Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them represents the Marvelization of the Harry Potter universe, by which I mean that the framework for a potential franchise is given more attention than the particular story at hand. Fantastic Beasts is less concerned with fantastic beasts than with launching potential future plots, introducing seemingly peripheral characters, and drawing connections between this story and that of the previous Harry Potter films. Add a standard destructo climax—in which another CGI vortex of doom destroys another skyline, in this case 1920s New York City—and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was one of the lesser, more franchise-minded Marvel movies. The central character here is, ostensibly, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a specialist in fantastical creatures who brings a suitcase full of them to America. But he becomes a bit player in a spiraling plot that also involves a political campaign, a glowering American wizard (Colin Farrell), a mysterious destructive force, and a creepy, anti-witchcraft sect known as the Second Salemers. The latter scenes, involving matricide and child abuse, are more in line with something like The Witch than the kid-friendly Harry Potter stories, and represent an abrupt turn from the clever, genial opening moments involving Newt’s suitcase getting mixed up with that of a friendly New Yorker (Dan Fogler, injecting the only bit of personality into the proceedings). Despite the expectedly sumptuous costume and production design—and the fact that this was written by J.K. Rowling herself and directed by Potter vet David Yates—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them felt far removed from the very universe it is working so hard to extend.