Friday, November 18, 2016


You can’t go home again. Or at least, that’s what they say. Returning home to try and recapture old magic is often an impossible task. For storytellers and filmmakers, returning to a fictional world of their own creation after a long absence can be equally challenging, and in the past decade, many have tried and failed. For author/screenwriter JK Rowling and director David Yates, returning to the world of HARRY POTTER is a journey being watched with many nervous eyes.  

In the 1920’s (70 years before Harry Potter is born), Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a young wizard, arrives in New York City with a bottomless case of magical creatures which are illegal to have in the non-magical world of humans. The case is lost, and some creatures escape…which leads Newt across the city in a chase to recapture them without harm.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM has a whole lotta movie going on. Not content to just have a film consisting of chasing and capturing amazing creatures (although the chase-and-capture scenes are incredibly fun), series creator and screenwriter JK Rowling and director David Yates pack the film with a web of many storylines. Newt crosses paths with a human (Dan Fogler), fellow wizards (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol), the governing body of magic in America, (led by Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo), and a secret cult looking to hunt down wizards and witches (led by Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton). Toss in a mysterious magical dark entity which is destroying buildings and killing humans, and FANTASTIC BEASTS become a web of intrigue. There are many storylines, many of which seem separate from each other, which eventually come together nice and tight by movie’s end.

Long-time fans of the HARRY POTTER franchise have a lot to be happy about, and a lot to get used to. While the original eight films dealt with schoolchildren learning and growing up, this one takes place in the adult world which brings about a change in tone. It’s firmly set in the world of HARRY POTTER, so terms such as spells, wands, and witches are there to grasp. But at the same time, gone are familiar terms such as professor and quidditch. The film handles itself very business-like, with characters coming second and the plot coming first.

The film more-than lives up to its title. The magical beasts which reside in Newt’s case are wonderfully realized; taking on many shapes and forms with wonderful abilities. The beasties play an important role in the film’s enjoyment, as they provide plenty of whimsical fun in this adult-world tale. Director David Yates keeps the pacing brisk with an excellent sense of momentum and energy, and the darker scenes would feel right at home in any horror movie. James Newton Howard provides an excellent score.

The goddamn 3D is very good.

The actors and actresses are perfectly cast and go a long way in selling the ideas going around. Eddie Redmayne once again proves himself to be one of the world’s finest actors, playing Newt as a brilliant, caring, yet aloof and reckless wizard who is a bit shy and socially awkward. It’s a remarkable performance, and makes the Newt character an important entry in the POTTER universe. Katherine Waterston always seems to be stuck in the same gear, and Colin Farrell is excellent as always. The show is nearly stolen by Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol, whose budding love-affair (between human and witch) is fun to watch. Ron Perlman is perfect as a goblin gangster.

The third-act of the film unfortunately puts our now-beloved beasts on the backburner in favor of way too many fight scenes with wizards hucking CGI lights and blobs at each other (it reeks of studio meddling). Seemingly aware of this, Yates and Rowling manage to steer the film back to the creatures for the finale…which also packs in a twist which fans will eat up like chocolate frogs. By film’s end, FANTASTIC BEASTS serves as a solid first-chapter in a new set of stories, but it also stands alone as its own adventure. It is fun, eye-popping, intriguing, and for as much new material there is…feels comfortable. Going home has never felt better.


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