By Luke Hutton (England)
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In 2011, I walked out of a cinema after just watching the Hogwarts Express leave Platform 9 3/4’s for the last time and one of the only thoughts going through my mind was I just witnessed an end of an era. A decade long journey of Harry Potter and his friends lives through school was completed and I was saddened as we said goodbye to the magical world of JK Rowling.

Skip to 2016 and we find my sadness replaced with excitement and joy with the release of Fantastic Beast’s, a new movie which will lead into a new series of films and give us a chance to visit a side of the Harry Potter universe which we have not seen before, giving characters only referenced previously their time to shine on the silver screen, giving some who do not want to read thousands of pages just to understand every single reference a chance to understand the lore of this world.

And all in all, it’s a good movie, but not as spectacular as it could’ve been.

The setting of 1920’s New York gives us a new insight into the magical world, I enjoyed seeing the differences between how magic was managed during here and what I was used to in the original series, from “Nomag’s” to wand-permits, it was the small difference which gave New York a different feeling to the English Wizarding community.

The magic effects looked as good as they have ever looked and the same goes for the beasts themselves, although I would’ve liked to have seen more than the handful we saw. The creatures personalities were good for what they were, although some seemed to borrow from other popular franchises (baby Groot came to mind for one beast in particular).

The acting was also superb, Colin Farrell deserves props for his performance however I would’ve liked to have seen more of his character, but he is good for what he was given. Ezra Miller, despite a questionable haircut, is also good and I feel has a bright future ahead and I look forward to his take as the scarlet speedster in next year’s Justice League. Eddie Redmayne got back to the performance we expected from the Oscar Winner after the disaster which was Jupiter Ascending, as he gave us a character who was both charming and entertaining to watch as the movie went on, with my fears of him over “redmayning it” quickly silenced. The stand out performance, however, was Dan Fogler as Jacob – his performance as a muggle who was experiencing the magical world for the first time as an adult was a first for the films and his reaction to the craziness was both justified and what I enjoyed the most.

With all the praise I give this movie, it is no means perfect. The pacing was off quite badly, I found myself being taken out of the movie in the middle with a part set within Central Park not fitting with the tone and the repercussions that followed slowing the pace to a speed which would find it difficult to beat a snail, even to the point where the 2 hour movie felt closer to 4 hours. The movie also suffered from a Lord of the Rings: Return of the King style of ending where I was just waiting for the credits to roll. This movie also illustrates how this series will not be aimed at families with younger children with some dark themes brought to the spotlight and a darker subtone throughout.

I mentioned earlier how this movie was to be a springboard to the rest of the franchise, and it feels like that at times, which it suffers from that as it attempts to cram multiple nods and references to things which will appear in later movies with a large number of questions raised which have been left open until we receive answers in later instalments. I would relate this to BvS in that it builds the movie universe for things to come and doesn’t answer anything in particular whilst doing so.

There were also some storylines which I can’t see making a return to later movies and I’m confused why they were even involved in the first place (Jon Voight doing his best impression of J. Jonah Jameson) and an unnecessary twist towards the end which really doesn’t make sense thinking back on it, but will without a doubt be explained in the sequels.

Overall I enjoyed myself with this, it was great to return to this universe and great to see a fresh take on the setting, whilst also feeling a sense of nostalgia. This in no means is the best movie I’ve seen this year or in this universe, but it works for what it set out to do and set ups things to come in the planned sequels.

Rating: 3/5

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