Growing up with the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, our current generation has been marked with a love and fascination for this worldwide phenomenon that Warner Bros has seen and seized in their production of a new film series set in the same universe. Taking advantage of our nostalgia but being a suitably older and darker affair, Fantastic Beasts and where to find them is set to take the world by storm as the key autumn release of 2016 with mesmerising visuals, a period setting and Brit superstar Eddie Redmayne leading the charge.
Set in 1926, Fantastic Beasts and where to find them explores the wizarding world before Harry Potter and does so in grand fashion with a shift to New York, establishing the state of magic in America and offering a very different spin on the essential Britishness of the franchise. While it mostly succeeds in this endeavour, the need for whimsy and charm can often feel forced; Fantastic Beasts is great when it wants to be but is dragged down by the legacy of the Harry Potter franchise. The darker tone and stunning action sequences are endlessly creative, keeping the audience on their toes, but the interjection of heart just feels conventional and undeserved for characters that haven’t been developed over a number of films and really are just re-treads of the Harry Potter protagonists – the brave one, the bumbling one, the intelligent one. The film is also quite predictable with a conventional narrative and several obvious twists.
However, the narrative flaws are not enough to condemn the film due to the pure power of spectacle; beautiful visuals, effects and creature designs create a range of unique and memorable ‘beasts’ while both New York and the wizarding world within it are realised in amazing detail thanks to a potent mixture of high quality cinematography and art design. What it lacks in charm, Fantastic Beasts makes up for in action with sequences that match and in some cases surpass those of the previous films. Despite my problems with the characters, the performances are still strong with Redmayne and future Flash Ezra Miller continuing to capitalise on their breakthrough star status. Colin Farrell and Jon Voight are also here but both their characters prove fairly inconsequential by the credits.
A struggle between maintaining the tone of the Harry Potter franchise and giving in to the darker elements of the narrative and thematic content, Fantastic Beasts and where to find them is a flawed but still entertaining film that perfectly reflects the maturity of the original potter heads. It is just unfortunate that in holding on to nostalgia the film fails to establish itself on its own merit and aesthetic.