The latest offering from the world of Harry Potter is at best, disappointing. The ensemble cast of top actors spend the entire movie searching for a story to tell. The only redeeming feature is the extensive use of special effects that create the many Fantastic Beasts and wizzardly spells. The first film presented the streets of New York and this offering gives us Paris. Where next? It feels like the franchise has a potential to become a travelogue series! There are some great lines in the dialogue, such as, "Are you trying to be funny, or are you French?". Wonderful.
Eddie Redmayne's sensitive characterisation of Newt Scamander - a wizard with Asperger's Syndrome, carries the film. It is his relationship with Albus Dumbledore also played well by Jude Law, which creates the nucleus around which the film revolves. To me, it feels like the character of Grindlewald was written for Jonny Depp whose brooding darkness is so well suited to the character. This is simply another presentation of dualism - the moral fight that rages in the world of Harry Potter and also in our world - good versus evil. We all have a choice which side we are on.
In the original HP series it was Dumbledore's confidence in the 'mis-fit' Harry Potter that propelled the central character to ultimate victory. In this spin-off franchise, it is Dumbledore's confidence in the 'mis-fit' Newt Scamander that drives what little story there is. There is an attempt to weave a love story into this film but it is very thin and adds little. Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) had been close to Newt but is now engaged to his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) but Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) thinks that Lestrange is engaged to Newt and consequently gives him a hard time. Newt does pluck up the courage to tell Tina she has eyes like a Salamander, presumably a compliment in the world of wizards, but you wonder if he's ever actually made eye contact with her!
Die hard Potterites will of course dash to watch this - and why not. For the rest of us, wait a couple of years until it features at Christmas on TV. As I said, a disappointing film with few redeeming features. I'll give it 5/10.