I never thought I would be hugely excited about a new series set in the Potterverse, but Fantastical Beasts has continuously impressed with its design, marketing and concept. Luckily the film genuinely stood up to all of those expectations. The beasts are actually fantastic, the action is impressive, and the world-building remains as magical as the main series. Honestly, I don't really have many negative comments at all.
Getting to view a new part of the wizarding world was exciting and the clever use of a (wonderfully portrayed) "No-Mag" as the foil through whose eyes the wonder of the audience could be expressed worked seamlessly. I never really expected anything else, but it was great to see how different and diverse the American witches and wizards were compared to their more familiar British counterparts. The film also managed to create a nice balance between referencing the original series just enough to feel connected without ramming it down our throats (*cough*Hobbit*cough*).
Dan Fogler may have been the standout performance, but the whole cast works wonderfully. I never doubted Eddie Redmayne, nor Colin Farrell, but both bring truly brilliant performances (Redmayne admittedly more so) to the table, and Ezra Miller and Katherine Waterstone only help round out an impressive cast.
The plot isn't too imaginative, though it retains its twists and turns neatly and had far more depth to it than the trailers belied. Again, Fantastic Beasts finds itself in debt, really, to the continued expansion of its lore through Pottermore and other side projects that Rowling has worked on since the main series ended.
The one instance which felt like a true nostalgia trip, rather than an exciting exploration of regions unknown, were the beasts themselves. Here, once again, serious credit must go to the attention of detail present throughout the film. Each beast feels real, with truly exceptional CGI throughout, even those whose illustrations appeared too abstract to work. Indeed, this may have been the first instance of a film where the practical creature effects were noticeable in their lack of life in comparison to the CGI offerings (despite remaining exceptional themselves).
In reality, my only disappointment is that the beasts were not centre stage more often, though on the flip side getting the time to study some (such as the stage stealing Niffler) to greater detail was immensely rewarding. There is definitely a rich and expansive world here left to explore. Which is lucky, given four more films are on the horizon... a prospect that now fills me with excitement rather than trepidation!