A monster of two halves...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

Potter fans around the world, itís finally time to rejoice and rejoin the wizarding ranks once again, except this time we arenít getting aboard the Hogwarts Express, but on a brand new tale penned by author J.K. Rowling and stalwart Harry Potter film director David Yates back onboard for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens against the backdrop of a growing threat in the form of a dark wizard named Grindelwald, causing tensions amongst the hidden world of wizards, and in turn creating the possibility of destroying the fragile balance with the human world; made all the worse by a series of disasters happening in frequent succession in New York City.

Leading the task force investigating these events, is the ruthless Inspector Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), who suspects these attacks are the result of monsters running rampant within the city, a city that has since banned the import and export of such exotic beasts.

Unfortunately Newt (Eddie Redmayne) didnít get the memo in time, a bumbling, british creature researcher - or magical zoologist - who is currently transporting a suitcase full of the beasties through customs - a suitcase mind you that is susceptible to easily being opened from the inside.

Things quickly escalate out of control though, as a particular mischievous creature causes mayhem, resulting in the switching of suitcases with Muggle - sorry scratch that, a No-maj - Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an aspiring baker who subsequently unleashes its full chaos upon the city. Gotta catch Ďem all!

Upon initially hearing that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be one of a five part series of films, my heart sank. After trudging through The Hobbit - a glutton of cinema - that could have been infinitely better slimmed down into one or two films, I feared the worse in the name of profit.

Thankfully those fears are unfounded, at least with this debut film in the franchise of this new Potter spin-off, that offers a complete and full viewing experience with no middling cliffhanger or loose ends to leave you in discontent. I have to assume that the five picture deal was either made after the writing of this movie was initially planned, or all of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them going forward will be self-contained stories with a small throughline.

Much like the first Harry Potter, which introduced us to the joy and wonder of this magical world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them knocks it out of the park in this aspect, allowing us to peer through the eyes of fellow Muggle Kowalski, as he comes to experience the parallel universe hidden from view that interacts with our own so seamlessly and in outright comical fashion. And whilst itís nothing new for Potter fans, witnessing an extension of this universe - in a whole new setting - greatly adds to the lore and believability of the magic on show. The best aspect of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them though, is with the CGI monsters themselves, as we enter their realm and watch Newt - whose performance by Redmayne and actual character is akin to Dr Who - interact with the quirky personalities each of these creatures imbue; even without practical effects, it's quite the spectacle and sheds a joyous, light hearted tone that ultimately is at the heart of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and what youíll be left with most, upon its conclusion.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - (Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton)

On the flipside of that coin we have the murky, political side of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a facet that the Potter franchise has never excelled in, and sputters and starts throughout the thin plot of the film; as Graves - under the incompetent command of President Seraphina (Carmen Ejogo) - interacts with the darker side of the city, in the form of Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) and her children of the corn.

The - what I assume to be intentionally - contrasting tone, feels like an entirely different movie mashed together, and whenever itís on screen youíre left feeling stifled - as if attacked by a Dementor - just biding your time until proceedings can get back to the more imaginative side of things - where Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them truly shines. Likewise, whilst the Harry Potter franchise is known for its villains, they have up until this point been far more archetypal caricatures of bad guys, the antagonists within Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them meanwhile, feel far more real and grounded, giving off a completely different vibe than its predecessors in that department.

What also struck me as odd - especially coming from a high budget movie - was one or two glaring edit problems, with action seemingly concluding in one action then our cast of characters being somewhere else entirely. I have to assume that some scenes explaining these transitions were cut, though I would have chosen to trim elsewhere - at a point that doesnít impact the visual flow of the film - as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is chock full of fat - with a run time of 2 hours 13 minutes - and suffers from being too drawn out.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a movie of two halves, one being full of imagination and a light heartedness that harkens back to those original Harry Potter roots. The other being far darker and less interesting, which contrasts poorly against its better half with a spot of poor editing thrown in for good measure.

But Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is indeed a must watch for any Harry Potter fan out there, a movie full of fun that is sure to leave you demanding even more going forward. For everyone else, if you arenít on the Hogwarts Express by now, then this franchise restart - which requires no knowledge of previous outings - might just be your ticket on the train, but don't go in expecting the ride to be too different.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    18th November 2016

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Thin plot

    Contrasting tones

    Spotty editing

  • Newt the monster whisperer

    CGI monsters

    The lore

    Extremely fun in parts

Film Info

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rating: 12A
Release Date: 18th November
Runtime: 2 hr 13 mins
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler & Ezra Miller

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Yes, though there is a jump scare and many scenes depicting death and abuse.

Screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling.

Within the Harry Potter universe, Newt Scamander's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was first published in 1927 and became a massive bestseller, as well as an approved textbook at Hogwarts. By the mid-1990s, when the Harry Potter series is set, it was in its 52nd edition. Scamander also has the distinct honor to have his own Chocolate Frog Card.

Originally intended to be a trilogy, but as of October 2016 it has been confirmed as a 5 part movie series.