2016 Certificate: 12

Synopsis

Hogwarts old boy Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) heads to Prohibition-era New York with a bottomless suitcase full of banned magical beasts. However, unaware of the rising tension between the secret world of US wizards and a fanatical faction of No-Majs (American for Muggles) bent on eradicating them, he finds himself in the middle of a war. It doesn't help that his caseful of creatures keeps escaping into the city. This historical chapter in JK Rowling's wizarding world explores a new dimension of wonder, enchantment and adventure. Pure magic.

Director

  • David Yates

Cast

  • Eddie Redmayne

  • Colin Farrell

  • Katherine Waterston

  • Dan Fogler

  • Alison Sudol

  • Gemma Chan

  • Ron Perlman

  • Zoë Kravitz

  • Jon Voight

Review

Click here to find out how to buy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them in Sky Store

There was no way that the final Harry Potter instalment was going to spell the end of JK Rowling's magically lucrative wizarding world.

So the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them now becomes the basis for a fresh adventure taking place 70 years before Harry Potter and co first took up their wands.

With her first screenplay (based on her source text), Rowling takes us to 1920s New York where we meet the freshly-disembarked Newton Scamander (Redmayne), a scatterbrained wizard.

He's just arrived lugging a Tardis-like suitcase containing a collection of banned magical beasts, including the Niffler, a sort of bling-obsessed cross between a platypus and a magpie.

Unfortunately, a faulty catch means they're soon scudding around the city, bringing Newt to the attention of Tina (Waterston), a former field agent of America's fiercely secretive MACUSA, the yank equivalent of Blighty's Ministry of Magic.

Things get further confused when wannabe baker Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) - a No-Maj (American for Muggle) - mistakenly picks up Newt's case and finds himself joining the flustered Brit, Tina and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), a mind-reading Flapper girl, 

Visually exhilarating, this is darker in tone to the Potter franchise with Samantha Morton on splendidly grim form Mary Lou Barebone, a zealously vicious anti-magic firebrand - and leader of the Second Salemites - who abuses the kids from the families she exposes.

There's also Colin Farrell's megalomaniac MACUSA lieutenant Percival Graves, Tina's former boss and a sharp-dressed authoritarian with a sinister interest in one of Barebone's oppressed boys.

Veteran Potter director David Yates kicks off the first in a planned five-instalment adventure in fine style with this first outing neatly panning out as a story in its own right that intriguingly lays the groundwork for what's to come.

Potter fans will no doubt be entranced by the exotic beasts swirling around the screen, each one a digital marvel in its own right, while older viewers can't fail to see the political allegory unfolding in an America where the future is as terrifying as it is now.

However, it's the emotionally rich relationships, between Queenie and Jacob, and - more tentatively, between Newt and Tina - that propel this forward as New York dissolves into a flurry of collapsing masonry under the mysterious threat of banshee-style force of evil.

Rowling has conjured up another classic-in-the-making.

Tim Evans