It’s always difficult to create a movie that intentionally branches off from an already well—established and beloved franchise; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tries to conjure enough Harry Potter magic to set the stage for a new Wizarding World, but unfortunately lurches and sputters throughout, failing to recreate the spell.

The characters in this film are rather flat and unremarkable and utterly forgettable; I had trouble remembering the lead former female auror’s name, let alone finding any particular reason to care about her character.

Scamander had the feeling of not being quirky enough: instead of possessing a lovable Matt Smith Dr. Who-esque quirkiness, we are treated to someone who mumbles into his shoulder, pauses far too much (and too often) for a misplaced (and underwhelming) dramatic effect and never really provides a compelling raison d’etre for his quest, thus giving the viewer no particular reason to care.

The most compelling character was Jacob the nomag who gave us a bit of the feeling of awe and wonder that was prevalent in the Harry Potter series, but he simply wasn’t a strong enough character to support the flattened leads, serving more or less as comic relief.

The story played pretty fast and loose with the mechanics of magic (a big no-no in my book), conflating a spell with a specific purpose (Obliviate) with a potion with a similar (albeit more limited purpose) so as to create a “solution” that smacks far too much of deus ex machina, and thus comes across as “cheating.”

The plot also lacks any considerable punch, and evokes the sense of serving up two essentially disparate plots that only congeal in the final moments, presumably to set up the villain for the coming installments, but unfortunately not effectively weaving a coherent whole that provides meaning in hindsight.

Ultimately, one of the greatest flaws of this film is that it is simply lacking the joy and wonder of the Harry Potter series, opting for flattened characters and a drearily monotone setting, thus making it a film worth seeing once (at least for for Harry Potter aficionados) but likely not for repeated viewings.

Worth 3 of my 7 run-on sentences.

Jason Watson