We came to the Harry Potter films with the characters and the story already in our mind. Not so with "Fantastic Beasts".
We had the treat of coming fresh to a new J K Rowling world, and of meeting new characters, who, we gather, will be with us for quite a few movies.
There are adjustments to be made.
Your humble reviewer, (perhaps an indication of his declining years), would have welcomed a more lingering look at some of the creatures, rather than getting the visual equivalent of "sound-bytes". On the other hand, some of the plot develops a little slowly, and the motivation of some of the characters remains murky and somewhat unconvincing for most of the movie.
I really have no desire to be "obviated"(Rowling-speak for forgetting what I have just seen). For most of the movie works really well. New York in 1926 does come to life, with run-down brownstones, vintage cars and wonderful costumes.
Fortunately Redmayne's "Newt Scamander" (around whom the action of this, and one suspects, subsequent movies hangs) really works. Looking like an introverted Dr Who, and sounding and acting like a young David Attenborough, he manages simultaneously to communicate his love for his strange creatures while simultaneously being more than a little absent-minded in his care of them.
The special effects work very well : to say more would trigger a spoiler alert.
It is what we have up to now called a "muggle" and must learn to call a "no-mag" who steals the show. Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) stumbles into the action as, having been refused a loan by a bank to open a bakery, he inadvertently happens upon the suitcases with Newt, with disastrous consequences. Bumbling, shy, and lacking confidence he steals our hearts.
And not only ours.
There follows an unlikely romance with blonde bombshell Queenie Goldstein, who can read what there is of his mind, and likes what she reads.
Queenie's sister Tina (Waterston) works for the Magical Congress of the USA and has been demoted for reasons that only become clear later in the movie. She wants to arrest Scamander for the not unreasonable allegation that he has smuggled forbidden animals into the USA. A devastatingly destructive creature is already there and is at the heart of the most compelling special effects in the movie.
The Rowling world would be incomplete without top-ranked character actors taking bit parts. Samantha Morton, for instance, plays a cold formidable woman, dedicated to the destruction of wizardry and witchcraft.
And, surprise, surprise, we find a wealthy man with Presidential ambitions for his despicable son. Any resemblance to the President-elect is one suspects entirely intentional. As is New York being overpowered by anger, hatred and bigotry.
Johnny Depp makes a fleeting appearance – an appetiser, one assumes for more to come.
As with the Harry Potter saga, one suspects that much is yet to be revealed.
And it will be no hardship to share another J K Rowling world.