Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, if anything else, has imagination. Although the film has a haphazard method of telling its story and relies heavily on universe building, there’s a consistent sense of wonder as the film explores more of its world. Although there’s little time dictated to character development, we do get some charismatic performances from its leads.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a English wizard traveling to New York with a crate of magical Beasts, who befriends a local wizard (Katherine Waterston) and a non magical baker (Dan Fogler). When the creatures escape, a villanious ministry agent (Collin Farrell) hunts down Scamander wkth the help of a poor non-magician (Ezra Miller). When the local ministry attempt to blame mysterious actions on Scamander and his creatures, he and his allies must attempt to find the real culprit and clear the name of his magical beasts.
Redmayne is really good here, giving a charismatic performance that is different to Daniel Radcliffe’s iconic performance. The passion Scamander he for his creatures drives much of the story, and this is sold in the conviction in his performances. While Katherine Waterston is given relatively little to do, Dan Fogler’s comedic side role adds a lot to the film, as does Farrell’s genuinely menacing villain. A side role from Ezra Miller is also interesting; while Miller’s screen time is limited, his character is teased for future installments.
The story is a total mess, and while it’s hard to keep up with all the characters and events, the arcs of the lead characters have satisfying conclusions. While it’s undeniable how much the film takes to set up its sequels, it also establishes a world that has a future worth exploring. It’s a solid start to a new series, and a slightly more concise story maybaid this franchise in its future. Grade: B-