You know Harry Potter. You don’t know much about Fantastic Beasts (or Where to Find Them). Here’s your handy, 100 percent spoiler-free primer for the Potter-verse spin-off that’s set to take the box office by storm this weekend.
1. Beasts is a complete reset
We’ve left Harry, Hogwarts, England, and even modern times behind. Fantastic Beasts follows eccentric magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he arrives in 1926 New York with his expansive suitcase full of magical creatures he’s collected over the years. He almost immediately meets his new American companions: A demoted Magical Congress of the United States (a.k.a. MACUSA) worker Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her empath sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and aspiring baker muggle (or No-Maj) Jacob Kowolski (Dan Fogler). Also, the American wizarding school is called Ilvermorny.
2. You should know who Gellert Grindelwald is
A flurry of newspaper headlines at the very beginning of the film remind Potter fans about the infamous dark wizard, but here’s some added backstory: Grindelwald was the wizarding world’s big bad before Voldemort came along. He was friends with young Albus Dumbledore and wanted to find the Deathly Hallows and lead a wizarding world revolution to rule muggles. He had a falling out with Dumbledore after a duel killed Dumbledore’s sister.
3. There are a LOT of beasts
It’s not called Fantastic Beasts for nothing. Remember the scene when Harry Potter met Buckbeak? Or when the Cornish pixies wreaked havoc in Gilderoy Lockhart’s class? There plenty of scenes like that, and your enjoyment of the film probably hinges on how much those scenes delight you. At the same time, there’s some rather dark content too that seem geared more toward older kids and adults (so parents of young children take note). Overall, critics seem to agree the film is definitely worth seeing, but also has some growing pains launching a new franchise.
4. There’s a least one big spoiler that you should try to avoid
Unless you want to know. Screenwriter J.K. Rowling usually manages to deliver a shock or two, and Fantastic Beasts is no exception. So if you’re spoiler-phobic, be wary of looking around online this weekend before you go.
5. The film tells a complete story, and yet sets things up for sequels
You’re not going to be left entirely hanging, but Warner Bros. wants five of films, and J.K. Rowling has already written the script for the sequel (set for release in 2018), which will depart rather significantly from this first outing.