In the next film in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, set 70 years earlier in New York City, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows writer Newt Scamander as he must recapture the creatures that have escaped from has magical suitcase, and prevent war between wizards and humans at the same time.
It’s not hard to expect another Harry Potter film to be released after the series “concluded” with such success, but what I didn’t expect was mediocrity below what director David Yates has brought to the saga before. It’s not the lacking of the presence of Hogwarts and all our favorite characters from the previous films, but of the magic that made them all so memorable. Fantastic Beasts rushes into the adventure way too quickly and early on in the film, rather than taking it’s time to introduce you to everything that’s going on. Bear in mind, Warner Bros., you have five films in this series, not just one. By the time the movie stops to actually explain things, everything is different for our characters from when the film starts. The exposition isn’t given in the correct places and sometimes not at all. And there isn’t very much you need to know about Harry Potter to understand whatever’s happening – Hogwarts is merely mentioned once, in case you thought you’d be reminded of the saga as much as you’d be of The Lord of the Rings when you saw the Hobbit movies. Easily the most fast-paced movie I’ve seen this year, there is too much exposition and too many events happening one after another that it felt like the movie couldn’t have a larger budget and couldn’t be a minute longer. This movie would have been a lot better if its length was stretched out to three hours instead of being crammed down into two.
Yates directs some exciting and visually appealing action sequences that managed to keep me entertained, and the sets of 1920’s New York look great as well. Newt and the rest of the protagonists are well-written and likable enough for me to see them followed in four future films, but Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in the leading role and Dan Fogler as Newt’s Muggle friend are the only actors in the film that didn’t look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Even acclaimed actors like Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo hardly bring any life to their characters. The villains are incredibly flat and uninteresting, and I found myself getting slightly pulled out of the story whenever something was going on with them. The movie relies too much on an overuse of CGI (not all of which is as good as I hoped) to keep the audience engaged, as well as bits of humor here and there that didn’t always make me laugh. There are some plot points that would be interesting to see explored more broadly in future films, including appearances from a few familiar actors, one of which you’ll definitely recognize and will catch you by surprise. Otherwise, there’s not much to look forward to in the future of this series, although Yates hasn’t completely blown his opportunity of making a good spin-off series just yet.
You may want to give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a watch in theaters if you enjoy fantasy movies, but there’s not much to find here otherwise that will require you to rush to the theaters and buy a ticket. Besides some entertaining action and great leading characters, Fantastic Beasts is an overabundance of exposition and CGI that’s disappointing for whoever’s expecting it to be as great as its predecessors in Rowling’s universe of magic.