with wacky layouts and moving photos), but the headlines reflect this very specific time and place.