I am not a Harry Potter fan. I'll pause for a moment to allow you to throw tomatoes at me. Don't worry, I'm used to it.
I should probably give you a bit of history to explain exactly how I became a traitor to my generation. You might find it hard to believe, but I wasn't always like this. I was in elementary school when The Sorcerer's Stone hit the shelves, and it didn't take long for me to pick it up and devour it faster than I had probably ever devoured a book of that length.
When the first movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling's books came out, I was about to turn 11 years old, the same age Harry is when he starts at Hogwarts. My birthday party involved taking my friends with me to the theater. The three of us rejoiced in watching our favorite characters come to life, collectively realized we had been saying Hermione's name incorrectly, and talked at length about memorable moments in the backseat of my parents' car on the way home.
For the next few years, I dutifully continued reading the series, and seeing the movies, and asking my friends for tips on how to beat the video game on my old Game Boy Color. But around the time the fifth book came out, something started to change. I distinctly remember getting cozy in my favorite reading chair and opening a hardcover copy of The Order of The Phoenix, only to lose interest after the first chapter and put it aside. I still have that book on my shelf, and it's still just as unread as it was back then.
Maybe it was because I was so deep in my newfound obsession with The Lord of the Rings that I only had room in my young heart for one sprawling fantasy series. Maybe it was because Harry Potter and his friends were taking longer to grow up than I was. Maybe I was feeling the first pangs of teenage rebellion, and I simply wanted to go against the norm. Whatever the reason, I saw the fourth movie and that was that — I didn't care anymore.
While my friends were lining up to buy the last book in the series, I was watching classic movies in my basement. When my college roommates were dressed in their Hogwarts house colors to attend the midnight premiere of the final movie, I was in my dorm room studying.
For years, as my fellow millennials held tightly to magic, I remained a Muggle.
But this year, against all odds, I spent my birthday in much the same way I did fifteen years ago — at the movie theater seeing a film set in the wizarding world. This time, it was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
My reasons for seeing it are as difficult to pin down as my reasons for closing that Harry Potter book all those years ago. Maybe it's because it's a period piece. Maybe, now that I'm older, I prefer stories about grown-up witches and wizards. Maybe it's just Eddie Redmayne's adorable face. I'm not going to overthink it.
If you've been wondering what's in Newt Scamander's suitcase, but worry that you have to be a die-hard Potterhead to see it, don't let that stop you from buying a ticket. All you need to enjoy Fantastic Beasts is a mind that's open to magic. I don't have the first clue what a Horcrux is, and I've long forgotten how many points a Snitch is worth, but I was still thoroughly enchanted — by 1920s New York City, by the creatures that escape into it, and yes, by Eddie Redmayne's adorable face. I would even see it again in theaters, which is pretty much the highest compliment I can pay a movie.
It wasn't nostalgia that put this spell on me, like revisiting a Disney movie I loved as a child and feeling all those wonderful emotions again. After all, I'm inundated with references to Quidditch and butterbeer almost every day, and it has never made me feel all warm and fuzzy for times gone by. This was something different, like running into someone you haven't seen since childhood and realizing that you really like them as an adult.
When sequels or updates to beloved movies come out, they're often painted as an entry point for new generations to discover stories and characters of the past. Perhaps Fantastic Beasts does something similar, except instead of just introducing more young people to Rowling's world, it also reintroduces it to those of us who lost touch with it — a fresh start on an old story.
What makes this new series special is that, while it's based on existing characters and wizarding lore, it's not a strict adaptation, so new and old fans can discover things together. I may go back and finish the books and movies I missed out on, but I like the idea of getting on the train at a later station, where I can join the existing passengers in exploring the great unknown that awaits us down the track.
Plus, if future movies in the series (there will be five, by the way) keep up the same release schedule, I'll always have something to see on my birthday.
Cover image via YouTube