Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Movie Name: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Year of Release: 2016
Director: David Yates
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Josh Cowdery, Ron Perlman, Johnny Depp, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jenn Murray
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer Here

Following the mediocre "The Legend of Tarzan" from this Summer, director David Yates is back in the Harry Potter universe, with the first film in a series of what is an offshoot from that character's world, this time around following the adventures of Newt Scamander. Newt finds himself in New York, in 1926, carrying a suitcase filled with magical creatures he's been collecting in order to avoid them becoming extinct. The magic world in America is quite different than the one in England, including the terminology used by magical practitioners. Due to a series of misunderstandings, Newt mixes his magical suitcase with the one being carried by Jacob Kowalski, who wants to open a bakery of his own. Newt, alongside Tina (a recently demoted investigator from the magic department), have to track down Jacob, while simultaneously figure out which creature has been destroying downtown New York, and threatening to start a war between the non magical world and the wizards.
David Yates has had a very successful career directing J.K. Rowling's film adaptations of her Harry Potter series (he directed 4 of that series). "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is Rowling's first original screenplay, and follows the adventures of a small character in the Harry Potter books, the awkward and squeamish Newt Scamander. The film introduces a series of new characters from this universe quite rapidly, and sets its hero on the quest to protect magical creatures, while simultaneously giving him a non-magical and a strong female counterpart (and potential love interest) sidekicks. The film is successful in exploring the dynamics of the magic world versus the mundane one, however where most of the Harry Potter films exhibited some restraint in terms of the usage of visual effects to depict that universe, this film is almost hyperbolic in that regards. The creatures are always present, there's always too much happening and competing for attention. It's definitely a well oiled machine that has produced this film, which includes a great cast with Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston (from Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice"), Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton creating interesting characters, while the cinematography from Philippe Rousselot is beautiful. It's an interesting first film,  hopefully the remaining ones will find a better balance with character and story development.