The magical world of witchcraft and wizardry we all fell in love with over the past decade in the Harry Potter franchise returns to the big screen with this new adventure set 70 years before the events of the first Harry Potter film. Going into this I had to ask, can Fantastic Beasts capture any of the magic of the previous series?
The opening of the film and hearing the updated but still familiar theme music immediately takes you back to the world of Potter, and whilst it can feel a little like this is a movie to set up other movies, it delivers on giving us a new adventure in a familiar world, and some new characters to follow in the inevitable sequels.
First off, Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as Newt Scamander. Newt is an awkward character who seems way more comfortable with his beasts than he is interacting with other people. Eddie’s performance is perfect and makes sure what could have become an annoying character stays onside, and he carries the film well.
Supporting him there are a few really good stand out performances, particularly from Colin Farrell (who is always great) and Dan Fogler. I can’t say much more about Farrell’s character without spoiling anything, he is as brilliant as he normally is, and the moments he gets to shine are some of the best parts of the film. He is underused, and I would have liked to spend more of the film with him. Dan Fogler plays a No-Maj (Muggle in English terms) who acts as both the comedic relief in the film and in many ways represents us, with new things being explained to us through him. His character at times feels like a little a sidekick to newt, but in the end he actually has some of the most emotionally engaging scenes. The comedic relief normally pays off, but there were some jokes that had my eyes rolling rather than laughing.
The two sisters played by Katherine Waterson and Alison Sudol (both new to me) are both fine in their roles, and whilst neither sets the world on fire with their performances, their chemistry with Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler is good and the scenes with the four together are great.Ezra Miller is unsettling as Credence, but the rest of his family in the film are a little wooden.
This one is directed by David Yates, the same director as the last few instalments of Harry Potter. His experience in this world really helps this film feel like its part of the same world. Half the fun of the film is just watching the wonder of the magical world at work, and as this is our first sight of America there is still enough new information to feel like there is still a lot to learn. The design of the actual beasts lives up to the Fantastic name of the film, and i can imagine there will be plenty of toys and figures sold of the multiple creatures in the film.
The plot of the film is somewhat confusing, as there are a few plot lines weaved through the film. One involving capturing the fantastic beasts, another involving a family who are trying to convince people witches and wizards are here and are bad, and a third which serves as a vehicle to set up a villain for the series. I would have been interested in seeing a film just with newt and his buddies chasing down more beasts, but the need to set up this franchise for future sequels means there has to be some bigger battle in the future and we get that set up here.
This slightly muddled plot presents the biggest problem to me, and whilst the future of the series is set up for some interesting events, this movie as a standalone left me a little unsatisfied. That being said i am excited for the future of the franchise, and hope that with the set up done Fantastic Beasts can follow in Harry Potters steps and consistently improve on what it has done.
Overall i did enjoy the film, and revisiting the world is always going to bring a smile to my face. If you are a Potterhead, you will almost certainly love this, and if you are just looking for a good bit of family fun, Fantastic beasts is worth your money. That said, I cant help but feel like the best is yet to come from this series.
7.5/10 – Good with Fantastic Potential.