It has been five years since the final Harry Potter film hit theaters — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011 — and even longer since the release of J.K. Rowling’s seventh novel in the series. Now, Rowling gives fans a new installment in the wizarding world through the upcoming Warner Bros blockbuster Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Based on the Hogwarts textbook of the same name, the film follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he traverses the streets of 1920s New York City looking for magical creatures with help from Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol).
With Rowling penning the script — which will be published in book form — and Harry Potter veteran director David Yates at the helm, Fantastic Beasts assembled a creative team reminiscent of the original franchise, even if the characters and settings themselves are new. Now, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them less than a week away from release, reviews have begun to hit.
On the whole, the reviews of Fantastic Beasts preview an entertaining new entry to the Harry Potter mythology, establishing the American magical community while exploring the world as it was in 1926. Still, with the amount of world-building that goes toward setting up further installments in the planned five-part series, Fantastic Beasts is said to feel overstuffed. You can read SPOILER FREE excerpts from several of the reviews for the film below (and can click the corresponding links for the full reviews).
EW – Chris Nashawaty
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.
The Wrap – Jason Solomons
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has all the makings of a huge family blockbuster, but all the bloated traps of those, too. It hasn’t quite got the balance right, but, like the title hints, surely knows where to find the magic formula over the ensuing movies. I’d check down that cheeky Niffler’s pouch, for starters.
Variety – Peter Debruge
Unsurprisingly, Fantastic Beasts amplifies both the strengths and weaknesses of Rowling’s storytelling approach, which unfolds in the episodic style of vintage serials — a cliff-hanger-oriented tactic that works well in novels, where readers might otherwise be tempted to put the book down after each chapter, but feels less elegant on screen, since viewers invariably commit to taking in the entire story in one sitting.
THR – John DeFore
Likely to draw in just about everyone who followed the Potter series and to please most of them, the picture also has things to offer for fantasy-friendly moviegoers who only casually observed that phenomenon. The latter group, however, may be less convinced that this spin-off demands the five feature-length installments Warner and Rowling have planned.
Collider – Matt Goldberg
Even though the main plot of Fantastic Beasts is about Newt trying to track down and reclaim his creatures, there are really four plotlines running through the movie. … Rowling does an admirable job of weaving them altogether, and while the individual characters are charming, their relationships feel a bit undercooked because so much time is dedicated to jumping between plotlines and re-capturing beasts.
The Guardian – Peter Bradshaw
Rowling and Yates have given us a terrifically good-natured, unpretentious and irresistibly buoyant film. There’s a scene in a speakeasy where someone orders “six shots of giggle-water.” This film felt to me like twelve.
IndieWire – Eric Kohn
Rowling’s prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them shows that her universe expands handily. Taking a step back from the pressure to continue the existing storyline, she dips into its past for a smart, engaging prequel that deepens the Potter saga while pushing it in a fresh direction.
ScreenCrush – Erin Whitney
Fantastic Beasts is a good movie, and offers a fun and inventive return to Rowling’s wizarding world, but it could have been a better movie if didn’t waste so much time setting up a new franchise. The second half of the film is so overstuffed and busy with subplots that it begins to lose shape.
Certainly, it doesn’t appear as though Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has entirely wowed critics on the whole, though Rowling, Yates, and the cast receive plenty of praise for their work on the film. But, any additional entry in the Harry Potter mythos has an incredibly high bar that was set by the original books and films. As another installment in one of the most massively popular franchises of modern entertainment, Fantastic Beasts was always going to be under plenty of pressure.
Although it seems Fantastic Beasts doesn’t quite stand on its own, and is perhaps weighed down by the necessary world-building needed to launch the “real” story of the new series, these reviews do indicate the movie will entertain diehard Harry Potter fans. Of course, Potterheads and casual moviegoers will need to wait a little longer for the film to be released, but these early reviews should give fans some idea of what to expect.