The prequels strike back! Thankfully this time it’s not a Phantom Menace rather an X-Men First Class and brings something new to one of the most successful franchises in movie history.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was originally a 128 page textbook, which describes 85 magical species that could be found in that world written by magizoologist, Newt Scamander. The events in the movie take place before the book was published and in a time when the Magical World was terrorized by the Dark Wizard, Gellert Grindelwald.
Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne arrives in New York with an unusual briefcase at a tumultuous time in US history. The MACUSA (the US equivalent for the Ministry of Magic) is under pressure from the international magical community to suppress the fear of being exposed to the non-magical world. JK Rowling in her screen writing debut takes the opportunity to draw a parallel between the black/gay community and the No-Majs (Muggles in the US) for their regressive laws on marriage and segregation. Using a classic plot device like switching briefcases, the creatures contained in Scamander’s case are let loose in the streets of New York. The plot revolves around Scamander trying to get those creatures back with the assistance of a No-Maj, Jacob Kowalski (played endearingly by Dan Fogler) and he’s pursued by ex-Auror, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and Percival Graves (Colin Farrell).
Director David Yates is a veteran of the Harry Potterverse having directed 4 other movies. Here he keeps switching between slapstick comedy and horror. The tone is really dark but does not forget the core audience of tweens and has enough Nifflers and Groot-esque Bowtruckles to keep them entertained. Rowling introduces some new elements, one of which is terrifying and involves Wizard executions, things like this excite you with where you can see the franchise go. The CGI isn’t the best here, you can visibly understand that it’s green-screened, some of the renderings are horrendous and too cartoonish at times. There are some ‘obscure’ references, that the avid Potterheads will love. The first two acts of the movies do really well to establish this world and provide enough groundwork to build excitement for the multiple sequels. It fails in the clichéd third act that make it reminiscent of every other blockbuster these days and features a city being destroyed. What is worse is how the situation is remedied by literally waving of the wands and a deus ex machina that is groan-inducing. It is also reductive since it has no repercussion ala Man of Steel, this wasn’t expected of Rowling but could have been WB pushing for a big spectacle at the end.
The twists in the movie were quite well done. The first was well written and in vein to the books, the second, if you follow the latest developments in movie news won’t be much of a surprise but it surely will be the one where the crowd goes bonkers, in theatres.