Fifteen years ago, Warner Brothers began adapting the J.K. Rollings series about "Harry Potter". It was a hugely successful series that only recently finished in 2011 with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)". The eight part series went on to earn $7.7 billion for Warner Bros which meant only one thing... J.K. need to crank out another series.


Admittedly, I was never a big fan of Harry Potter, but appreciated it on many levels. First was the incredible detail in the story telling with well defined characters. Secondly was the outstanding production values which garnered several awards and nominations. Thirdly was the money making ability!


So Rowling was goaded back into revisiting witchcraft and the universe of magic wands, muggles and witches only this time as a prequel to Harry Potter. In fact seventy years prior to Potter.

Placing the time frame so early gives the story a somewhat Charles Dickens look and feel, which is actually more effective as witchcraft was of great concern in those days. We are introduced to Newt (Eddie Redmayne), a nerdy young man making his way with a suitcase that we quickly learn contains unusual critters.


The critter we meet right off is a thief, attracted to anything that's shiny and valuable. It has a voracious appetite, snatching baubles and storing them in it's own self contained pouch. During Newts efforts to re-capture the critter, he is discovered by an investigative witch Tina (Katherine Waterston) who immediately turns Newt over to the counsel on magic.


But the magic police have other things on their minds including some evil witch who is doing-in no-majs. Mo-Majs are what they called muggles in the Harry Potter series; folks who couldn't use magic. After deciding that Newt was harmeless unless he couldn't contain his beasts, they let him loose with Tina as his escort. Together, they team up wioth her sister (Alison Sudol), another crazy magic cop (Coliun Farrell) and a newspaper owner (Jon Voight) who has a scrooge-like personality.


The film progresses as they chase after the fantastic beasts while also dipping into a number of subplots that muddle up the narrative. Two of the subplots involve an anti-witch society and Johnny Depps eerie character Grindelwald. It is all these subplots that sabotage the story making the film collapse under it's own weight.


While Redemayne and Farrell are fine in their respective roles, it is the glut of characters and subplots that makes this film difficult to watch, even if you're a Harry Potter fan.


"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is, as always, visually stunning with well defined characters but a narrative that feels more like a television pilot rather than a film. It is totally incomplete!   -- GEOFF BURTON