If you miss Harry Potter and you are into the phantasmagorical stories created by J.K. Rowling, I dare say you will find plenty in which to immerse yourself in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the start of her latest fantasy series.
The action takes place decades before the round-goggled wonder came to be and half a world away. Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) stars in the central role of a “magizoologist” by the name Newt Scamander, under the direction of David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter blockbusters.
There are growing dangers in the world of wizardry in New York in 1926. Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizard community to a fanatical faction bent on eradicating them. And the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away … and is now nowhere to be found. Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures. Some of these are safeguarded within the hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather suitcase. But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting commoner, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler – The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee), inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge.
Also starring Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice) as Newt’s ally and would-be love interest and Alison Sudol (Transparent) as her sister who takes a shine to Kowalski, the film marks the screenwriting debut of J.K. Rowling. Her script was inspired by the Hogwarts’ (fictional) textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
It is loud, it is proud, it is arguably as effects driven as any movie I have seen and I failed to make sense of the plot, which is convoluted. On top of that, it is far too long at nearly two and a quarter hours. It seemed to go on interminably and I couldn’t wait for it to finish. Yes, granted the effects are mighty impressive – cutting edge, you might say – but my interest in what I was watched waned relatively early on and that is not a good thing.Now, I have to confess Harry Potter doesn’t do it for me either, so my lack of involvement in this one wasn’t a total surprise.
Eddie Redmayne is as earnest as they come and he does all he can with the material with which he has to work. Him trying to attract the ardour of a rhinoceros-like creature is one of the film’s high points. Throughout the movie the one constant is Newt chasing a thieving porcupine-type critter, who is attracted to bling. Collateral damage is significant as things crash and bash in a veritable cavalcade of sound. The film also features Colin Farrell as the director of magic security and Jon Voigt as a newspaper magnate.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them 2 is already slated for cinema release in 2018, with Number 3 coming in 2020; with a total of five in the works. All I can say is agghh! Imagination is one thing, but elongated fantasy for the sake of elongated fantasy is another. Rated M, the first instalment scores a 5½ to 6 out of 10.