Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Chemistry between leads, special effects, second half
Cons: Pacing is off, which is usual for the franchise
The Bottom Line:
Spin off franchise starts
Uneven pacing in film
Laying new groundwork
Laying the New Groundwork
Like any fan of the Harry Potter franchise, I was interested when they announced plans for a new franchise set in the Harry Potter universe. And then I didn’t actually get around to watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them until this year. While I found it lacking, I am still hopeful for the rest of the movies.
We travel back to 1926 and meet Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he arrives in New York City. He’s carrying a suitcase that seems to have a mind of its own. You see, Newt is a wizard, and his suitcase actually contains all kinds of fantastic beasts he’s found in his travels all over the world.
He hasn’t been in New York long before he spots an anti-witch and wizard group and been spotted by Tina (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). Meanwhile, he’s also bumped into Jacob (Dan Fogler), a No-Mag (as us Muggles are called here in the states) who wants to become a baker. But when the unthinkable happens and some of Newt’s beasts get lose, what will happen next?
My complaint with this movie is the same one I’ve had with many of the Harry Potter books and movies – the beginnings are slow. J. K. Rowling, who wrote the screen play, spends a lot of time with world building before the real story begins. Oh, we can see where the conflict is going to come from early on, but it takes a while for that to really get going.
Now that’s not to say we don’t get some great moments before then. There’s a sequence where we get to see some of the beasts that Newt is carrying that is a triumph of special effects and imagination that is sure to make you smile. The four main characters are a lot of fun, and their scenes together are great. The chemistry between these actors is fantastic. In fact, the acting and special effects all the way through are wonderful.
When we get into the second half and the story really begins to gel, things pick up significantly. The climax is wonderful with a couple of good twists to the story.
And here’s why I am still looking forward to the sequels even though I found this movie a little lacking. This movie is laying the groundwork for the stories to come. Think about the first Harry Potter book. It’s very slow as it introduces us to his magical world. While we already know about the universe, we still need to meet the characters and the conflict that is going on during the 1920’s.
I do wish that J. K. Rowling’s pacing would get better, but I trust that the story that ultimately springs from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be worth the wait.