In your local theaters — that’s where you can find them. The Fantastic Beasts. For a film that tends to live more in the realm of mediocre, the beasts are not just fantastic, they are spectacular. They are magnificent and awe-inspiring. They are the whole reason this film exists, except of course to make money and set the table for what’s to come.
What is essentially the ninth film in the Harry Potter franchise serves as a prequel that will spawn (at least) four subsequent sequels of its own. Eddie Redmayne is Newt Scamander, a writer and animal whisperer of a wizard on holiday looking to purchase a rare horse to add to his impressive collection, which he conveniently keeps in a raggedy brown suitcase. He accidentally releases an eclectic group of magical creatures to wreak havoc in 1920s New York City, and the results are catastrophic and inevitably set into motion a chain of events that may very easily lead to another half dozen books and films.
The wizarding community attempts damage control and risks being discovered by the “nomag” (not magical), or the American version of the British “muggles” to the Potter initiates. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to new and imaginative creatures and characters, and some familiar names from the stories we all know and love (I say that facetiously).
David Yates returns to the director’s chair after four of the original Harry Potter films, and this year’s “Legend of Tarzan.” He is attached to the next four Fantastic Beasts films, all of which are in the process of being written, and urgently I would presume. His camerawork is simply average, though I wonder how much time he spent in post-production.
J.K. Rowling may have bitten off more than she can chew on this one. She doesn’t need the money, so I question her motives. She is tinkering in dangerous territory and might want to have a chat with George Lucas. The next few novels she writes could very well destroy her credibility with the masses, and for what? To continue her legacy? I would prefer something new perhaps.
The supporting cast of Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogleman and Ezra Miller do little to add substance to the plot or setting. They play their characters convincingly, but they seem like just that; characters. Redmayne can’t even save the attempt at brilliance that simply comes off as ordinary.
I can’t help compare this legacy to the Star Wars canon. Although I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I could see how as each new one comes out, there are people who just don’t understand the excitement and fervor. I feel that way about Potter. These next five stories are going to drag out the story and dilute the cultural importance and impact of the first seven books — or eight films, if you prefer.
I won’t pretend to know the Harry Potter universe very well. I’ve seen the movies and haven’t read the books (blasphemy for a middle-school teacher, I know), but it just doesn’t really do much for me. The power that can be wielded by wizards just seems to diminish the tension and drama of conflict. Destroy the city? Just wave your wand and everything goes back to normal. Get caught by a human? Cast a spell and make them forget everything. Encounter literally any situation you don’t want to be in? Say the right combination of nonsense words and you can simply disappear. The rules, or lack thereof, don’t jive with my sense of logic. Even for fantasy, the narrative seems to make Lord of the Rings seem like nonfiction.
I will say this; if you are a big fan of the Harry Potter films, you will not be disappointed in the slightest. The special effects are mesmerizing and the creatures are nothing short of breathtaking and beautiful. If you’re just a movie fan looking for something to check out? It might do, but it will most certainly leave you feeling unsatisfied.