Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Ultra HD Blu-ray review

J.K. Rowling's newest tale benefits from some Ultra HD and HDR magic

Director David Yates earned praise for his handling of the final four films in the Harry Potter franchise, so was surely a shoo-in to helm this spin-off flick, adapted for the screen by original author J.K. Rowling.

Eddie Redmayne leads the cast as Newt Scamander, a British 'magizoologist' visiting New York in the 1920s who, due to some lacklustre security on his dimension-expanding suitcase, accidentally unleashes some magical beasties. He's quickly trying to herd them up, aided by a Muggle, while avoiding the attention of the local magical authorities.

Now, if this all sounds like the sort of whimsical, FX-heavy frivolity that turned you off the Harry Potter franchise, then Fantastic Beasts... won't appeal. On the other hand, Rowling fans will lap this up, and it's good to see the elements and themes of her Potter universe matched to a different, unrelated story, with a solid cast (including Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Johnny Depp and Samantha Morton), holding its own amidst the CG creations. Expect plenty of sequels.

Picture: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on UHD Blu-ray is apparently derived from a 4K rather than 2K digital intermediate (although actually lensed at 3.4K), and certainly looks a cut above much of the UHD competition. The clarity of the image is first-rate, with plenty of subtle details in foreground elements and backgrounds that invite you to peer into the screen. It's eye-opening stuff, and joined by brilliant use of HDR highlights and expressive colours. The palette looks natural, but ranges wide from sparkling golds to rich blacks.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: There's a very active Dolby Atmos mix here, although use of the height dimension isn't too noticeable at first, outside of localised atmospheric effects such as the pneumatic tubes whizzing above the MACUSA HQ. Yet the sound design becomes more involved and aggressive as the film progresses. The encounter with the serpentine Occamy (Chapter 9) is a clear highlight, while Newt's use of the Swooping Evil in an escape bid (Chapter 8) showcases convincing panning effects around all the channels. Bass response is also wonderfully potent – the rhino-like Erumpent in the Central Park Zoo makes its presence felt...
Audio rating: 4.5/5

Extras: There's a reasonable bunch of extras all housed on this release's 1080p Blu-ray: deleted scenes, various featurettes analysing design and the beasties themselves, and a look at how the movie was conceived. Well worth a shufti.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: A lively return to the Potterverse on a fantastic 4K Blu-ray release.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Warner Bros., Ultra HD Blu-ray & All-region BD, £35 Approx