Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (12A)
Director: David Yates
Writer: JK Rowling
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Colin Farrell
Running time: 2hr 13mins
Long before the story of The Boy Who Lived, a young wizard with a mysterious suitcase arrives in New York, unaware of the trouble that his very precious cargo is about to get him in.
The big question for JK Rowling was always going to be a tough one to answer: what happens after book seven? After Harry Potter’s story concludes, where do you go next?
Backwards, it seems. But don’t worry, this isn’t Magic Wars Episode I: The Patronus Menace. We’re going back before Harry, to tell a new story, but one that is still richly based in the wizarding world we know.
Eddie Redmayne’s exceedingly Rowlingly named Newt Scamander arrives in New York at a time when the city is on the cusp of a new age. The world is changing, but the secret content of his suitcase will bring about its own revelations. Through a series of exceptionally British mishaps, the case – which contains a large number of magical creatures, great and small – falls into the hands of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a nice guy who is just having a bad day.
Which is only just beginning for him, as the case is opened, unleashing the beasts upon the city. It’s up to the wizard and muggle (or No-Maj as they call them Stateside) to team up a recapture them, before it’s too late. However, their new partnership soon stumbles across a dark plan which goes to the core of the wizarding world itself.
And it’s a fun premise from the word go. You feel invested in the ride, with Redmayne dishing out the sort of charming performance one has come to expect from him. He and Fogler work brilliantly together as a double act, and the weight added by the likes of Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston and Ezra Miller makes this much more of an ensemble film than you may expect, in many ways hinting back at Yates’ final Potter outings.
One of the true highlights that the film has is certainly the beasts themselves. A stunning assortment of magical creatures, big and small, with a menagerie you wish you could spend more time with. The real magic here is the design that goes into them, and the characters that are created out of that – in fact some of the best comedic moments are at the hands of the animals themselves, with one in particular (we won’t give it away, but he pops up early and often) carrying more than its share of the laughs.
On a whole, however, the film does outstay its welcome. At over two hours it’s too long a runtime for something that’s telling such an easily condensed story. And for a film that jumps from set piece to set piece, flashy CGI scene to the next, it’s a shame to have it feel like it’s dragging, especially in the final third.
Perhaps this is the wizarding world being given the comic book origin movie treatment; we have our characters established, with the sequel set up and more than a few little easter eggs thrown in there for eagle-eyed fanboys, fangirls and fanmuggles. It goes big, and it stays big, and despite some inconsistencies in its storytelling (the ever-fluctuating strength of a wizard’s power, for one) it’s a film that hits hard with its visual style and sense of scale.
It’s certainly a fun ride; a popcorn movie for a family day out, more than anything. And it will no doubt put a smile on even the most hardened of Potter veteran, and isn’t that what it’s here to do? However, No-Maj moviegoers may be found firmly in the middle of the road.
3 out of 5 Nerds