Beasts are fantastic in ‘Fantastic Beasts’

James Stevenson Jr.

Here we are once again, entering the world of Magic, Witches, Wizards and Ghouls, the world of Harry Potter. It seems like it’s been an eternity since Ron and Hermione helped Harry to defeat Lord Voldemort on the campus of Hogwarts.

Now we return after a five-year hiatus thanks to Warner Bros., only this time we are entering foreign territory as our journey occurs nearly 70 years in the past and takes place in America.

We are, however, in capable hands thanks to director David Yates’ stylish flare and a screenplay from Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling. The story follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a former student at of Hogwarts, who after being expelled travels to America in search of new creatures to document for a book he is writing.

His presence, however, strikes the suspicion of Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a former Auror, and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a baker. Things go from bad to worse wherever Scamander is seen. Magical creatures appear causing a ruckus, one of which threatens to expose their world to ours.

There’s a lot to like about this movie, though it is a bit overstuffed with characters that are slightly underdeveloped. It is nevertheless still a thrill seeing this magical world from a different time and place.

Thanks to brilliant creature and set designs, nearly everything in this film is beautiful. There is a real sense of joy to this movie that radiates on screen. However, while the visuals are stunning, our lead character is a bit flat.

Redmayne, though a talented actor (and you can tell he is clearly having fun playing as the oddball Scamander), doesn’t create a character that is really charming enough for the audience to get fully invested in him. That’s possible because you can’t understand about 30 per cent of what he’s saying.

However, the side characters make up for whatever charisma Scamander lacks. Though they aren’t all well-rounded, they elevate the movie with their charm, interesting dynamics and committed performances and raise it a few notches above mediocrity.

Consider this film to be a good opening act to perhaps a five-show event. Here’s hoping that over the next four films each will improve where this one falls short.