The first reviews for the first “Harry Potter” prequel series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” are out and they’re pretty lukewarm.
Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B- calling the film “oddly lifeless” while The Hollywood Reporter called the return to author J.K. Rowling’s magical world “far from perfect, but action-packed and splendid-looking.” Variety referred to the film as “bleak-as-soot,” while IGN said that “crazy creatures aren’t enough to recapture the magic.“
The film, following the adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York City in the 1920s, is set to be the first of five in a series of new “Harry Potter” spin-off films spanning decades before young Potter’s adventures at Hogwarts. David Yates, who directed “Beasts,” and four previous “Potter” movies, has already been named the director of every forthcoming sequel in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.
While more reviews will roll out in the days to come before the film’s release in theatres November 18, here’s what early reviews are saying about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
The visuals are magical.
ScreenCrush: “Yates also does a great job visualising the inside of Newt’s suitcase, which contains the creatures’ various ecosystems and habitats. Newt walks from an Arizona desert to a rainforest to an arctic tundra like sets on a movie stage. Rowling and Yates succeed at transporting you to a magical world you don’t want to leave.”
… But the cast doesn’t work as well together as the original “Potter” crew.
The Hollywood Reporter: “Whether or not the ensemble chemistry ever clicks to the extent it did for Harry, Hermione, and Ron, Rowling clearly has an endless supply of lore left to share with those invested in her world.”
Cinemablend: “Samantha Morton’s scaremonger Mary Lou Barebone lacks any edge, Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves is vaguely menacing but mostly just uncomfortably brooding, while Ezra Miller’s performance as Credence Barebone is too cumbersome to ever feel sufficient. The biggest problem, though, is that they each feel more like placeholders, ones that will instantly be discarded when the larger threat of the franchise presents itself.”
IGN: “That the group never quite clicks together in the right way is a huge reason the rest of the movie doesn’t find its footing.”
Collider: “Rowling tries building in romances between Newt and Tina and another between Jacob and Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and while I can believe that these are all characters who like each other, we’re meant to believe that they’re in love by the end, and that’s a bit of a stretch.”
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne is a crowd pleaser.
Fantastic Beasts is immediately boosted by the fact that it’s led by Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory Of Everything), who emanates a quaint, peculiar likeability that manages to pull you in as he makes Newt a combination of Steve Irwin, Indiana Jones, and Charlie Chaplin.”
The Guardian: “There’s a moment when he has to ‘whisper’ an errant animal into submission and his contortions would put Andy Serkis to shame.”
The beasts are the best part of the film.
IGN: “The film does make good on its selling point by introducing a wide array of delightfully strange magical creatures. The best scene sees Newt giving Jacob a tour of the makeshift menagerie inside his enchanted suitcase. Everything from the snake-birds to the blowfish-tigers are exquisitely rendered and teeming with majestic wonder. Really, anytime the fantastic beasts are on screen — especially the thieving, too-cute-for-words Niffler — the movie comes alive, the music swells, and you get that little kick of magic you expect from Rowling’s Wizarding World.”
The film isn’t just about “fantastic beasts.” It has another message that may come at a crucial time post-election season.
Variety: “‘Fantastic Beasts’ does double-duty as yet another imagination-tickling fantasy adventure and a deeply troubled commentary on tolerance, fear, and bigotry in the world today.”
That commentary on tolerance is being compared to how mutants are viewed in America in X-Men movies, but not in a good way.
Entertainment Weekly: “The film, directed by seasoned Potter pro David Yates, unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks.”
It’s a bit over-stuffed, setting up future sequels.
ScreenCrush: “The second half of the film is so overstuffed and busy with subplots that it begins to lose shape. There’s a minor plot about Jon Voight’s newspaper titan that seems unimportant, but will likely fold into the sequels.”
TheWrap: “Whilst many of the individual episodes are exciting and visually inventive in themselves, there’s an overall lack of cohesion, which might be understandable given this is Rowling’s first screenplay, a skill requiring far more economy than her large novels ever exercised … It has the now-predictable rhythms of a Marvel origins movie.”
EW delivers the harshest of the reviews we’ve read:
“Fantastic Beasts is two-plus hours of meandering eye candy that feels numbingly inconsequential. Maybe this is all necessary table-setting that will lead to bigger payoffs in chapters 2 through 5. I hope so. Because for a movie stuffed with so many weird and wondrous creatures, there isn’t nearly enough magic.”
At least fans will enjoy it?
THR: Much of the film’s big wizarding-politics material will be appreciated mostly by those who thirst for ever more backstory in Rowling’s universe. It will doubtless be useful as the franchise progresses, though — the main villain, Gellert Grindelwald, makes the kind of teasing appearance at the end that promises a long Voldemort-like story arc.
Variety: “‘Fantastic Beasts’ has clearly been designed for the most devoted of Rowling’s fans, and though it may prove confusing to newcomers, the faithful will appreciate the fact the film never talks down to its audience.”
If you’re any sort of Potter fan — it’s tough to miss out on such a phenomenon — you’re probably going to head out to see the film regardless, especially since two big characters from the series (Dumbledore and Grindelwald) are referenced in the new movie. The beasts in the trailers look like reason enough to revisit the magical world of “Harry Potter.”
Our suggestion? You probably won’t need to see it in 3D. Myself and a few colleagues will be seeing the film early next week and none of the screenings will be in that format.
You can watch the latest trailer for the movie below:
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