- on Thursday, 17 November 2016 21:35
- by Loron Hays
Fifteen years after the release of the first Harry Potter film and five years after the final film, Warner Bros plunges their hands back down the throat of the Sorting Hat and yanks out a NEW quintilogy in an offshoot of the world of wizardry that J.K. Rowling once assembled on the back of an air sickness bag.
Whether or not we need five films to tell its story, director David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - when it finally gets going – is certainly the confident blast needed to remind us of the spirited FUN that all but deserted Harry Potter’s final few cinematic outings. It weaves a distinctive tale that Potter fans will enjoy even if the start-and-stop pacing from Rowling, here a first time screenwriter, makes for a long and winding narrative for the rest.
Thankfully, the film largely escapes from feeling like an experiment in endless exposition.
Eddie Redmayne is Newt Scamander, a collector and feeder of rare beasites, and he’s on a secret mission. His collection of creatures lives in his magical suitcase. He’s at home among them and not as comfortable around peers, which makes him a bit hard to warm up to, but we get there. Something is amiss in his arrival by boat to New York City. America is growing dangerous and his tense run-in with a customs agent is only the beginning glimpse of that steadfast unease.
Forget about the mission he’s on. America and its hunt for unregistered wizards is a total head adjustment. And, to compound the situation, his collection of strange and terrible beasts is missing one and then another and then, well, let’s just say that rounding up the damned Niffler becomes troubling business for this chaser. If not found, the New York City of 1926 will never be the same.
Scamander is quickly joined by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an American who is fascinated by REAL magic, and Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a mystic law officer who “arrests” Scamander for violating laws he’s hilariously not aware of. On the flashy surface, that’s THE story at play. A darker and more disturbing tale of rising fascism is, ultimately, taking root. And, as this is projected to take many movies to iron out, there’s little resolution to that underbelly.
You see, in the other side of the mirror – the one that houses the secret wizard world – something very disturbing is causing serious cracks to appear. Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and his cronies are planning something BIG. And Samantha Morton as Mary Lou Barebone, the ringleader of the growing New Salem Philanthropic Society, an anti-witchcraft movement, isn’t helping Newt’s cause. Dun dun dunn.
And then there’s the magic hand waving of Percival Graves (Collin Farell) and the strictly business dealings of Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) for everyone to contend with. Newt plays it aloof and low-key, but he knows something dangerous is at play.
But we aren’t quite there with a full disclosure just yet. And Rowling, who is a better novelist than screenwriter, makes sure of it with much languid world building and side jaunts that will probably pay off years down the road. The film does too much, for sure, but most will probably not mind.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is imaginative and filled with lots of cool looks at America’s art deco world of wizards, witches, and the spells they weave. It isn’t quite on par with the best of the Potter series, but it is a creative way to start up the conversation and make that particular brand of magic happen all over again.
Welcome to America, Potterheads.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some fantasy action violence
Runtime: 133 mins
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol
Genre: Action | Adventure
Tagline: From J.K. Rowling's wizarding world.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I ain't got the brains to make this up."
Theatrical Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: http://www.fantasticbeasts.com/
Release Date: November 18, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York's secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
No details available.