Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
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When the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was released to theaters five years ago, it was a bittersweet moment for fans of the boy wizard. But it’s no big surprise that such a successful franchise couldn’t simply end there. And now fans can return to the wizarding world with the magical spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Inspired by one of Harry’s Hogwarts text books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows magical creature expert Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels to New York City with a case full of beasts. When some of them manage to escape, wreaking havoc at a bank and getting a non-magical baker (Dan Fogler) caught up in the action, Newt is arrested by a disgraced agent of the Magical Congress (Katherine Waterston). But the Congress has bigger problems to deal with—and as Newt and his friends race to retrieve the missing beasts, a dark force grows more and more powerful.

One thing is certain: fans of the Harry Potter films will be thrilled to return to this magical world. Fantastic Beasts may take place long before Harry Potter’s birth, but it still has the same magic, the same wonder, and the same imagination—as well as a few references to familiar characters. But its setting is vastly different. It’s set in the middle of the non-magical world—in jazzy, stylish 1920s New York City—and a Muggle (or, as he’s called in the States, a No-Maj) gets tangled up in the adventure. And those differences give this new film visual interest and a distinctive story—and Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski gives the story plenty of comic relief (as well as a new perspective).

Redmayne, meanwhile, makes a likable new hero. Geeky and rather skittish—yet still awkwardly adorable, too—he’s the kind of character that you wouldn’t mind following on another adventure.

The story, however, is unbalanced and uneven. Several storylines run together throughout the film: Newt’s search for his creatures, the investigation into the dark magic that’s loose in the city, the actions of a family of vicious anti-magic protesters, and more. Yet, despite the numerous plotlines and the lengthy runtime, none of the stories really stand out—and none of them make perfect sense, either. The tone makes some sudden shifts, too—from the playfulness and humor of the first half to the dark and terrifying action of the second half. And the mess of storylines and the shifting tones make for a somewhat unsteady adventure.

For fans of the Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will feel like a long-awaited reunion with an old friend—even though it’s filled with new characters. It’s definitely nice to revisit the wizarding world—but in making the switch to a new world and new characters, the story seems to lose its way.

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