Before we get started, let’s be clear about one thing: "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is not a prequel or a sequel to the Harry Potter series; it is a spin-off, and the first of five films in a fresh new fantasy film series.
It has been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and Potterheads have been waiting for another magical adventure.
Many have been waiting for an introduction to the wizarding world in America.
As it happens, there are many similarities between the countries, but there are some differences in terminology.
Instead of the Ministry of Magic, for example, America has MACUSA (The Magical Congress of the United States of America). Instead of the term "muggle," America has the "no-maj." Instead of Hogwarts, America has Ilvermorny.
"Fantastic Beasts," directed by David Yates (who directed the last four Potter films) and written by J.K. Rowling as her debut screenplay, follows Hufflepuff magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he tries to recover several magical creatures that, due to a mix-up, have escaped from his suitcase.
The setting is New York City in 1926, a time when the fictional New Salem Philanthropic Society, a group of no-majs, is determined to wipe out any possible witches and wizards.
Wizards and witches are forced to keep their identities hidden because the paranoid and dangerous humans would start a war if they discovered that witches lived among them.
Great timing with the suitcase, Newt.
It’s cool how the movie incorporates actual history with the magical world. It gives the wizarding world more realism, and makes it interesting to see how wizards’ and witches’ lives compared to those of no-majs at the same time period. The New Salem group parallels the Salem Witch Trials from the late 1600s. The main characters visit speakeasies and dress in "Roaring Twenties" apparel.
So far, the plot seems simple: Newt must save his creatures without humans ever knowing they exist.
However, there are complications. The infamous Gellert Grindelwald, whom readers will know from the Harry Potter series, is a dark wizard who is missing. Is he dead? Is he in Azkaban (or the alternative prison in the States)? There is a much deeper plot than what the title hints.
MACUSA seems corrupt and there is an obscure being – not from the suitcase – stalking the city. The obscure being attacks no-majs, killing them and causing fear and tension to build up in both worlds.
This is why there will be five spin-off movies that will follow Newt and his friends: Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and no-maj Jacob (Dan Fogler).
This movie is filled with magic, action and humor, and will make Harry Potter fans fall in love again with the wizarding world.
Wizards, witches, muggles and no-majs all can enjoy this fantastic movie.
Elise Yu is a freshman at Williamsville East High School.