Posted Nov 22 2016
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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them - This Movie Pretty Much Rocks The New Wizarding World

Dir: David Yates

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight

So here we are back in JK’s wizarding world and the big question is – does lightning strike twice? Or nine times to be precise – if you go by the movie count.

And the answer is pretty much yes. By going backwards – to 1926 – Rowling’s Wizarding world moves forward, by virtue of creating a remarkable back story to what was originally just a text book named in her first Potter novel. But by now we have surely learned that nothing is “just” in Rowling’s incredibly detailed world.

To invigorate her Potter-less new take on all tings magic, first time scripter JK has surrounded herself with may of the people who brought Harry and his chums to cinematic life, from director Yates to producer David Heyman to production designer Stuart Craig, whose work here is so sumptuous and beautifully realised that he must surely be in the Oscar conversation, despite being denied all those years on the Potter movies.

One thing that is very much new – and may well be the movie’s stealth weapon – is Redmayne, whose almost-Asperger’s like performance as magiczoologist Newt Scamander is the very definition of charming. His eyes askance from humans but awash with love for his myriad beasts, Redmayne is thoroughly winning and instantly establishes Newt as a hero you want to spend much more time with.

His arrival in New York with a suitcase full of wild and exotic creatures – some of whom escape – propel the action of the movie, but its drive comes mainly from its characters and its performances, with Waterston superb as the former aura Tina, Newt’s almost romantic interest. Fogler too wins over the film’s audience with a smart performance, whilst Morton and – especially – Miller bring the dark side to strong effect, aided and abetted of course by the always under-valued Colin Farrell. (Oh, and Edward Scissorhands shows up as well – but you’ve probably heard that by now.)

On the downside, the movie does spend an awful lot of time introducing all of his new and wonderful beasties, and this does lead to a sense of repetition at times – “Oh, a so-and-so’s escaped,” “What’s a so and so?” – cue a dash of exposition and a chase to get it back in the case. More than once.

And – if we were to pick nits – the climax is a little too CGI-thing destroys most of large city, in a Marvel movie third act kind of way.

But the movie’s last ten minutes or so are not only visually beautiful (with full assistance from James Newton’s Howard’s powerful score) but also gets back to the central characters on whom this new series needs to stand. And it acquits itself with aplomb.

So not perfect. But as new world-building (that owes more than a debt to the old) goes - pretty damn good.

 

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