Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them falls prey to the studio exercise of franchise-building. In fairness, it does have a couple of magical tricks up its sleeve.
The first act promised much – as Newt’s suitcase gets accidentally swapped with Jacob, you get two interesting perspectives. The magizoologist has to adapt in 1920’s New York with an antagonistic view of magicians while the aspiring baker has to grapple with the evidence of a new world wildly different from his mundane existence.
Eddie Redmayne, with his inherent awkwardness, is fittingly cast as Newt Scamander. The rest also try their best to fill in new characters. However, these talents are underserved as the movie has a different intention than what it originally promises.
Yes, you are introduced to fantastic beasts nicely rendered in CGI, but eventually, it becomes clear that they and their floppy-haired caretaker is just a distraction. The plot amuses you with Newt recapturing a few beasts with newfound acquaintances until it reveals itself as a set-up.
This movie is not really about a man-child and his suitcase of smuggled animals. It’s about Dumbledore’s former BFF (and unrequited love) that’s the main focus of the new franchise.
It doesn’t help that David Yates crams in as much as he can to set-up the rules for the next installments – bureaucracy, prejudice, and an administration that’s always one step away from obliterating itself.
The result is a patchy tale with little story and dull characters. We get little about the fantastic animals that this movie is supposed to be about that they register as nothing more than curios. Worse, it trades the charismatic Colin Farrell for…well you’ll find out soon enough.
There is much to enjoy here if you are a Harry Potter fan who just wants to revisit the Wizarding World of JK Rowling. It has dazzling setpieces and nicely-rendered CGI.
However, you get cheated by a movie that’s supposed to be about fantastic beasts but becomes a prologue to what will eventually be the greatest duel in Wizarding history. After four movies of course.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a visually dazzling prologue to set-up a franchise, not a movie about fantastic beasts.