Potternerds, get ready: the first reviews of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them‘ are here.

The first instalment of the J.K. Rowling‘s ‘prequels’ opens this Thursday, and fans finally have a chance to see if her top notch story-telling skills translate from book to film with her first screenplay.

So what did the critics think?

Rowling’s world-building skills remain top class.

THE GUARDIAN: “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.” 

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “Much of the film’s big wizarding-politics material will be appreciated mostly by those who thirst for ever more backstory in Rowling’s universe. It will doubtless be useful as the franchise progresses, though — the main villain, Gellert Grindelwald, makes the kind of teasing appearance at the end that promises a long Voldemort-like story arc. (Avoid IMDb if you want that cameo to surprise you.) 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.”

Eddie Redmayne is superbly cast as Newt Scamander:

THE GUARDIAN: “It’s a lovely performance from Eddie Redmayne who is a pretty fantastic beast himself. There’s a moment when he has to “whisper” an errant animal into submission and his contortions would put Andy Serkis to shame … His Newt is a connoisseur, scientist and scatterbrained magic-beast taxonomist who is not far from the scarf-swathed Dr Who, a specless Potter or beardless Darwin. Redmayne’s distinctively breathy voice even has something of the young Attenborough.”

VARIETY: “Oddly, Rowling’s script gives us practically no information about Scamander’s backstory at this point, whereas Goldstein gets multiple flashbacks over the course of the film. That’s probably because Rowling, whose world-building skills are rivaled only by George Lucas, appears to be primarily concerned with plot at this point, and Goldstein’s memories serve the story, while this two-plus-hour-plus pilot evidently doesn’t leaves much room for the sort of character detail we’d all like to get about Scamander (whom Redmayne plays with stooped shoulders and a slightly bow-legged walk, easily winning sympathy for someone whose every judgment seems to endanger the fate of his kind).”

TIME OUT: “Redmayne radiates a wet-eyed warm glow as stumbling, bashful Newt – an English wizard in New York. He’s perfect for Rowling’s world, where a kind heart is the most potent magical power of all … Redmayne’s lovely performance sets up the emotional core of the franchise. So yes, the magic is still there.”

YAHOO!: “Eddie Redmayne makes an ideal Newt Scamander, who is endearingly sheepish around humans but gifted with the nifflers, bowtruckles, erumpents and so forth to whom the pic’s title refers.”

THE TELEGRAPH“Unexpectedly, it’s moments like this that stay with you more sharply than the set-pieces. The film is immaculately cast, and the chemistry between its four heroes holds your eye with its firework fizz.”

The 1st Reviews For ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Are Here & They’re A Mixed Bag TBH

It’s a reflection on the current state of American politics.

COLLIDER: “These kinds of themes—acceptance, social divisions, and bigotry—are as crucial to Rowling’s wizarding world as wands, spells, and apparating. That’s what makes her stories special. She didn’t just come up with a fun tale where people with magical powers live among us. The social commentary has always been a part of her writing, and it’s in the foundation for Fantastic Beasts.”

TIME OUT: “Has JK Rowling been taking divination lessons at Hogwarts? With spooky clairvoyance, the first movie in her new five-film wizarding franchise opens with two factions in America at each other’s throats. No, not Republicans and Democrats. It’s 1926, and wizards and muggles (only in America they call them ‘no majs’) are on the brink of civil war. Oh, and in the non-magical world, a bully-boy heir to a fortune is wooing voters. Top of the class, JK!”

VARIETY: “Fantastic Beasts” does double-duty as yet another imagination-tickling fantasy adventure and a deeply troubled commentary on tolerance, fear, and bigotry in the world today. … Though Rowling takes the opportunity to introduce a few tolerance-oriented messages, one can’t help but question the limits of the allegory: In the real world, bigots don’t have a real reason to hate members of other races and religions, whereas wizards — however much we love them — pose a very real threat to normal people (grisly Obscurus attacks result in at least two deaths, and the destruction of large swaths of New York). It’s the same logical flaw that operates in both the Avengers and X-Men franchises, and Rowling doesn’t have much to add … yet.”

It’s dark as hell.

VARIETY: “Just when you thought the world of Harry Potter couldn’t get any darker, along comes a bleak-as-soot spin-off that makes the earlier series look like kids’ stuff.”

IGN: “Newt and company get into increasingly large amounts of trouble with the American magical authority known as the MACUSA while trying to round up the beasts, and all the while a much darker, more dreary plot unfolds.”

THE GUARDIAN: “This is Steampunk 2.0, taking its inspirations from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday but the New York she creates also has the dark, traumatised look of Gotham City.”

But it’s not Harry Potter.

EW“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. Rowling, who also wrote the script, nimbly lays out her world, but that world isn’t nearly as rich as the world of Hogwarts. And the villains (chief among them Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves) are stock cinematic baddies. Fantastic Beasts is two-plus hours of meandering eye candy that feels numbingly inconsequential. Maybe this is all necessary table-setting that will lead to bigger payoffs in chapters 2 through 5. I hope so. Because for a movie stuffed with so many weird and wondrous creatures, there isn’t nearly enough magic.”

With the depressing news that Johnny Depp will be playing Gellert Grindelwald now confirmed, it’ll be interesting to see how the next four films – which are obviously going to focus more on his ascent to the role of Wizard Hitler – play out.

But in other, more exciting news – the sequel will take place in Paris! Bonjour, Professor Dumbledore.

Fantastic Beasts opens in cinemas November 18.

Photo: Warner Bros.