Spoiler free review – 4 out of 5 stars
First of all, the missing star is down to my personal view on what happened to one particular character at the end of the film and the casting of another. I can’t discuss my problems with the ending without including a boat load of spoilers so I’ll save that for a different post. My feelings on the rest of the film, however, can be shared much more easily.
The script (a copy of which had been delivered on the release date but which I hadn’t read before seeing the film) is tight and thankfully feels very much in keeping with the Harry Potter books in terms of tone and overall theme (something that, having seen Cursed Child a few weeks before, was worrying me). Eddie Redmayne is perfect as Newt Scamander, a main character who is quite shy, sharp in some ways and completely bumbling in others, has dedicated his life to caring for animals that other people are frightened of, and has no trouble showing that caring, soft side of himself to the rest of the world. The people he befriends in New York – Tina, Queenie and Jacob – are also excellent characters and I’m hoping very much that they all continue to be front and centre in the other four films that we’ve been promised in this series.
I can’t judge how accurate the setting was to real 1920’s New York (apart from the fact that I think there would have been more people of colour there than were visible in the film) but the magical effects were spectacular, from those fantastic beasts in Newt’s suitcase (my Dog appears to have been channeling the Niffler for a long time, only instead of being attracted to shiny things, it’s food and tissues), through domestic magic American style, to the wholesale destruction of significant portions of NYC. I was ooh-ing and ahhh-ing throughout and I’m really quite tempted to go again, just to experience the gloriousness of it all across the big screen one more time.
I still think the ending would have been much stronger had they not taken the easy route in neutralising the main threat (and yes, I’m considering fan fic to fix this, especially after a conversation about it with a lovely friend who feels the same way) but I was still crying and smiling at the end and left the theatre feeling warm inside, which is the best recommendation I give.