‘Fantastic Beasts’ and where to view them

Harry Potter universe returns to big screen after five-year hiatus

Alexandra Lisa | Staff Writer

It has been five years since fans of the Harry Potter world have packed movie theaters, but tonight you’ll know exactly where to find them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the newest addition to the Harry Potter universe, released in theaters tonight. Taking its name from the title of a textbook at Hogwarts, the new movie takes place in New York City, during the 1920s. It features Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander as well as an entirely new set of characters.

Despite the new movie’s reputation, surrounded by high hopes and anticipations, little is known about the plot or storyline. Trailers have hinted at what looks like an alternate world inside Scamander’s briefcase, as well as glimpses of creatures fans have not seen yet. J.K. Rowling has even given a description of the new American school, Ilvermorny. Its founders based the foundations of the school around Hogwarts, resulting in its four houses, though they are different from the Hogwarts houses: the Horned Serpent symbolizes the mind, the Thunderbird symbolizes the soul, the Wampus symbolizes the body, and the Pukwudgie symbolizes the heart.

With these exceptions, the storyline has been left up to imagination. The lack of background knowledge has left fans at a loss as to what to expect, especially since it was recently announced the American series would include five movies, instead of three, all centering around the characters to be introduced in the new movie, as well as a villain mentioned in the original series. Described in the original series as the “cruelest dark wizard of all time,” before Voldemort came along, Gellert Grindelwald is to be played by Johnny Depp, though he will not appear significantly until after the first movie.

Junior and long-time fan Anna Kosierek said she feels the absence of a set-in-stone plotline adds to the new movie’s potential.

“We knew exactly what was going to happen in the other movies, because of the books, but now there’s an element of mystery and (potential) for surprise, and that’s going to be new,” Kosierek said.

Kosierek has been a fan since the first movie came out, and at first, she said she was concerned the extra movies would leave the plots watered down. However, she said, she’s grown to trust the movie will expand the world of Harry Potter without tarnishing the series that J.K. Rowling created.

“I don’t even picture it as the same story of Harry,” Kosierek said. “I don’t think they can ruin anything, just build on top of it. And there’s so much material to work with, they have the opportunity to make something we haven’t seen before.”

Junior Nathan Haltman said he is also excited about the new release.

“The books and the other movies were so influential,” Haltman said. “I’m excited to see what this movie brings to the table. You’ve got new creatures that we haven’t seen before, and magic in the 1920s, and a lot of things we just haven’t been exposed to yet.”

Freshman Trinity Erickson had also been a fan for years, though this will be the first movie she is seeing in theaters with the rest of her family.

“Harry Potter is huge in my family,” Erickson said. “It’s going to be cool, having this experience together for the first time, because we feel like the Harry Potter universe is a part of our world, too. We’re all attached to it.”

While many fans share Erickson’s opinions, others are apprehensive of the addition. Just four months ago, new material was released in the form of a play script, The Cursed Child, which was both published as a novel and performed in Britain. The play struck a wave of controversy with some fans, including junior Jenna Caimono, who were disappointed with its storyline.

Caimono said she had been waiting for new material for years and expected it to be higher quality after so long in the making.

“(The play) was fine, but I felt like the characters weren’t well-rounded, and the plot fell off the cliff because it had such big shoes to fill,” Caimono said. “I wanted to love it so badly, but it didn’t feel like Harry Potter.”

Caimono said she fears this movie will let the franchise down in a similar way.

“The new movie is a fifty-fifty chance at this point,” Caimono said. “I had unshakable faith in the franchise before, but after the (play), I’m a bit more nervous. They have so much to work with, but I also do feel like they’re just trying to make more money, and with five movies, there’s always the danger that they’ll water down the storyline.”

Sophomore Corinne Mattingly said her major concerns are the new characters because she felt such a strong connection to the original child characters.

“I started reading the books in sixth grade, and there was this boy my age who I could relate to,” Mattingly said. “Growing up with Harry was cool. This new movie has adults, so it’s at a disadvantage.”

Mattingly, however, said that she trusts this movie more than the play.

“I’m pretty confident that they’ll do a better job with this, just because they spent so much more effort on this than the (play),” Mattingly said. “J.K. Rowling was more involved, they have dedicated actors who look really excited in all of the interviews I’ve seen, and I think the makers of this movie are really invested in it.”

Erickson also said she is willing to place her trust in the new movies.

“Rowling has trusted who she’s made her movies with in the past, and I don’t think she’s going to let that quality drop,” Erickson said. “We have high expectations, because of how the movies have progressed over the years, and it will be hard for the movie to live up to those standards. But I think they’ll do it, because they know so much is riding on it.”

See what Chronicle staff members Calista Busch and Alekya Raghavan think about the addition of a new movie to the popular series and its ability to live up to the originals.