'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' Trailer Breakdown: Finding The Magic In Every Frame

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.21.56 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.22.10 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.22.30 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.22.55 AM

"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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.23.18 AM

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."

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.23.47 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.24.09 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.24.24 AM

Even when you're an ocean and decades away, some things remain the same. The way the bricks in this wall swivel and come apart to reveal a secret passageway is a definite callback to the secret path into Diagon Alley in London. Even though there are many differences between the British and American corners of the wizarding world, this consistent presentation of magic makes everything feel united in a satisfying way.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.24.42 AM

While the Harry Potter series took place in an unseen world that co-exists alongside our own, all eight movies were set in present day and the clothing and locations reflected that. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is very much a period piece and this trailer is dripping with detail. I'm a sucker for '20s Americana in general, but the promise of a fantasy adventure with the streets of New York city as a backdrop is like catnip for my imagination. The possibilities for how Rowling can utilize this world, so far from Hogwarts and so different from England, feel limitless.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.24.56 AM

So who is this Shaw and why is he America's future? You don't make a banner like that unless you're intending to run for President, which may very well be what Senator Henry Shaw (Josh Cowdery) is planning to do. We do know that his father, Henry Shaw Sr. is played by Jon Voight. What we don't know is how this family figures into the main plot and whether or not they have any kind of solid connection to the wizarding world.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.25.15 AM

While the Harry Potter books and movies have featured magical characters born to non-magical parents (Hermione Granger) and non-magical characters born to magical parents (Argus Filch), Dan Fogler's Jacob Kowalski is the series' first Muggle/No-Maj main character. Seemingly the third lead of the film after Newt and Porpentina, Jacob is a factory worker who somehow befriends our heroes and finds himself propelled into their chaotic world. He'll probably act as the audience surrogate – as everyone pauses to explain things to him, the movie will also be explaining things to us. We can witness the wonders of the magical world through his eyes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.25.37 AM

Colin Farrell, looking sharp in that suit and distinguished with that graying hair, plays Percival Graves, a high-ranking Auror (a.k.a. wizard cop) who has the ear of President Picquery. His role in the film remains undefined, but he certainly seems to be in pursuit of Newt, whose magical suitcase has unleashed all kinds of creatures and mayhem upon New York. It's his voice we hear early in the trailer, running down Newt Scamander's past. Whether he's ultimately friend or foe is something we probably won't know for a long time. Heck, maybe not until we're in the theater.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.26.08 AM

Despite the title of the film and the contents of Newt's suitcase, this trailer is oddly lacking in fantastic beasts. However, there is this colorful bird-thing that Newt conjures while hiding out in some kind of underground(?) passageway. Entertainment Weekly says this creature is called a "Swooping Evil," which is an odd name for something so colorful, but hey, I'll take it. Since later shots of the trailer make it clear that he's being pursued in this scene, it's possible that he's using this creature as a distraction of some kind.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.26.34 AM

Speaking of fantastic beasts, this shot features one of two things: either an invisible creature of some kind is let loose upon that rally for Senator Shaw (as seen above) or the CGI creature that will eventually inhabit these scenes isn't finished yet and Warner Bros. decided to use an cool action shot that just so happens to be missing the source of the action.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.26.47 AM

Anyway, the rampage of the invisible monster/unfinished creature continues here. Whatever it is, it's big and it's not happy and people are literally thrown out of its way as it approaches.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.27.40 AM

I don't know about you people, but this is the kind of shot that makes me want a Colin Farrell: Magic Cop spin-off movie. Yates' Potter films featured the most dynamic action and most impressive wizarding duels of the series (the big showdown between Dumbledore and Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an all-timer), so he definitely has an eye for making men and women battling each other with magic wants look cool. And let's face it: that should look silly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.28.10 AM

Look! Another fantastic beast! This seems to be a Niffler, a long-snouted rodent with a penchant for tracking down treasure and valuables (note that it's clutching a purse!). Nifflers were mentioned in the original Harry Potter books, but they never made it into the movie adaptations. If this puffy little hedgehog is any indication, we're in for some pretty delightful magical creatures. After all, you need to balance out the ones that are trying to kill everyone.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.28.40 AM

Here's another shot from the sequence glimpsed above, with Newt and Porpentina being pursued through some kind of catacombs by men who apparently mean them harm. Those hats and coats are seen on men accompanying MACUSA characters in other areas of the trailer, so could very well be Aurors or government agents of some kind. All we know for sure is that more than one group of people seems to have it out for Newt.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.28.54 AM

"No human can do what this thing is capable of." Apparently, one of the monsters unleashed from Newt's suitcase is causing some serious havoc, enough to get Graves seriously concerned. Could this be the (invisible?) monster glimpsed earlier in the trailer?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.29.07 AM

All we know for sure is that whatever is going on is important enough to get President Seraphina Picquery herself involved. Two notes here. First, the wizarding world of 1926 has elected a black president almost 90 years before the No-Maj citizens followed suit, which is the kind of progressivism I can get behind. Second, the uniform on the gentleman on the far right matches the outfits worn by the men pursuing Newt through those catacombs.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.29.49 AM

The trailer ends on a charming note, with Newt Scamander stepping into his magical suitcase and casually waving for Jacob to join him. The actual interior of the suitcase remains a mystery, but this could be the closest thing the Fantastic Beasts series (Rowling intends for this to be a trilogy) has to a Hogwarts – the one, iconic, magical location around which every plot and character revolves.