Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them - 12A, 133 Mins.
As the initial bars of John Williams’s iconic theme flutter past the giant, silvery, fast-approaching Warner Bros. logo, devotees and novices alike are encapsulated within the ominous, icy glow of magical mystery. It doesn’t feature Harry himself, or any of the previous characters - Dumbledore is simply alluded to, but there are so many clever little intertwining references to the Potter diegesis.
Instead, there are a colourful gaggle of new additions. Sadly, a simpering Eddie Redmayne is miscast (again), in a terribly thankless cookie-cutter of a lead role, as Newt Scamander, the personification of bumbling ineptitude.
Newcomer Alison Sudol is far more impressive as Queenie Goldstein, a pink-clad minx with a heart of candy. But this central quartet of waxy heroes are so depth-less, with no back-story whatsoever. For a film with so many stunning visual set-pieces, it has the conflicting dichotomy of very little happening narratologically.
Infinitely more gripping, is the fantastic new clutch of villainy, lead by a brilliant, gravelly-voiced Colin Farrell, completely stealing the show as the aptly named Percival Graves. Samantha Morton, Jon Voight and especially Ezra Miller (all unnervingly scary) delve into even darker territory as Salem-based witch-hunters - in a daringly topical socio-political sub-plot, tackling lobotomy and discriminatory segregation.
James Newton-Howard adds perpetually thrumming pathos, in a terrific score that’s by turns playful and threatening. Stuart Craig’s sets, Colleen Atwood’s costumes and Philippe Rousselot’s outstandingly glossy cinematography are even further complemented by truly exceptional 3D visual effects. Everything from lollipops, to instantaneous apple-strudle flies at you!
There are plenty of twists and turns and four more installments on the way, not to mention an awesome surprise cameo from Johnny Depp, sporting a shock of blonde hair - though the less revealed about exactly how he makes his amazing entrance - the better…
Rating: * * * *