FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Director: David Yates
Screenwriter: J.K. Rowling
Runtime: 133 mins.
Australian release date: 17 November 2016
Previewed at: Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, on 16 November 2016
Written for the screen by author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is an SFX extravaganza that transports viewers into a magical (CGI) world and takes them on an enchanted roller-coaster ride.
The director, Davis Yates, cut his feature film-making teeth in the world of magicians and ‘Muggles’ when he directed the last four films in the Harry Potter series and here he succeeds in diving even deeper into Rowling’s world… and what a strange world it is. Her fans will revel in this atmosphere where everything is turned upside down; judging by the applause at the conclusion of the preview screening the boy wizard’s devotees approve and will, by now, no doubt have tweeted their positive responses to this Potter prequel.
However, despite all its SFX brilliance, somehow this new franchise (there are four more Fantastic Beasts movies waiting in the wings) seems a bit lame; the storyline is too convoluted and the lead character lacks depth. When Newt Scamander, a ‘magizoologist’ (Eddie Redmayne), arrives in New York city in 1926 with a suitcase full of monsters, a series of mishaps cause some of the monsters to escape and wreak havoc, leading Newt to team up with a couple of disparate characters, Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an out-of-favour MACUSA witch, and ‘No-Maj’ (American for ‘Muggle’) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). The other main narrative thread involves the witch-hating Second Salemers, the wizards and witches of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) and the perennial battle to keep the magical and non-magical worlds apart; the Aurors of MACUSA remember all too well the Salem witch hunts! The ensuing drama involves a cast of villains and do-gooders that includes Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman and Jon Voight, and even a cameo appearance by a platinum buzz-cut sporting Johnny Depp.
Redmayne’s Newt is a little too mannered, which seems to be his shtick - you can’t help but be reminded of his gender-bending character in The Danish Girl - and he is up-staged by his monsters, especially the mischievous Niffler, a mole-like creature with a penchant for anything shiny, and the moody mantis-like Bowtruckle. None of which matters a fig because Warner Bros., and Rowling, will be laughing all the way to the bank with these fantastic beasts.