Entertainment & Arts

Critics praise Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts Image copyright AP
Image caption The Fantastic Beasts series will span five films, JK Rowling has confirmed

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has received broadly positive reviews from critics.

The first in the five-part series, which is a spin-off from Harry Potter, is released in the UK this Friday.

The Guardian gave the film five stars, writing: "Fantastic Beasts is a rich, baroque, intricately detailed entertainment.

Peter Bradshaw's review also praised the "breathtaking digital fabrications of pre-war New York City".

"Katherine Waterston is great as Tina and perhaps gives the Rowling universe what it never quite had until now: a really strong young female lead who could tackle the bad guys on equal terms with the man," he added.

The Daily Mail's Brian Viner said he had previously felt cynical when he heard the Fantastic Beasts series would span five films, but added he had been won over after seeing the first.

He wrote: "The plan to spin Fantastic Beasts into a franchise of its own sounded more than a little exploitative. How much richer does Rowling want to be, I thought?"

"But maybe she just wants to keep on telling stories, which is fine by me. She's exceedingly good at it."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston star in Fantastic Beasts

But Empire's Helen O'Hara gave the film a more lukewarm review, awarding it three stars and commenting that it had some "structural problems".

"Rowling's varied beasts are fun, and brilliantly realised by the effects team, but they're ultimately a sideshow, and the numerous action sequences to capture each one can drag.

"Big, bold and teeming with imagination, it is so busy world-building that it occasionally forgets to have fun. But with this heavy lifting done, there's every reason to hope for an even more magical adventure next time."

The Hollywood Reporter said: "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 instalments Warner and Rowling have planned."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rowling attended the New York premiere of the film last week

Robbie Collin in The Telegraph awarded the film four stars and praised it for being "immaculately cast".

He added: "Possibly by accident, but probably not, a film about a magical zookeeper has turned out to be the most unexpectedly relevant blockbuster of 2016."

"Fantastic Beasts may take place in the build-up to the Great Depression, but its vision of an America caught in the jaws of fear and paranoia has the stony-grim ring of the here and now."

Writing in The Times, Kate Muir said: "JK Rowling delivers a magical universe as chiaroscuro as ever, but with plenty of slapstick and surreal hilarity.

The film, which "The big-screen adaptation of her novel has the joyful bonkersness of the early Harry Potter, and less of the lumbering seriousness of the later books and movies."

'Timeless' political issues

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, the film's director David Yates and producer David Heyman said the film was set during politically turbulent times, "in 1926 between the wars, Nazism is just beginning to appear".

Yates said that in the wake of Donald Trump being elected and the UK's Brexit vote, "it is inevitable that those things resonate and impact" on the film.

Heyman added: "These issues that we are talking about being very current and resonant are actually very timeless, that's something we probably need to pay attention to.

"But this is an entertainment, a very fun engaging adventure with great characters which does have echoes of today but also 1920s and 1930s Germany and Europe as well."

They added that they worked with puppeteers from the War Horse play to create the Fantastic Beasts in the film.

Heyman said the film's star Eddie Redmayne "spent quite a lot of time working with people who work with animals, to understand their idiosyncrasies, how they moved and fed".

"Actors have a great imagination but to have something there physically for the camera to frame but also for actors to interact with is important," he added.

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