Thursday, 22 December 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film review

IMDB says: 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.

In this David Yates (Harry Potter, The Legend of Tarzan) directed and J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy) written film, Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) stars as magizoologist Newt Scamander, a young activist wizard recently arrived in America with an expanding suitcase hiding diverse magical creatures.  As it is the 1920s, the wizarding world are struggling to keep their world secret from the no-majes (non-magical) world, where protests from people like Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton: John Carter, Minority Report) threaten to expose them and an unknown threat is on the loose, not to mention dark deeds occurring which are ascribed to dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. 

When Newt is arrested by a recently demoted Auror Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston: Steve Jobs, Michael Clayton) because he has accidentally revealed his magic to no-maj aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler: Kung Fu Panda, Horton Hears a Who!), not obliviated him (made him forget what he has seen), and worse, has accidentally left him with his suitcase, resulting in the loss of some of his creaatures, he is brought to the attention of the Magical Congress of the United States of American (MACUSA), where President Seraphina Piquery (Carmen Ejogo: Selma, The Purge: Anarchy) leaves it to Aurora Percival Graves (Colin Farrell: Total Recall, Phone Booth) to decide their fate.


Accusing Newt of releasing the creature that is currently terrorising New York City, Newt tries to tell them that it is not the work of a magical creature but an Obscurial conjured up by a child wizard who has repressed and cannot control their powers.  Unbeknown to the MACUSA, Graves is already on the look out for the child in question and has recruited the adoptive son of  Mary Barebone, Credence (Ezra Miller: Suicide Squad, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), to locate it.  Could it be one of his sisters, Modesty (Faith Wood-Blagrove in her first film) or Chastity (Jenn Murray: Brooklyn, Love and Friendship)?

To keep an eye on Newt, Tina takes them both home, where her legilimens (she can read minds) younger sister Queenie (Alison Suddol: The Lucky One, What to Expect when You're Expecting) takes a shine to Kowalski.

Can Newt find and save his creatures before they are blamed for the death of Senator Shaw (Josh Cowdery: Legends, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and his powerful newspaper owner father, Henry Senior (Jon Voight: Transformers, Mission: Impossible) exposes the magical world?

This is an enjoyable film and though it is set in the Harry Potter world, i.e. the same magical one, it is definitely not a Harry Potter movie.  There are nods, e.g. a reference to Dumbledore and some of the same magical creatures, plus lovely little touches, when Queenie responds to Newt's belief that Hogwarts is the best wizarding school in the world with 'Hogwash' in particular, that cement you in the fantasy, but it is noticeably not the same.  There is no labyrinthine plot that we are used to, it feels like a long film (where we are used to the time flying and not realising we have been there so long) with shed loads of exposition and if there is a theme that will run throughout the set of films (it has been confirmed that there will be five films), apart from it maybe featuring the dark wizard Grindlewald, it is not yet clear.

We can enjoy the CGI creatures and magical fights, so it does have charm, though it feels like an origin story and I hope that it follows in the tradition of Harry Potter and becomes better and better with each sequel.

Trivia: This is the screenwriting debut of J. K. Rowling. An occamy slithers into the credits to form the S in Beasts. Newt Scamander appears on the Marauders Map in the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Within the Harry Potter universe, Newt Scamander's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was first published in 1927 and became a massive bestseller, as well as an approved textbook at Hogwarts. By the mid-1990s, when the Harry Potter series is set, it was in its 52nd edition. Scamander also has the distinct honour of having his own Chocolate Frog Card. Redmayne auditioned for the part of Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and was the only actor considered for the part of Newt Scamander.

Tagline: J.K. Rowling invites you to a new era of the wizarding world.                       8/10

#FantasticBeastsAndWhereToFindThem  #FantasticBeasts

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