Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, review: ‘Fast, funny, entertaining’

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them � 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them � 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC - Credit: Archant

It is all you enjoyed in the Harry Potter films, but faster and funnier and with action set pieces a little more animated than extended stick pointing, but without so much of the talky bits.

If JK ever seriously thought that she was done with Potter, if she ever thought that she was out, 2016 has been the year that they dragged her back in, showed her that there would be no walking away from this.

There was the theatre event which she supported and now a spin off movie. The Bros Warner couldn’t let Harry go when it hadn’t even cracked $8 billion at the worldwide box office.

Originally Fantastic Beasts was a Comic Relief spin off, a version of a textbook that was mentioned in the first Harry Potter book. Now it’s become a five part prequel series, which she will write herself.

There is, of course, one great big massive advantage to all this. Unlike the book adaptations, this 133 minute film is filled with around 126 minutes (allowing 6 to 7 minutes for the end credits) of plot, spread evenly but never quite thinly across its running time, rather than the year-at-Hogwarts, 5/6/7 hundred pages, that they tried to cram into the Harry Potter And films.


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Given a more or less empty page to start all over again she has headed for 1926 New York, where our new hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) turns up with a briefcase full of fantastical beasts that keep escaping and causing havoc, before getting mixed up in a scheme to provoke war between the magic and human community.

It’s hardly a bold reinvention but it plays safe with assurance and confidence. It is fast and funny and entertaining,

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It is all you enjoyed in the Potter films, but faster and funnier and with action set pieces a little more animated than extended stick pointing, but without so much of the talky bits.

The downside of all this is that apart from the usual Potter bits of colour, it is a fairly standard, generic, blockbuster special effects romp.

If the idea of a Potter film with grown ups in doesn’t appeal then don’t worry – Newt is basically a child in an adult’s body.

There is a tentative romantic link with female lead Katherine Waterston, but what passes between them is so chaste it could barely pass as puppy love.

I doubt she’ll be receiving so much as a peck on the cheek before the end of the fourth film. Scamander is one part David Attenborough, one part Nu Who, and about three parts precocious child prodigy who tries very hard not to let people know how very pleased he is with himself.

He is a rather too obvious incarnation of the English eccentric but Redmayne clicks instantly in the role.

There is a new grown up gang of helpers to support him and they gel together rather well, especially Dan Fogler in the comic role of Kowalski, the muggle (or in this case no-maj) who gets mixed up in their adventure.

This is the first time I think that muggles and wizards have really interacted positively in these films.

As you’d expect of Rowling the politics of the film are straightforward progressive liberal: our villain is trying to helter skelter them into a race war between the muggles and magic; the main source of the disturbance is closet case wizard, whose mother has made him ashamed of his real nature.

She even has a line about there being a silly rule in the States not allowing marriage between the two sides. Yet the Potter stories, like most YA fiction, seem to me inherently elitist.

What is Hogwarts if not the most exclusive public school ever? In this new film the magic community in the states exist in the shadows, hidden in plain sight, shape shifting to avoid exposure and using mass brainwashing techniques to stop the public from seeing the truth.

So beneath the liberal rhetoric, the story could be made to play into every paranoid, right wing fantasy out there.

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