Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 2 hr. 13 min
Fantastic Beasts exists to broaden the Potter universe and set up a new series of films. Its central theme (the danger inherent in our fears) isn’t explored all that well, and the central character, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) isn’t interesting enough to build a narrative around. The similarities to Doctor Who were also a distraction. This movie is only meant to world build and give Potter fans something new to watch and analyze.
J.K. Rowling as a novelist, is brilliant and I love her books. As a screenwriter, however, there are limitations. Without the room afforded in a novel to truly explore this pre-Potter world, the film hops from character to character and place to place. Never properly establishing motives and goals, and barely pulls all its threads together in the last moments of the film.
That being said, beyond the blatant franchise building that most regular cinema goers don’t care about, this film isn’t all that bad. Director David Yates could probably direct a Potter film in his sleep by now, and his penchant for dazzling action sequences and pretty visuals is on full display here. The creature designs are cool, and the visual effects look great. The supporting cast, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Alison Sudol, are also a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing them in the films that follow this one.
If you are a fan of the Potter series, you are probably going to like this film. If you never cared about the Potter universe, this film isn’t likely to pull you in.
Dan Fogler as Kowalski the ‘No-Maj’ (no magic) – the US term for Muggles, apparently. His character almost steals the show as the regular guy swept up by J. K. Rowling’s magical imagination.