Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them ⭐⭐⭐

As franchise extenders go, it could easily been a lot worse than this wildly imaginative and pleasantly engrossing opener for the new pentalogy. Most of this is no doubt down to J.K. Rowling who knows how to make it work without repeating herself too much and David Yates who proves to be safe pair of hands when it comes to anything wizardry. The special effects and production designs are top class and there’s meaning and relevance to our present day world in Rowling’s writing as she explores the repressive and destructive nature of discrimination and segregation. However this is a flawed and sometimes frustrating film to watch. First and foremost, I have come to find Eddie Redmayne’s acting troubling, especially when he is required to act coy and shy (which he often has to here) and he goes into Princess Diana/Danish Girl mode (by dipping his head and furtively glancing upwards). Granted, he is fine when he isnt, but he has to break out and let loose some more if we have to endure this for 4 more films. As for Katherine Waterston’s potential love interest, her motivations seem all over the place and frankly rather irritating at first: she is stoically determined when the narrative requires her to get certain characters in the right place at the right time but her resolve disappears as soon as that’s out of the way. It doesn’t help that the secondary couple played by Alison Sudol and Dan Folger are far more convincing, touching and fun to watch. And then we have the ending where (a) the twist seems a bit too obvious; (b) delivers the same kitchen-sink and all destruction finale audiences are way too familiar with from superhero films and (c) just seem to reset everything with magic so there is almost no real consequence to all the carnage caused. The beasts are indeed fantastic here but it is the wizards that need a little more magic next time round.

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