By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★★☆☆

J. K. Rowling’s latest outing is primarily to set up a pre Harry Potter franchise, and yeah, there are also some fantastic beasts running around a Gatsby era New York City (hence the beautiful feature photo above). Visually, the film is near perfect – imaginative and truly stunning from beginning to end. However, I can’t recall anything as interesting and as engaging as what Potter had.

Mr Newt Scamander, soon to be writer of the book ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’,  enters New York City with a suitcase full of monsters. After crossing paths with Kowalski (Dan Fogler) a non-magical person or ‘no maj’, Scamander misplaces his suitcase and a few beasties run amok in New York City. With the help of witch Tina (Katherine Waterston), Scamander and Kowalski hunt down the missing animals but soon learn of a darker threat that may have something to do with Grindewald, a dark wizard.

The movie is absolutely splendid to look at. Rowling’s wizarding world that has always been associated with British countryside and culture crosses onto American soil effortlessly. The look and the cast contribute greatly to this smooth transition. There is one jazz bar scene with Hellboy’s Ron Perlman as a gangster goblin that was just so cool. The shine of New York City is also memorable, as are the beasts which were clearly made for 3D viewing. The spells and other magical familiarities have also not lost their signature look, so hardcore Potter fans don’t have too much to worry about there. I’d see this movie in IMAX and nothing less. You deserve it!

The soundtrack was also still there. To be honest, I wasn’t over the moon to be seeing this after all of the franchise fails over summer, but as soon as I saw that signature opening title sequence with that theme we’ve all grown to love, I got pretty excited… but I also get excited when I see the Star Wars title sequence, and I’ve been disappointed 4/7 times so far…

Disappointment came in the form of character development here. David Yates, who directed the last four Potter films has done a bang-up job so far and Fantastic Beasts isn’t a bad film, but like the first Harry Potter film Philosopher’s Stone, it’s job is to introduce new characters and pave the way for more films. Yates seems to have kept that in mind, but also tried to mix in some darker stuff similar to later Potter films. It’s a bit confusing at times to know what exactly the story is here.

I also missed the sense of curiosity that Harry, Ron and Hermione had. They made you want to know every little crack and crevice in Hogwarts. The characters in Fantastic Beasts are fine, but just fine. There could have been some wonderfully dark moments with Ezra Miller’s Credence, but I feel as if we barely scratched the surface. It was a bit slow in moments too, Scamander’s story in particular. Hopefully, like the Potter franchise, these films will get better as they go along, and they plan to do 4 more.

Fantastic Beasts is safe family fun. Scary at times, and enough twists and turns to satisfy the usual Potter fans. It’s like the first and last Potter movies had a baby, it’s an adult’s story.. for children?

Same magic, different spell.

Feature photo: Screen Rant

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