Fluffy Magic: Our Review of ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 18, 2016
Fluffy Magic: Our Review of ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’

The pressure (both seen and unseen) when trying to craft and build a movie franchise has to be so enormous that it would make the most hardened Hollywood players a little gun shy.  As Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them unfurls out into theatres everywhere this weekend we see J.K. Rowling return her magical world of wizardry to the big screen and while it isn’t without some fun moments it also plays it a little too safe at times to be something genuinely memorable.

Seventy or so years before a young Harry Potter reads Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident… were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob (Dan Fogler), a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

While I can’t lie that Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a fun and perfectly acceptable cinematic romp, it also plays it a little too safe at times as it is obviously setting us up for a larger adventure with sequels that have already been green lighted.

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David Yates knows the Potter world like the back of his hand at this stage of the game and he was certainly the right choice to launch this new offshoot of the franchise.  It was incredibly stylish with impeccable design that put us straight into the world of 1920’s New York which marries so incredibly well with what we already know about the wild worlds of wizardry.  The action moves at a reasonable pace and the world building is fairly well done allowing us to get lost in it all.  Sadly the weak part of this movie comes with the script, with this being her first foray into screenwriting; JK Rowling is still writing these things like they are books.  There’s too much information being jammed in and it tries to do far too much and give us layers of detail that just aren’t necessary while sacrificing character development for the sake of giving us as many characters to deal with as we possibly can.  It’s nice and fun that we get to meet all of these different and unique characters, but things were moving so goddamn fast that we never really had a chance to care about them.

Eddie Redmayne has enough quirky charisma to carry this franchise well into the next decade as he will need to do and while Rowling hasn’t given him all that much to do yet, there will certainly be more coming down the pipe for him to work with and I have no doubt that he will do the job well.  Sadly it’s the other characters that are for the most part forgettable.  Dan Fogler has some potential as a comedic sidekick but there are also no guarantees that he will be a large part of the franchise going forward and while Elizabeth Waterston and Redmayne have good chemistry together nothing about this franchise feels like it won’t be more than the adventures of Newt Scamander, not that there is anything wrong with that on the whole, it just felt like such a safe play as people like Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton all get wasted in supporting roles.

fantbeastsUltimately, audiences will get a kick out Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them which is all that really matters but for a franchise that has already had the next four sequels approved to go to production it would have been nice to see a story that took an occasional risk and put more effort into developing these characters that we will be following for years.  It would have allowed for a much more emotionally satisfying experience, rather than the light fluffy popcorn that got served up in front of us.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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