Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) movie review

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) movie review
The Harry Potter film franchise as we know it might've come to an end in 2011, but the wizarding world has continued to live on through fans' imaginations, theme parks, and now spin-offs. The first step in expanding the series we know and love comes Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. 

Inspired by the Hogwarts's textbook written by a famous magizoologist, screenplay writer and series creator J.K. Rowling sets Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) on his first adventure from Europe to NYC. Set in 1926, he arrives in the city that never sleeps to return a rare creature to its natural home in Arizona. When some of his creatures accidentally escape his magical suitcase, he and his new acquaintances - former Auror Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and No-Maj/muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) - must race across the Big Apple to find his animal companions  before Auror and Director of Magical Security for Magical Congress of the United States of America Percival Graves (Colin Farrel) does.

After taking over the reigns from the boy who lived, Newt and his creatures easily steal your heart. Navigating another side of the magical community that bans his beloved friends, Newt's doesn't quite know how to interact with people makes him a lovable hero . His gentle, wide-eyed behavior and adventures across NYC are the most exciting parts of the film as he meets other outcasts just like him and learns to stand up for all of them. With new characters taking center stage, the beloved quartet led by Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob, feel like longtime friends. By dropping into a new part of the universe, you feel like they're familiar faces even though we're meeting them and seeing their interactions together for the first time; a part of you is reminded exactly of falling in love with Harry, Ron, and Hermione as they teamed up on their quest.

Where the film struggles, however, lies outside of Newt's adventures. As the main antagonist, Percival Graves's venture across NYC trailing a mysterious force of nature wreaking destruction and bringing attention to non-magical folk about magic isn't as exciting. Though Farell's, and Ezra Miller as his NoMaj protege Credence Barebone, give captivating performances, Graves's story is less interesting in the grand scheme of the plot and is more bookended into the film; it'll make more waves as the series grows, but as an important element of Newt's experiences, it takes away from his quest rather elevates it.

Additionally, a lot of the American worldbuilding feels transplanted from the European Potter universe, only set in an earlier time period. For examples: a brief mention of Tina and Queenie's American school Ilvermorny doesn't have the same "homely" feel as Hogwarts; No-Maj doesn't have the familiar ring to it as Muggle; MACUSA's politics is merely a Ministry of Magic copycat.  If you followed along to Pottermore's updates about Fantastic Beasts, you might feel closer to the material; but if you didn't, most details only seems to scratch the surface in passing easter eggs/dialogue. There's things that you hear about or catch your eyes and instantly fall in love with or want to learn about. As the sequels come out, this world will eventually feel fuller. However, it's a lot for fans to catch up with a part they haven't explored like the Harry Potter books. As eventful and tumultuous as the 1920s were, this period lacks the storied richness we're used to like the Harry Potter books.

As a full-length movie to be conjured out of a mere mention in Hogwarts's list of school supplies, and then its own brief companion book, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them expands on the adventure you never thought was possible. Everything in the Fantastic Beasts production design from sets, costumes, props, and special effects, makes you feel like you've escaped into another world - one of art deco, the dangerous shenanigans Newt finds himself in, and NoMajs on the brink discovering magical lurking all over the city. Having directed four of the Harry Potter films, David Yates definitely has Rowling's intricate and vivid imagination in his wheelhouse to create an epic addition to the Potter verse. Fantastic Beasts does a nice job following in Harry's footsteps, and there's hope on the horizon its sequels will continue the legacy.

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