FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM Review; "One Of 2016's Best Blockbusters"

Does Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them manage to live up to expectations? Well, it actually exceeds them, and you can read my SPOILER-FREE review of the movie right here...

Despite bringing back veteran Harry Potter director David Yates and enlisting author J.K. Rowling to pen the screenplay, it would be easy to dismiss Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as a desperate attempt by Warner Bros. to release a guaranteed hit after a string of high profile box office disappointments. Regardless of whether or not that's what executives had in mind though, this opening chapter of what looks set to be a five part franchise is something very special indeed and arguably better than any of the Harry Potter movies. Those were all good in their own way of course, but if you're a fan of the books, chances are that you didn't struggle to pick holes in them. Fantastic Beasts is lucky enough not to have expectations like that riding on it, and with a new original story set in a familiar world, Rowling proves herself every bit a master storyteller in film as she is with novels. 

While the cast is undoubtedly terrific, it's the beasts who arguably steal the show here. The first time we step into Newt Scamander's (a brilliant Eddie Redmayne) case, what we're seeing feels every big as magical as our first visit to Hogwarts all those years ago. The movie effortlessly introduces us to all manner of creatures, leading to a series of well crafted set pieces as Newt and his newfound American allies attempt to track them down. However, it's the niffler that steals the show in a couple of genuinely hilarious sequences (humour is something Fantastic Beasts handles very well throughout) which will ensure that the lovable critter is a hit with kids and adults alike. In fact, it's fair to say that even Baby Groot may very well struggle to top his amazing antics in next year's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!

Going back to the cast though, and while Fantastic Beasts may not boast the long list of British acting royalty the Harry Potter series did, the entire ensemble is on top form. Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol are the standouts, though there's not a weak performance in the bunch. That's a statement which applies to the visual effects too, and given how incredible these creatures look, Doctor Strange may have a very real rival at next year's Oscars when it comes to Best VFX!

In terms of the story, to go into too much detail would spoil things, but it's fair to say that Newt's attempts to recapture his beasts is a lot of fun to follow. However, backing that up is a very interesting subplot about Gellert Grindelwald, a character many fans will already be familiar with. It's clear that the stage is being set for him and some other well known names to  take on a larger role in furure instalments, but you have to hope that doesn't mean Newt will be pushed to the background for the spotlight to be shifted to a story many of us already know the outcome of (even if it would obviously still be great to see it on the big screen). The script is strong regardless, and there's no denying that it feels extremely exciting to be back in this Wizarding World and exploring a totally different side of it. 

One of 2016's best blockbusters, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a lot of fun and a, well, fantastic start to what looks set to be a franchise every bit as exciting as, and perhaps more so, than Harry Potter. Make an IMAX 3D showing your priority. 

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