Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Rent Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on Amazon Video // Buy the Book
Written by: JK Rowling
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman
Rated: PG-13

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

The adventures of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school at Hogwarts.

As a Harry Potter movie this has virtually no relation. As a fantasy movie it tries to squeeze too many characters in, making a long, disjointed movie. There are three or four ideas for different movies crammed into this, and that just serves to dilute the impact of any one story line.
It depends.

This is based on the 2001 book written by Rowling, which mimicked the textbook mentioned in the books and movies.  It was an atlas of animals, and this movie is inspired by the book, as much as a movie based on a list of monsters can be inspired by.

J.K. Rowling has announced that this is the first of a series of five, stating she will write the screenplay to each film. Two sequels have already been announced for 2018 and 2020.
You've got author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an awkward magical animal lover, detained by former magic cop Tina (Katherine Waterson) in what could be a budding romantic relationship as they attempt to recapture the animals Newt accidentally loosed on New York. Newt also befriends a no-maj, or a muggle in what could be part of the buddy comedy genre. This no-maj also shares a mutual attraction with Tina's roommate.
Then there's Percival (Colin Farrell) who's in charge of wizard safety and is written exactly like a villain despite his occupation, and he's coaxing a mistreated boy Credence (Ezra Miller) to spy for him and obtain a particularly harmful animal. The evil magician Grindewald is also on the loose.

If that sounds like a lot, it is and I just covered the main characters. Jon Voight is also in this in a completely unnecessary plot about a newspaper and a congress man.

This is not a tightly paced story. There's a lot of fluff, and then plenty of CGI magic animal imagery. The animals drive the plot, they often seem like a footnote with so much going on. While Farrell is all but set up to be the villain, this goes too far before we figure out what's going on. Who's the villain in this? The foreshadowing would have worked better with more focus. With so much going on, it just gets lost. I dismissed it as errant, another plot line crammed into this already jam packed movie.

What is this movie about? We've got the magic counsel and their draconian rules and a misunderstood kid with great power. With so many concurrent plot lines, the end doesn't achieve the impact it should as it shifts focus to Credence. There's a surprise cameo from a well known actor that's nothing more than a forced wink. It's the only direct link to the Potter universe and that's the only purpose it serves.
This 'ends' a few time. With so many stories you get the big finish and then have to piddle about as we close all of the open story lines and that dilutes the entire effect.

I don't know if the problem with this film is over compensating and trying to write something more adult oriented or trying to expand the Potter universe and plant seeds for more spinoffs. You could squeeze more than a few out of this single film. With five films planned in this time period, it's likely that will happen.
What this lacks is the magic and imagiantion of Harry Potter, and even the Potter films lost that as we got to the seventh and eight movies, but we had already been snared by that amazing world. This movie tries to force the broad and engrossing  story lines of what could be numerous books into one movie and it doesn't work. This never takes the time to craft truly endearing or repulsive characters.

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