movies: fantastic beasts and where to find them

fantastic beasts and where to find them - a new era of the wizarding world
I'll admit, I was undecided about Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them... especially since it's based around a 128 page companion book to benefit a children's charity.

But then they announced it would be set in 1920's New York and star the very gorgeous Eddie Redmayne, so I was always going to see it, I just wasn't sure it was going to be any good.

And while it definitely has it's flaws, overall I was pleasantly surprised.

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first... the story doesn't really know what it wants to be. There's two different stories happening, one around the aforementioned beasts and the finding thereof, and other completely unrelated story that has more to do with the wider Harry Potter universe.

Unfortunately the movie pays more attention to the second story at the expense of the first. What I really wanted from this movie was for Redmayne's character to be on the hunt for some amazing, or fantastic, if you will, beast in New York and the finding of same was where the movie really came into it's own.

But no, Rowling can't resist going back to the "dark wizard" well, and it was fairly obvious who that was from the beginning (I do wonder if it was supposed to be obvious... were you supposed to spend the whole movie knowing that X is Y... or was it just me?). Yes, the reveal is nice, but there's not a lot of subtlety at play here.

And given that this is going to be a series of, I think, 5 movies, it's pretty clear that it's the "dark wizard" plot that's going to be the through-line for them, rather than the beasts and the finding thereof. Which is a shame... if only because large chunks of this history has already been written, so we know where certain characters end up and who does what to who. It would have been nice to go the other way is all I'm saying.

On the flip side of that, I'm a little in love with (as I mentioned) the time period in the Potterverse. The location doesn't feel quite as much of a character as I was hoping it would, but that's mostly because they never left the UK, which is something of a shame.

What was also nice was that other than Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton there weren't any faces I instantly recognised, and the other main characters, Tina, Queenie and Jacob (played by Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler respectively) felt very much of the period... especially Sudol (even if they did go to that well worn trope of gorgeous girl is instantly attracted to schlubby guy for no discernible reason). Redmayne does a great job with the character of Newt Scamander, making him this odd little man with a big heart who is clearly more comfortable with his beasts than with people.

Of course everyone was definitely help in looking the part by the always amazing costume designer, Colleen Atwood. She does make a nice outfit does Ms Atwood.

Overall the special effects are good... there are some "he's touching a tennis ball on a stick" moments when Redmayne is interacting with one of the larger creatures, but the beast itself is gorgeous. In fact all of the creatures look amazing (especially the aforementioned Thunderbird, and I did have a definite soft spot for the little Bowtruckle that lives in Newt's jacket). As does the city, a lot of which, I'm guessing, is also created inside the computer.

To sum up... it looks amazing, but the story isn't it's strongest element.

yani's rating: 3 niffers out of 5

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