Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston & Dan Fogler
Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
Rating: 12A Duration: 133 minutes Release date: 27 March (UK)
It’s easy to take a cynical approach to JK Rowling and her reinvigorating of the wizarding world she built with the Harry Potter films. But, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is no simple cash-in. What we have here is a spin-off set in the same universe that is building its own world with new characters and new monsters to face. It may not been the home-run that Warner Bros. were hoping for and takes too much time building rather than playing, but it is diverting fun with a clear passion for these new characters.
Arriving in New York, Newt Scamander (Redmayne) intends to get to Arizona but within minutes of stepping off the boat he is thrown into a series of events that spiral out of control. He bumps into a local man and the two accidentally switch briefcases, with Newt’s containing several magical creatures that he has been keeping safe. Once they are accidentally set free, Newt and his new-found friend Jakob (Fogler) must track them down before they cause chaos or fall into the wrong hands. Meanwhile a mysterious government worker is tracking a dark object which is threatening New York.
Despite being set before the events of the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts is very much its own film. There are name drops and a few hints toward the wider world and future events, but these are done in a natural character driven way without a post credit sting in sight. What works here is the confidence the film has in itself and the way in which director David Yates sets up this new world. There is an undeniable amount of fun being had and even though the film is uneven and down right bonkers at times, it’s hard not to like what we are seeing.
There is a genuine sense of wonder here and the style of the film is really gorgeous to behold. The opening credits sequence works really well at setting up the universe and gives some smart clues about what is to come. The design of the creatures in the film varies from cuddly to awkward with the kleptomaniac niffler stealing the show. There are times when the film seems to drag though and these mainly come when Newt and friends are attempting to track down the creatures that have escaped from his mystical suitcase.
Fantastic Beasts dwindles at times and there are moments where it seems unsure of where to go. There are also plenty of throw-away scenes which add little to the film, seeing Eddie Redmayne do a mating dance with some sort of giant rhino, while funny, is pure pulp fiction. Despite this, there is plenty to enjoy. Redmayne and Fogler are a good double act and work well together. Katherine Waterston brings soul to the role of former government agent Tina Goldstein who arrests and then befriends Newts, while Alison Sudol builds a believable relationship with Fogler’s bumbling wannabe baker.
Enjoyable at times and frustrating at others. Fantastic Beasts works well enough to set up a new and exciting wizarding world while being an entertaining stand-alone film, but loses its focus too often to be truly riveting.
- The Magizoologist
- Meet the Fantastic Beasts