Cert 12A 134mins Stars 5

JK Rowling unleashes her formidable imagination in this rich fantasy adventure and sees her Harry Potter spin-off series come on in leaps and bounds.

Busy with action, humour and romance, we see her majestically detailed and gorgeously designed world through the eyes of her hero, Eddie Redmayne‘s naive wizard, Newt Scamander.

At the centre of Rowling’s story is Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone, a disturbed young man who is down and out in Paris, and whom competing groups are trying to locate for very different reasons.

Among them are Johnny Depp’s softly spoken villain, Grindelwald, who uses tea and sympathy to recruit the weak-minded and vulnerable, while exploiting the prejudice of powerful full-blood wizards to further his own supremacist ambitions and enslave non-magic humans.

Meanwhile Jude Law’s youngish wizard Dumbledore is at odds with the forces of law and order at the Ministry of Magic, whose oppressive practices are driving wizards towards the forces of darkness.

Unlike Harry Potter, Newt’s name isn’t part of his franchises title, and Rowling’s script shuffles a lot of characters as she ambitiously expands her mythology in all directions and takes us on brand new flights of fancy via the US, England and France.

Along the way we see a jail-break, a circus, a fan-pleasing trip to Hogwarts school of Magic, and everywhere there are cute critters and unpredictable predators.

Rowling recognises her audience has matured and pitches her story at teens and young adults, and though it’s riven with bullying, exploitation and murder, there’s also compassion, kindness and a welcome complexity of character.

Subterfuge and betrayal culminate in a magic-based battle, and the cliff-hanging finale sees an epic secret revealed.

It’s a fantastic experience to visit a world as vividly realised as this, one I entered with uncommitted hope and left thrilled and excited for the next chapter.

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