It’s a great time to be a Harry Potter fan, what with a sequel stage play just around the corner, ongoing short stories penned by author J.K. Rowling, and, of course, a little movie called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which is being helmed by the same filmmakers as the original series of movies, and which is, itself, just the first installment of a new trilogy).
We’ve already gone over the 10 differences between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter – now it’s time to see those differences in action, thanks to the film’s very first trailer. We’ve spent the past few days analyzing its contents and running everything through the extensive database over at Pottermore, Rowling’s online sanctum for everything Potter. Here are the 10 Things We Learned from Fantastic Beasts’s New Trailer – and why we can’t wait for this November to roll around.
10 A fully realized world
This first point may seem like the most obvious one – why wouldn’t Warner Bros. put a giant budget behind the continuation of one of the most financially and critically lucrative franchises in Hollywood history? – but it still is worth pointing out: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features an impressive array of production values, hinting at a lot of time, love, and money being devoted to the venture. In this way, the film really does act as if it were the ninth entry in the Harry Potter series – not surprising, really, given just how many of the crew is returning from the original lineup of movies.
But Fantastic Beasts is a brand-new installment in a brand-new sub-series (possibly signalling Warner's intention on making a Star Wars-like shared universe for the property), and this makes the production values especially important: audiences will really need to believe that they’re being transported 90 years into the past – and into the New World, to boot. From the production design and costumes to the sheer number of extras walking around in the background, this movie looks to be a visual treat – and that’s even before all the various magical creatures and spells are taken into consideration.
9 A different kind of hero
Audiences have already managed to get a good deal of information about the new trilogy’s protagonist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), thanks to a bevy of material from author J.K. Rowling (distributed either through interviews or through Pottermore): he’s “eccentric” and “introverted,” a British Ministry of Magic employee, and a world-travelled magizoologist expert.
What hasn’t really been conveyed until viewers’ first direct exposure to him is just how, well, goofy he is – he stammers when speaking, he’s perpetually disheveled, he’s awkward (though certainly not unlikeable).
There are a number of important items to note about this. Clearly, just as with nearly every single character of note in Harry Potter, Rowling is making the point that there is more to this bumbling government worker than meets the eye – something that the trailer even explicitly states. This inner potential will, no doubt, be fully realized by the end of the third film, depicting the standard hero’s journey, just as with Harry in his own series of films (though probably not including having to face down the darkest of all dark wizards). And, finally, even though the ungainly Harry does have a bit in common with young Newt, they’re mostly different personas – something vital to giving this spinoff its own voice.
8 Humor, humor, humor
If there’s one element amply on display in Fantastic Beasts’s first trailer, it’s humor – and while the nervous personality (and awkwardness!) of its protagonist goes a long way to establishing this comedic tone, there are plenty more hints of levity scattered all throughout the cinematic proceedings: fantastic beasts attempting to pop out of Newt’s briefcase; that briefcase’s “muggle worthy” tab; cute, cuddly creatures spinning across floors (with bags of their own).
Given just how dark the story gets (more on this in just a moment), it’s imperative to offset so much of the material with touches of lightness (even this teaser, for all its comedic elements, does a superb job of balancing those beats with more action- or suspense-riddled ones). It’s also an element of continuity with the Potter films and novels, as humor played such a fundamental role there, as well; in fact, in Rowling’s conceptualization of this parallel reality, comedy is built into the very foundation of wizarding society, from their dress to their unfamiliarity with everyday muggle items or practices.
7 Few fantastic beasts…
Here’s the real twist of the sneak peek: for a film entitled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there are precious few beasts to actually be found – just two, in fact, and each of their appearances is fleeting rather than lingering, enigmatic rather than demonstrative.
Such a move is rather shrewd, not only playing around with viewers’ expectations heading into the trailer, but also forcing a whole host of other elements – tone, atmosphere, character, even a little suspense – to rise to the surface. Harry Potter fans know the titular magical creatures will be present; what they don’t know is how the wizarding community operates in the US, particularly in the ‘20s, or just how idiosyncratic Newt Scamander is.
It also forces a lot more attention on, and conversation about, the few animals that are included – and, furthermore, for all that attention to go Pottermore’s way. The website was able to exclusively reveal that the first, cute-and-cuddly critter is called a Niffler (originally referenced in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), while the new, majestic-looking bird is a Swooping Evil, a brand-new addition to the Potter pantheon.
6 …but lots of danger
Right from the very beginning of the teaser, Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), one of the highest-ranking Aurors working in the American wizarding government, is established as something of a threat to Newt, possessing knowledge of his character and history, wielding his wand about, and apparently chasing after our new group of heroes. We know, thanks to the bevy of marketing materials that Warner Bros. has previously released, that Newt’s suitcase of fantastic beasts gets accidentally cracked open and lets its inhabitants all run loose, and that it is Graves who is tasked with chasing down Newt and bringing him to justice.
What is unexpected is all the other shots of danger apparently lurking around every corner: Newt apparating in mid-air and unleashing one of his pets (presumably to cause his American pursuers some discomfort); some kind of magical disruption at a political rally; even US wizarding president Seraphine Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) looking rather dour. The net result is a surprisingly dark film, both visually and tonally.
