Review | 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'
It’s been five long years since Harry Potter was last seen on cinema screens, but the wizarding world hasn't stopped growing: There's Orlando's ever-expanding theme park, as well as London’s studio tour and of course ‘The Cursed Child’, which has sold out West End’s Palace theatre into the foreseeable future. Hitting cinemas this week we have the JK Rowing penned prequel and spin-off to Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The film is based around Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the fictional author of a glossary of beasts which Rowling wrote for Comic Relief back in 2001. Upon arriving in New York City, Newt is in immediate trouble with the magical authorities, as a handful of his suitcase of bizarre creatures escape across the city. Whilst keeping to the distinct charm of the original films, Fantastic Beasts is still an entirely different experience: It's part Pokemon with its 'catch 'em all' spirit as we’re introduced from creature to creature, each with their own unique set of magical skills.
While it felt a bizarre choice to set a much-loved UK franchise in America, Harry Potter director David Yates retains a lot of the quaint British flare that the original series celebrated. Of course, it helps that the large cast is fronted by the almost overbearingly British, Eddie Redmayne. Redmayne does a good job of anchoring the chaotic plotline that goes on around him, but it’s the supporting cast who really do the legwork here, from Ezra Miller as the troubled Credence (LGBT subtext and allusions to the closet abound), to Newt's helping hand and the heart of the picture, Katherine Waterston’s Porpentina.
Porpentina’s charming sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) provides plenty of laughs in her ongoing subplot of flirtations with the adorable muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler). And, of course, there are the continuously scene stealing beasts themselves, particularly, the kleptomaniac, Platypus-like Niffler, who, despite its flaws, is too cute not to love.
Fantastic Beasts further opens out the Potter mythology with plenty of new and intriguing characters, which the fans will surely appreciate. Though mostly a light-hearted affair, there are still moments of the darkness that Rowling managed to grip us with the first time round, and the door is certainly left open for more of her twisted side to come. But the one aspect really lacking here is the sense of a clear villain. Voldemort and his gang of Death Eaters are far too terrifyingly iconic to best, but the largely unseen central antagonist feels like a cop-out coming from a film bursting with creative new ideas.
Despite establishing a unique new path in the franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, doesn’t yet feel as immediately essential to the overall narrative as the original Harry Potter seven stories or The Cursed Child. Still, it remains a dazzling display of imagination and a welcome addition to the wizarding world.
Rating: 4/5Words: Joe PassmoreMore stories:Britain’s Got Talent star Richard Hadfield shows off his incredible new body11 pictures that prove why Ricky Martin and fiancé Jwan Yosef are total #RelationshipGoals