David Yates / Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller / Fantasy / 2016 / 12A / 133mins
Having been one of countless millions raised on the books, the films and that irresistible score, it was safe to say I was always going to enjoy the latest delve into the world of Harry Potter.
Sailing past the Statue of Liberty, magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York with a suitcase full of magical creatures that prove a little too curious. Accidents occur and, naturally, it's up to our plucky hero and his band of misfits to save the day after they get wound up in a drama that could force a terrible war between wizards and muggle-kind.
Thankfully Fantastic Beasts remains shamelessly devout to all things Potter-ish. Magic aside, there's humour aplenty, the creatures are loveable and cute - the pesky Niffler being a favourite - and there's a clear sense of good versus evil laced with unnerving, dark moments.
Even without JK Rowling's venerable acclaim, Eddie Redmayne was always going to be a (dare I say it) fantastic feat of casting. He fits the bill, bringing a bumbling, unapologetic assortment of Britishness to Newt that I doubt many could achieve. He is his character, and that is always a delight to watch.
Praise runs thin for the rest. Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell were surely the other standouts, but other characters were poorly written. Enter Tina Goldstein: bizarre decision-making extraordinaire. It's unfortunate for the hugely talented Katherine Waterston to play a character whose actions delay the film by a good half an hour.
Which leads me to my next point: although peppered with highlights, there are inconsistent flaws with the script. There are useless subplots (the political one springs to mind); the editing is so condensed that some points seem 'jumpy'; no-maj Kowalski accepts the wizarding world with a LOL YOLO approach that's hardly believable; the monsters' CGI, despite interacting with their environments realistically, will be dated by the end of the decade; and there are some minor wizarding flaws I am sure fans will pick up on.
Worst of all, I was disappointed with the ending. There's a big reveal and we're made to forget a tragic death - it's alarmingly forgetful and rushed.
David Yates is a timid director - just watch his last flick The Legend of Tarzan and you'll see what I mean - but he is remarkably adept at Harry Potter films, having directed the last four. It was always a safe option to have him at the helm for this prequel spin-off.
I can't deny it - this is a fun film and undoubtedly one of the best blockbusters of the year. It's a loveable, endearing feature that happily expands an iconic universe. However, much like The Force Awakens, that's also the downside - there's a serious manipulation of nostalgia that dupes us to overlook the film's failures.
Remember what the Harry Potter films were like? Fantastic Beasts is marginally better - nothing to be sniffed at. Cue fanfare but heed the warning: this is purely a decent film carried heavily by Eddie Redmayne with a sprinkling of cute CGI.
Film as a Film - 2 / Target Audience - 4 / General Audience - 4
PS. Johnny Depp's makeup artist... wtf m8
Fantastic Beasts is in cinemas now