A film like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which takes place 70 years before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, requires a tricky cinematic balancing act. You want to please loyal fans of the franchise you are spinning off of. But at the same time, you don't want to confuse or alienate newcomers in the audience who know little, if anything, about J.K. Rowling's complex magical universe.
So as a massive Potterhead, I'm pleased to report that Fantastic Beasts — starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller — strikes a perfect equilibrium. There are enough nods to the HP canon — allusions, symbolism, character references — to satisfy Potter nerds. But the movie isn't so tied to its predecessors that a newbie wouldn't understand anything. The result is a magical movie that charms with its wink-wink subtlety (and its many other wonderful qualities — like its sense of humor, its cast of actually fantastic beasts, and its glorious capturing of Redmayne's perfect face.)