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Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Film

There’s a lot riding on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the new film from Harry Potter author and cultural phenomenon JK Rowling.

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The spin-off from the popular book series is the first post-Potter film to hit cinemas and diehard fans have high hopes.

With a production budget nearing $US200 million ($A267 million) and Warner Bros plotting four more films to come, Fantastic Beasts has the impetus to perform well at the box office.

Already, there is controversy surrounding one particular element of the fantasy film – the casting of Hollywood star Johnny Depp.

Depp is only in the film for a matter of seconds, but he plays a character who is key to the rest of the franchise – and the wizarding world in general.

The 53-year-old has had his image somewhat tainted by a spiteful divorce from ex-wife Amber Heard, during which video emerged of a drunken Depp yelling at Heard and smashing glasses. Heard also accused him of domestic abuse – but Depp vehemently denied the accusations and Heard later dropped the charges.

All of this was a tad too controversial for some fans of Rowling’s work, which is typically family-friendly. Others protested Depp’s casting because they felt he wasn’t the right fit for the iconic character.

Depp was cast prior to his divorce scandal, but Rowling has stated publicly that she supports his appearance in the film.

“I didn’t approach him – although he was approached with my full blessing, because I thought he’d be amazing in the part,” she told E! News.

“I can’t say much, because there are surprises in the movie, but I’m really happy with his performance. And I think the fans will be, too.”

At the very least, lovers of Hogwarts and its prize students Harry, Hermione and Ron will be pleased with this sweet, creative Potter prequel of sorts.

Fantastic Beasts stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) as eccentric wizard Newt Scamander, a magical animals enthusiast and the author of a textbook Harry and his friends later study.

As the iconic theme begins to play on the opening credits, viewers are plunged back into a universe they haven’t seen in cinemas since 2011, when the final Harry Potter film was released.

Fantastic Beasts is missing the aforementioned’s attention to detail and the enduring charm of its three leads, but it’s still a whimsical departure from real life.

Redmayne is adorable (although at times his efforts to be eccentric and British make his dialogue unintelligible), as are the beasts by which he is so captivated.

Newcomer Alison Sudol is a particular standout as the sugary, mischievous Queenie, a breathtakingly beautiful witch who can read minds and cook a mean strudel.

At more than two hours, Fantastic Beasts is a little too long and, in parts, the booming special effects make it a bit spooky for children under 10.

But despite the film’s shortcomings, it’s wonderful to see Rowling’s creative inventions, colourful characters and witty dialogue on the big screen again.

See it, if only for nostalgia’s sake. You won’t be disappointed.

This article was first published on The New Daily.

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