Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
Director: David Yates
Running Time: 133 mins
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a British/American film about a British wizard who travels to New York City in the 1920s, carrying with him a suitcase full of magical beasts. However, the beasts in question soon begin causing mayhem across the city, heightening already strong tensions between so-called no-majs and wizards.
This film is so good until it really isn’t. I’m not a Harry Potter die-hard, but I can say that, for the most part, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a near-perfect series opener for this spin-off franchise to the Harry Potter series. For over an hour and a half, it’s a film filled with glee, humour and imagination, as well as brains, strong directing and acting, and visuals, something that I absolutely loved until its crushingly disappointing final act, putting a real taint on the film as a whole.
But before I get into that, let’s talk about how this film works in comparison to the Harry Potter series. Thankfully, this film takes an almost totally different direction. With only hints and references to things we all know and love, this is a completely separate world and story from Hogwarts at the turn of the 21st Century, something that I was utterly delighted to see, as it allowed not only for more unpredictability and excitement in this film alone, but also opens up an endless world of possibilities for the films ahead.
Of course, we know that we’ll be getting many Fantastic Beasts sequels in the future, but I’m glad to say that this is a fantastic footing to start the franchise from. Despite the return of director David Yates from the last four Harry Potter films, the film has a distinctly different atmosphere in all ways from those movies. Save for one side plot, the film is wonderfully light-hearted, full of bright colours, and has a wide array of funny, energetic and interesting characters.
Because of that, I was smiling and having a great time for the first two acts of this movie. David Yates does an excellent job at confidently giving the film that vibe, whilst J.K. Rowling’s script isn’t just an entertaining adventure, but also features some intriguing elements about the wider context of the wizarding world in 1920s NYC, leaving the door open for a fascinating story arc.
Also, the performances here are excellent. Every one of the lead actors is brilliant from start to finish, adding to the film’s wonderful vibrancy and imagination. Redmayne, Waterston, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol are a dynamite leading quartet, all with fantastic chemistry at every moment, reminiscent of the good old days from The Philosopher’s Stone where Harry, Ron and Hermione were all having fun and adventures, something that relit the joy in my heart that was missing in the later films of the Harry Potter series.
In short, there’s so much to love and enjoy about Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, right up until its final act.
In a few seconds, the film switches from a bright and imaginative adventure to the most generic and dull blockbuster climax you can imagine. Apart from the genuinely painful overload of CGI throughout (there are moments when you can see nothing but it on screen), the story takes a dive, losing the camaraderie and intelligence of the earlier acts, in exchange for a city destruction sequence against a cloud of metal.
Whilst the final few minutes return the film to its earlier glory, the entire final act felt like it dragged on for an eternity, adding very little to both this film’s story and options for the future, showcasing loud, brash and boring action again and again. Having been so enchanted by this new world for so long, I was absolutely crushed by the final act’s disappointment, but I hope that it can be recognised as a simple fix for future films.
Overall, I really enjoyed the majority of this film. Imaginative, intelligent, bright and beautifully light-hearted, it’s a film that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face. Its strong directing, screenplay and acting all go a long way to making it even better, but it’s just the terrible disappointment of a final act that brings it all down a peg, which is why I’m giving Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them a 7.8.