Set in the year 1926, writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York having returned from a global adventure documenting an extraordinary array of magical creatures. However, Newt’s fantastical beasts are accidentally unleashed on the city when his suitcase is misplaced by an American named Jacob (Dan Fogler) – causing a potential war between wizard and muggle worlds.

Written by J.K Rowling and directed by Harry Potter veteran David Yates, Fantastic Beasts introduces us the wizarding world – 70 years before Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts. It’s the roaring twenties and our narrative opens to English wizard and writer, Newt Scamander (Redmayne), as he arrives in New York City having traveled the world collecting creatures for his up-and-coming book. Almost immediately, we are made aware of his magical suitcase of zoological wonders and it is almost immediately wreaking havoc on the streets of NYC. With a mysterious force also causing destruction in the city, Newt is picked up by an Investigative Auror from the Magical Congress (Porpentina Goldstein – played by Katherine Waterston), and declared a ‘wanted’ wizard. In a race against time, Newt must recapture his creatures and prove his innocence in the hopes of preventing an impending war between the human and magic world.

At times the film comes across as a little misguided but is charming throughout. In a nutshell, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is exactly what is to be expected of J.K. Rowling’s previous works. However, props where props are due – rather than spin off a new big-screen adventure created only for the Harry Potter generation, Rowling has built an entirely new saga all together. It’s a new country with new lexis (“no-mag” not “muggle”) and completely new characters in a different age. Much like the Harry Potter franchise, however, it does portray a secret and mysterious world of wizards who are victim to prejudices and threatened by fascist dark forces. But whilst there is of course mention of Hogwarts and the famous Albus Dumbledore, Fantastic Beasts stands on its own two feet.

It does often feel as if the film struggles with its own identity and there are clearly some structural problems. It could be said that it attempts to include too many levels to its narrative. Alongside Newt and his baker friend, there is also the dangerous threat of witch-hunters with Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) and her fragile adopted son Credence (Ezra Miller), corrupt wizards and a very brushed over segment of politicians and the Shaw family who control the media – briefly featuring John Voight.

The most enjoyable scenes are perhaps of Rowling’s creatures (particularly Niffler – a mischievous mole-like creature who collects shiny objects), which are beautifully showcased with excellent visual effects but this is arguably over-saturated. Shown alongside a bulk of action sequences, this eventually, and rather ironically, slows down the pace of the film which almost comes to a complete halt three quarters of the way in. Breaking up these dips, however, is some truly delightful and amusing scenes involving both the creatures and our protagonists.  The vision of an Oscar winning Eddie Redmayne bent over and grunting during a mating dance for a giant rhino is sure to stay with you whilst the relationship between Jacob and Queenie (Alison Sudol) is executed brilliantly. These combined, makes for your average, easy-viewing action adventure most suitable for a family audience.

Another success for the film is its cast. Alongside a whole host of creditable actors, Redmayne proves to be an excellent choice for Newt – a socially awkward Hogwarts drop out who struggles to communicate and maintain eye contact. His new found friend, Jacob, is ultimately the opposite. Portrayed by comedic actor Fogle, Jacob’s character provides the majority of the films comic relief with his stereotypical New York mannerisms and blatant flirtations with Queenie which seem to dominate the majority of the narrative towards the third quarter. This does, however, leave very little time for Porpentina and Newt to develop their relationship until moments before the end. Katherine Waterston remains ever present throughout the film, however, and delivers a solid performance.

Ultimately, the sheer busy-ness of Fantastic Beasts means it relies quite heavily on the visual effects and its overall charm. The nonstop chase and movement of the characters down side streets, speakeasies and dungeons leaves little time to develop plot points which are started but not always fully elevated. Quite obviously, this makes way for an array of sequels of which Warner Bros. hope to make five unnecessary ones. Overall, the film features some excellent performances, visuals and of course, beasts though I’m not sure it needs much of a follow up and perhaps could have been a little cleaner in its delivery.

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
3.5Overall Score
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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, Twitter: