It would be so easy for Fantastic Beasts to coast along on the Harry Potter brand, and exist solely for big numbers at the box office (looking at you, Transformers).
Instead, David Yates (who directed the last four Potter films) delivers a joyous adventure that, somehow, captures the heart and magic that made its big brother second only to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as the highest-grossing franchise of all-time.
Fantastic Beasts covers the adventures of wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a writer whose book Harry Potter will read 70 years later, and his suitcase full of joy, danger, and mischief.
In retrospect, that the film succeeds above and beyond expectation shouldn’t come as a surprise. Fantastic Beasts marks J.K. Rowling’s debut as a screenwriter for film, and she captures the essence of the Harry Potter world while making minimal references to the franchise itself, leaving Fantastic Beasts a film that exists on its own merit.
The ‘beasts’ themselves are loveable beyond belief, and beautifully rendered. The merchandise revenue from this film alone (there’s already another four of them in the works) is bound to be off the charts.
At just over two hours long, the film flies by, with just the right mix of humanity, magic, and menace. The humanity is mostly thanks to Dan Folger, as his character Jacob Kowalski downright steals the show. His performance gives the film a loveable and human centre that the Potter films managed so well.
Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as the soft-spoken, kind Newt, and helps add to that sense of humanity. His voice, however, was irritatingly difficult to hear during many parts of the film, a combination of Redmayne’s delivery, James Newton Howard’s swelling score, and the sheer number of wails and sounds emanating from the beasts he nurtures.
Despite a fairly generic villain and third act, Fantastic Beasts performs near-perfectly in its execution, and has laid an incredibly promising groundwork for the wealth of films that will occupy this truly magical world.
Rating – 9.3/10
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them’ is out in Australian cinemas on November 17th and is rated ‘M’, UK cinemas on November 18th and is rated ‘PG’, and American cinemas on November 18th, rated ‘PG-13’
Directed by: David Yates (‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1′, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2‘)
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell