Thursday, November 15, 2018


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Colin Farrell. The movie is about 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.  When I first saw the trailers for this movie I was conflicted. Harry Potter is my favorite movie series of all time, so the idea of going back into the world I knew and loved so much was exciting. At the same time, something about this just reeked of the studio's greed for more money.  The film was generally well-received by both critics and fans, however, I was not a fan. During the films opening hour, I almost fell asleep multiple times. It just wasn't captivating.    There were a few things I did like about the film the set design and costumes are tremendous, the CGI on the creatures is outstanding and Eddie Redmayne does give a good performance. I think this film suffers from having a weak protagonist.  To be clear Eddie Redmayne does his beast, but it is not good enough to save this character. Newt Scamander isn't a strong engaging protagonist.  As the audience, we need information on the protagonist for us to empathize with them. Meaning, we should care about them and understand why they're doing what they're doing in the story. We need to be invested in them and the journey they're about to embark on.  What do we know about Newt Scamander? well, not much. For about the first hour all we know is that he's carrying magical creatures in a suitcase in New York City. We only get slight glimpses into his personality and troubled past through conversation. Like his expulsion from Hogwarts and a strained relationship with Lestrange.    Since we are kept at a distance from Newt he's not engaging. It's harder for us as an audience to care or invest in him. The protagonist's desire or goal should be the driving force of the entire movie pushing everything until the end. Since Newt's character is shrouded in so much secrecy, we don't even know what he wants until about 40 minutes into the movie. It's not a very effective desire either, for the story because Newt never actually pursues his desire and we find out at the end that he could have released it as soon as he landed in New York City.  Then, his goal shifts to finding his suitcase and then to catching the loose animals which shifts again to catching the Obscurial. It's unclear and so it is too difficult for the audience to attach their expectations.    The villain is the antagonistic force keeping the protagonist from his goal, but without a clearly defined goal, we're not even sure who the villain is. Is it the animals or Graves or The Ministry? I don't know, but that rising tension is missing throughout the film. After watching our protagonist struggle throughout the story we expect them to change or grow in some way. If they are at the same point emotionally at the end of the film, where they were at the beginning than what was the point of going on the journey? We just walked in a circle or even worse we didn't move at all.    This film has a very unbalanced tone. The Harry Potter films did an excellent job, of balancing childlike whimsy with darker elements, in each individual movie.  As the series went on the balance shifted, with the growing ages of the children and the growing drama surrounding them. Each moment artfully walked the line befitting the film's tone never straying too far and never seeming out of place. The darker moments were built up to, earned over time.    In Fantastic Beasts, I was shocked by the mishandled tone. In one scene, there are goofy creatures getting into silly situations and in the next, there are children being savagely beaten. This happens time and time again silly animals and then murder. Silly animals and then executions. As opposed to carefully walking the line tonally the creators went for simple shock and awe moments, jumping from one extreme to the next without ever finding a balance. Overall, the film just wasn't as fun and exciting as the Harry Potter series.     The last big issue I have is slow pacing. There is a common error among writers, of mistaking stuff for story. Characters, plot setting, goals, and antagonists all serve a larger story that we're watching. When all the elements are working together they are constantly pushing the story forward building towards the climax. Stuff is the tiny minutia writers can get lost in. The result is cool explosive shiny colorful stuff that doesn't ultimately matter and ends up grinding the story's momentum to a halt.    This is the first screenplay J.K. Rowling has ever written and unfortunately, it shows. The same intricate details that made her Harry Potter novels come to life ended up drowning her screenplay for Fantastic Beasts. This mistake is most noticeable in the scene where Newt and Jacob first arrive at the Goldstein sister's apartment. On a side note, Katherine Waterston who plays Tina is as dull as a rock and Alison Sudol who plays Queenie is an over-the-top cartoon.  The scene where Newt and Jacob both enter Newt's suitcase. The entire scene is 10 minutes long and completely stops what little momentum the story had barely built up to at that point. It's just a scene where J. K. Rowling could set stuff up for later payoffs which results in a 10-minute long scene of stuff not story.    Warner Brothers have announced 4 more Fantastic Beasts movies. I want to like the rest of them, but since this film gave me so little to care about it might be too late.  2 out of 5 stars for Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them. I hope you enjoyed my review.

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