|Curse you, Niffler!|
"So you're the guy with the case full of monsters, huh?"
When the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone novel was released in the U.S. back in 1998, I had just received the legal privilege to purchase and consume alcohol. My friends sure appreciated that fact, especially since I was the oldest of our group. There was no time (nor desire) to read a kid's book about wizards and wands. Even after having children, I was more interested in delving into the books and films of Middle-earth (LoTR), than watching little Daniel Radcliffe perform magic with a lightning bolt on his forehead. Then in 2002, something happened; I rented the first Potter film for my family to watch, and I was quickly attracted to the childlike wonder of it all. Then soon after, I rented The Chamber of Secrets and got hooked on the mythology. I didn't start reading the books until around the time that The Half-Blood Prince film had come out, but when I did, the whole thing opened up my love for the series. The genius of J.K. Rowling's wizarding universe, is that the reader is taken along for the ride and experiences the growth and suffering of the title character. She has created a modern day classic that has grasped ahold of my heart and millions more. When I saw The Deathly Hallows- Part 2 in theaters, I honestly felt a sadness at saying goodbye to these characters. But any good thing must come to an end, right?
At a quick glance, any new connection to the Potter universe would look like a cheap grab at more money (reference the Fast & Furious franchise). While that is partially true (Show Business), there is so much more that can be told than just the story about "The Boy Who Lived". When I heard about Rowling's little spin off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them being adapted into a screenplay, I was skeptical about the whole thing. But when I heard that Rowling herself was deeply involved and David Yates (Phoenix, Half-Blood, Hallows 1 & 2) was directing the first film (at least), I let my guard down a bit and started to gain some excitement. For a film that has so many comparisons to Harry Potter, there's something nice about how much it's able to separate itself and run on its own worth. Fantastic Beasts is able to poise itself between being a fun kid's movie, and a thoughtful adventure for those old enough to enjoy a little rum in their butterbeer. Similar to the early Potter films, this movie starts off as more of an innocent discovery, and then slowly gets darker in tone by the finale. Similar to the New York scenes of King Kong (2005), the detail in the sets, costumes, makeup, and props, is exemplary. Not one time did I feel like this film wasn't set in 1926. What I love about the story, is that in just over two hours, it's able to establish a bunch of creatures and how Newt Scamander's "Gotta Catch 'Em All", establish some amusing characters, introduce a serious (not Sirius) villain, and deal with the ignorance of the era, while not playing out as an overloaded exhibition. This film never gets boring because there's always something happening.
With a large cast, it's normally difficult for anybody to get their fair share of the spotlight (X-Men: The Last Stand). But Fantastic Beasts seems to know just how much time every character gets without making the story suffer. Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending) as Newt Scamander is classic in the sense of Charlie Chaplin and/or Jerry Lewis, where he can be any combination of things from twitchy, to charming, to cautious, or confident. He's the reluctant hero that does the job because no one else will or is able to. His No-Maj (Muggle) friend played by Dan Fogler (The Goldbergs) is so naturally funny, that he deserves his own spin off. It blows my mind that Fogler hasn't become more famous yet, but if anything could do it for him... Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) and singer/songwriter Alison Sudol as the Goldstein sisters, are near opposites where Waterson is more "by the book" with life, and Sudol is full of life and expressive. Together they help Redmayne and Fogler when they're on the run. I especially liked Sudol's performance, as she appeared to be cut right out of that era with her big beautiful smile and caring eyes. Among the rest of the cast, Colin Farrell (Minority Report) stands out as a bad ass Auror (police) that doesn't see eye to eye with the current wizard/human system. What's also as interesting as the cast, is the little differences between European and American wizarding laws and customs.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Good- The many adventures of the kleptomaniacal Niffler, catching the Erumpent, Kowalski drinks the giggle water, the big "revelio", and the obliviation rain.
The Bad- Although most of the visuals were great, there was a few times where the beasts looked very cartoony from a distance, yet detailed in close ups.
The Ugly- I wonder if the pre-sale tickets from last month (Oct.), influenced the studio's decision to turn this film series into five pictures instead of the originally planned trilogy? It can't just be about the money, could it? (Hobbit series revisited)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a whole lot of fun and a worthy entry into the Potterverse. Take the kids, buy some sodas, and use the straws as pretend wands. It's like Pokemon Go, but without the empty useless feeling afterwards.
Rating- 7.5 out of 10
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
PG-13 | 133 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy | 18 November 2016 (USA)
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.
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol