Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Year: 2016
Production Co: Heyday Films
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: David Yates
Producer: David Heyman
Writer: JK Rowling
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Dan Hedaya

The extent to which you love the Harry Potter movies will dictate how much you enjoy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and just like Marvel and The Hunger Games movies, I find myself on the wrong side of the divide.

The plot is deceptively simple – a wizard has a magical suitcase full of otherworldly creatures known only to the denizens of magic, they get loose and he has to recapture them.

But it's all told using the language of the modern tween, teen and young adult demographic cinema-going audience – lots of action and chase scenes, lots of CGI, a bit of romance and a three act structure full of dramatic beats you could set your watch by. It's not quite Marvel-level pre-fabricated, but it's definitely a Hollywood production designed to enrich shareholders and move licensed merch more than express art.

The biggest mystery is why an Oscar winner already carving a high quality niche for himself like Eddie Redmayne wants to ('slum it' isn't exactly the right phrase, but...) in something like this. Maybe he wants to subvert expectations about his career, maybe he wants to let some co-stars and green screens do most of the work.

He plays Newt, a zoologist from the UK who arrives in New York with a case full of creatures in the roaring 20s. He's writing a book about creatures Harry and his friends will find in their curriculum seventy years hence, but first we get the see his adventures as some of his animals get loose.

He recruits pretty former department of magic clerk Tina (Katherine Waterston), her flapper sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a guy he comes across while chasing down the escaped critters.

They're up against not just the titular beasts but the fearsome head of the magic secret police, Graves (Colin Farrell) and a family of bigoted anti-wizards (Samantha Morton and Ezra Miller) hiding a secret that might cause the end of the world (etc).

There are a lot of famous faces and characters to fit in and the running time gives them all a decent turn. That's usually a sign that a movie's at least been written and edited well, but if you're not a Harry Potter fan there's not much for you to see here that you don't expect.

Another interesting thing about the existence of the film (and the multiple sequels that have already been announced) is the presence and standing of property creator JK Rowling.

In the mid 2000s George Lucas didn't have a shred of credibility left as the creative steward of Star Wars. He'd made three sub-par prequels to the most beloved trilogy of all time and there were so many TV shows, ridiculous tie-ins and supplemental products the name was in danger of becoming a joke.

He carped for years about returning to art movies like THX1138, but he retired on Disney's $4bn payday and did nothing else with his artistry. After the lukewarm reception to her adult-oriented novels, might Rowling (who wrote the script of this film) do the same thing, endlessly churning out one Harry Potter artefact after another until she's lost her grip on what made it so beloved?

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