Will The Real Harry Potter Fans Please Stand Up?

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
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.)
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Warning: This post contains mild spoilers about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you haven't seen it yet, get your butt to a theater, stat — and do keep your eyes open for these brilliant homages to the series that started it all.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Secretly Spacious Luggage

Remember our good old friends Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Barty Crouch? In Goblet of Fire, Crouch Jr. imprisoned Mad-Eye in a secret compartment inside a magical trunk of normal dimensions that expanded inside. We saw something similar in Deathly Hallows: Hermione had a Mary Poppins-esque jewelry bag.

In Fantastic Beasts, Newt uses the hidden depths of his deceptively small suitcase for a more benevolent purpose: Harboring endangered magical beasts.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Niffler

It's easy to remember the cutest beast, ever. Nifflers are basically furry little literal gold diggers that are attracted to shiny objects and stuff their little pouches with whatever riches they can get their paws on.

We first learned about them in Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class. In Order of the Phoenix, Lee Jordan (Fred and George Weasley's bestie) plants one in Dolores Umbridge's office at Hogwarts, because, duh, she was horrible. The comical niffler in Fantastic Beasts steals every scene he's in.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Queenie's Legilimency

Queenie (Alison Sudol) may not have quite the career ambition as her sister, Tina (Katherine Waterston), but her inherent ability to see into people's minds is rare and powerful. We've seen the skill used before for dark purposes in the Potterverse, like when Voldemort tries to get inside Harry's head and read his thoughts.

On the other hand, Queenie seems to mostly use it to charm the pants off people and, occasionally, save the day.
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Hedwig's Theme

The magical, twinkly tune dates back to The Sorcerer's Stone. Fans will be pleased to hear snippets of a newer, darker version of the iconic theme during several key scenes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Newt's Hufflepuff Scarf

Newt dons the colors of his Hogwarts house a couple times through the movie. We get a glimpse of it just minutes in when a New York City customs officer inspects Newt's suitcase upon his arrival in America.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Credence Is The New (Old?) Snape

Pale skin and dark hair? Check. Mommy issues and a mysterious air of personal tragedy? Check. Misunderstood and unloved? Double check. Up for debate about whether he's good or evil? You betcha! We won't totally spoil his role, but it's fair to say Credence (Ezra Miller) is indeed the American Severus Snape.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Deathly Hallows Symbol

Well, well, well. What's that nifty necklace ya got there, Percival Graves? The MACUSA auror, who investigates incidents of dark magic and works to keep wizards and No-Majs out of each other's way, wears this necklace before giving it to someone else later in the film.

It symbolizes the quest for the Deathly Hallows, the trio of powerful magical objects — Elder Wand, Sorcerer's Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility — that allow one to achieve immortality. You can understand why scores of wizards have tried to acquire them, including Gellert Grindelwald.

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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Kicked Out Of Hogwarts For The Same Reason As Hagrid

We learn in Fantastic Beasts that Newt was expelled from Hogwarts for endangering people with an untamed magical beast — and that Dumbledore was the only one who fought for him. That's Hagrid's expulsion story, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Obscurus

There is an Obscurus on the loose — a dark, powerful, destructive force that is extremely difficult to control. It results from the emotional trauma of having to repress your magic instead of mastering it — as is the case with Credence and his cruel adoptive mother, a wizard-hating witch-hunting Second Salemer.

It is later revealed that Newt has experience handling this dark magic. He once extracted the Obscurus from an innocent young girl. Also, we learn that an Obscurus can escape its human host and become its own entity for anyone to capture and use.

While Rowling has never actually used the term before, this volatile force sounds exactly like the kind of thing that exploded out of Ariana Dumbledore. Due to an incident with Muggle boys when she was younger, Ariana became incredibly ashamed of her magical abilities and kept them inside her — where they morphed into a dark and dangerous form of energy that drove her crazy and caused her mother's death.
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Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Leda Lestrange

We don't actually meet Leda Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) in Fantastic Beasts — we only see her in a photo that Newt carries with him — but we'll reportedly be seeing much more of the mysterious new character in the sequels. From what little Newt says about her, we gather he was, and still is, very much in love with her.

Potter fans' ears will perk up at the first mention of her name, because of her obvious relation to Bellatrix Lestrange, and her husband Rodolphus, Voldemort's sadistic, cackling sidekick who killed Neville and Tonks, among others. (It was also revealed in The Cursed Child play that Bellatrix gave birth to Voldemort's only child.)
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