Long before Harry Potter, there was Newt Scamander.

In Warner Bros.' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (in theaters Friday), Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt, a magizoologist who loses a briefcase full of magical creatures in New York City. The film, set in 1926, co-stars Carmen Ejogo as Seraphina Picquery, Colin Farrell as Percival Graves, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, Jon Voight as Henry Shaw, Sr. and Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated PG-13.

Here is what critics are saying about the movie:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

• "No Harry Potter, no problem," USA Today's Brian Truitt writes. However, "like most franchise-starting vehicles, Fantastic Beasts tries to do way too much in two hours." According to Truitt, "Rowling's fans have much to love in terms of Easter eggs, familiar names being mentioned in conversation, and enough seeding of material to leave them salivating for a sequel...But whether you're a Potterhead or not, Beasts creates a story that's both original and enchanting."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colin Farrell

Jaap Buitendijk

• "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them turns out to be a hyperbolic name for a pretty so-so movie—one with entertaining passages, but which mostly feels like a big-budget prequel to the better, more cohesive film that's yet to come," CNN's Brian Lowry writes, adding that the film "generally feels strongest in its quieter moments." Unlike the Harry Potter series, "Fantastic Beasts doesn't consistently conjure a level of magic equal to its promise or anticipation."

• "Beasts does work as a stand-alone movie, but while it's solid and entertaining and often quite amusing, it doesn't pack the wallop of the first Harry Potter movie," The Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper writes. "There's a lot of neat stuff going on," he adds, "but even with all the literal groundbreaking of New York City streets, it's not a groundbreaking piece of fantasy."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

• "For some of us who felt that eight Harry Potter films was not nearly enough, the prospect of a prequel stirred a sense of tingling anticipation mixed with dread. For Potter nerds, it might be enough simply to return to that wizarding world for a couple of escapist hours. But would it be too much to hope that the film was also actually good? As it turns out, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is much better than the low bar that some of us had preemptively set," The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan writes. Though Rowling's "funny and scary" screenplay charms, it takes a little too long before the movie "finds a darker, more satisfying groove." But Rowling has always had "a great long game," O'Sullivan notes. "She isn't in this for just one movie. Judging by the pleasures delivered by Fantastic Beasts, you probably won't be either."

• "Redmayne is the master of smiling to himself for no reason, ginger hair flopped over one eye, as though he's not living in the moment but instead in the theater watching his ascension into a GIF," MTV's Amy Nicholson writes. Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe "had more depth when he was 11," she adds. In comparison, "Newt lacks soul. So, too, does his movie. The problem with aging up wizards into their mid-twenties (and older) is that they've outgrown wonder...When something incredible happened, we all gaped. Here, magicians silently point and shoot."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ezra Miller

Jaap Buitendijk

• "Fantastic Beasts is basically a Harry Potter prequel (though you'll get a detention for saying that). J.K. Rowling, writing her first film script, and longtime Harry Potter director David Yates have created an entirely new corner of the wizarding world. They strike a savvy balance between shiny new elements and recognizable ones for Potterheads," Time Out London's Cathe Clarke writes. "There are not quite enough thrills in Fantastic Beasts to keep you always on the edge of your seat, and no film-stealing baddie to dig your teeth into—but then, Voldemort didn't make a proper appearance until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

• "Fantastic Beasts is a rich, baroque, intricately detailed entertainment with some breathtaking digital fabrications of prewar New York City," The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw writes, praising the film's "Steampunk 2.0" vibe. "It's a very Rowling universe, dense with fun, but always taking its own jeopardy very seriously and effortlessly making you do the same. The Beasts movies may actually make clearer Rowling's under-discussed debt to Roald Dahl. They also show that her universe with its exotic fauna is in the best way, a cousin to that of George Lucas."

• "Maintaining Yates as director lends a consistency to the project, and yet, it would have been refreshing to get a completely new take on Rowling's world with this series, especially considering how murky and self-serious they got in the final chapters," Variety's Peter Debruge writes. "Still, Yates knows this world as well as anyone, and he excels at finding visual solutions for challenging ideas...With all its ties to Harry Potter arcana, Fantastic Beasts has clearly been designed for the most devoted of Rowling's fans, and though it may prove confusing to newcomers, the faithful will appreciate the fact the film never talks down to its audience."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

• "What really disappoints is that where Harry Potter and his films felt entirely original, there's a 'franchise-y' feel to Fantastic Beasts. It has the now-predictable rhythms of a Marvel origins movie — New York again gets destroyed in a climactic barrage of special effects; the Blind Pig speakeasy even seems modeled on the Star Wars cantina—and less of the eccentric, innocent, English charms of Harry and his little chums and their battles," The Wrap's Jason Solomons writes. "Something more is needed, a bit more wit, perhaps, or dare I say it, some sexual tension." Even so, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them "has all the makings of a huge family blockbuster, but all the bloated traps of those, too. It hasn't quite got the balance right, but, like the title hints, surely knows where to find the magic formula over the ensuing movies."

• "The film...unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks. The xenophobic Muggle population (or No-Majs, as they're called Stateside) live in rabid suspicion of the hidden world of hocus-pocus. And like those films, its phantasmagorical special effects are easy on the eyes. So why does Fantastic Beasts feel so oddly lifeless? Why doesn't it cast more of a spell? First, there are the performances, which aside from Redmayne's are surprisingly flat. And second, the thinness of the source material gives the whole film a slightly padded feeling," Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty writes. "Fantastic Beasts is two-plus hours of meandering eye candy that feels numbingly inconsequential...For a movie stuffed with so many weird and wondrous creatures, there isn't nearly enough magic." While the eight Harry Potter films were huge hits for Warner Bros., "If it plans on replicating Potter's success, its sequels will have to step it up."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Eddie Redmayne

Jaap Buitendijk

• "Likely to draw in just about everyone who followed the Potter series and to please most of them, the picture also has things to offer for fantasy-friendly moviegoers who only casually observed that phenomenon. The latter group, however, may be less convinced that this spinoff demands the five feature-length installments Warner Bros. and Rowling have planned," The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore writes. As for Redmayne and the rest of the cast? "Whether or not the ensemble chemistry ever clicks to the extent it did for Harry, Hermione and Ron, Rowling clearly has an endless supply of lore left to share with those invested in her world."

• "The movie could have used more of that wholesome, gee-whiz sense of wonder and a bit less exposition. Rowling's own source material, a 2001 booklet, is a mere 128 pages long—there's no need to stretch it out to a 132-minute epic stocked with five endings," Us Weekly's Mara Reinstein writes. "It will be interesting to see how Rowling can stretch out this franchise."

(Originally published Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. PT.)

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