5 The political world
We’ve known since Warners announced the premise last year that politics would play a major role in Fantastic Beasts’s story: just as Harry, Ron, and Hermione often found themselves on the wrong side of the British Ministry of Magic, Newt quickly becomes a fugitive from the Magical Congress of the United States of America (after he inadvertently lets loose all of his various creatures, of course). Oh, yeah – there’s also the fact that one of our four main characters, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), is a MACUSA office worker, and the sinister New Salem Philanthropic Society (a front for the continued persecution of witches and wizards from the colonial days) provides the film’s antagonists.
What we didn’t know is that politics would also be a major theme on the other side of the magical aisle: we see some sort of rally for Henry Shaw, Sr. (Jon Voight), who is running for the Senate and who finds his proceedings disrupted by some sort of magical incident or another. From the previous marketing materials, we know that the New Salem Philanthropic Society pickets Shaw’s political function, so it seems likely that this character will become something of a nexus for all three factions of the story.
4 The music
Ah – this item is one of the trailer’s biggest surprises, as well as one of its biggest crowd-pleasers.
Given just how different, both fundamentally and superficially, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is from Harry Potter, we weren’t sure just how much the filmmakers would attempt to cross that void. Hearing the trailer’s brand-new music transition to the familiar – and beloved – Potter theme sent shivers down our spine and went, perhaps, a long way to answering this question.
Of course, this move, as deft as it is, could simply be for marketing purposes; there’s no guarantee that any musical motifs will find their way to the finished film. (And, indeed, it’s incredibly smart of Warners to wrap the first Fantastic Beasts trailer with this musical bow, as it plays on diehard fans’ nostalgia and effectively communicates to all the casual fans the connective tissue between the two sub-franchises.) We’ll just have to wait and see on this – and, of course, listen to that soundtrack over and over again in the meantime.
3 Colliding with muggles
In yet another example of the teaser putting into context scraps of information that we’ve known for a little while, we get our best look yet at Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the first-ever no-maj (that’s Yank for muggle) character to become a protagonist in one of the Harry Potter films, books, short stories, or stage plays. And what we get, at least so far, is a rather mixed bag: it appears that much of the movie’s humor will be delivered by Jacob as he gets exposed to the wizarding world for the very first time.
This would work perfectly well if this were the first entry in the Potter meta-franchise, but, as it stands, Fantastic Beasts is, of course, the ninth movie, and, by this point, audiences are old hands at the ins and outs of the magical community, even if the movie represents a brand-new location and time period. Jacob’s borderline-slapstick “Who, me?” at the very end of the teaser, when Newt motions for the no-maj to follow him into the depths of his mysterious briefcase, is almost too much; if this is indicative of how his entire performance will be throughout the whole film, comparisons to Star Wars’s Jar Jar Binks will be hurling from the fanbase.
2 A fully-formed American wizarding world
It stands to reason that the United States of America would have its own flourishing wizarding world, even if J.K. Rowling hasn’t – until just recently, that is – gone in-depth into its composition, history, or idiosyncrasies. That the film’s backstory involves the still-ongoing conflicts between the xenophobic New Salemers and the American witches and wizards only stands testament to this, but actually seeing all this realized on-screen is another thing entirely.
The grand design of the Magical Congress, the high fashion of President Picquery (the fact that there’s already a female president even though, in the no-maj community, women only got the right to vote six years earlier speaks volumes about this wizarding world), the cadres of Aurors, the American equivalent of the Daily Prophet (called the New York G-something) – it all comes together to create a living, breathing world that promises to be just as inviting as Harry Potter’s.
But most exciting of all, it has to be said, is the Diagon Alley-esque entrance to what looks like a wizarding speakeasy (a hidden establishment that sells alcohol, given the substance’s illegal nature during the time of Prohibition). In one fell swoop, the filmmakers take something familiar and make it exotic, capturing the essence of both Harry Potter and 1920s New York simultaneously.
Screenwriter Jo Rowling, director David Yates, and producer David Heyman have long been hinting that references to the original eight Harry Potter films would be included in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – and that, furthermore, actual appearances from some of our favorite wizards and witches could be contained in the two sequels – but it’s still a delight to hear the names “Hogwarts” and “Dumbledore,” especially right in the very beginning of the sneak preview.
Here’s the scoop: Newt Scamander was once a student at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry over in Scotland, but he was expelled for “endangering human life with a beast” (a good two decades or so before Rubeus Hagrid [Robbie Coltrane] would almost be expelled for the very same reason). The only professor to stand up and defend young Newt is none other than Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who, at the time, is a transfiguration teacher in his mid-40s.
We fully expect this to be a particular bit of foreshadowing and not just another attempt to grab the attention of Potter fans, more than likely leading to Dumbledore’s appearance at some point in the new trilogy of films – possibly, even, at the climax of this one.
Did you spot a clue or Easter egg that we missed? Have your own theories about how Dumbledore – or another Harry Potter mainstay – will tie into the new trilogy? Sound off in the comments section.