Welcome back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter – sort of. As the twinkling tones of John Williams’s original score quickly give way to James Newton Howard’s new creation at the beginning of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this new franchise exists to play off of your imagination captivated by Harry Potter for spin off thrills. The stakes are never nearly as high, nor the engagement with character or world-building – but Beasts is fun all the same.
Set in New York City well before Voldemort’s reign, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his suitcase full of magical creatures arrive to a very politically different world than his British homeland. The wizard and muggle (or American: no-maj) relationship is far more divided, making for a more fraught and underground magical realm. As darker forces take root, prepare for the allegorical as Scamander plays Rowling Pokemon. The beasts brought to life in playful and colorful CGI may be the most fantastic element.