Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Director: David Yates
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
So J. K. Rowling comes with a new set of magical extravaganza with Fantastic Beasts and it’s time to learn new fantasy words. However enticing that might sound, the film is less in magic and wonders and inclines more towards investigation and superfluous comic elements. Not the best way to begin a grand franchise.
7 decades before Harry Potter, there was a wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who went on a quest to collect the extraordinary and magical creatures. Newt writes on them and he is insistent on giving them their natural habitat and keeps them protected from the dangerous species on the planet- Humans. Everything changes when he visits New York where he is on the lookout for one of his escaped beasts and he meets Mr. Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an aspiring baker and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an investigator of the wizard world.
Fantastic Beasts lacks enchantment mainly due to the loose focus. Rowling lets us dive too much into the investigative aspects of Obscurus and the orphans. As a start for the franchise, Newt’s character was vital and he must have been the focal point. David Yates, one of the most trusted names in directing the Harry Potter series, has developed a feeble character of Newt. He felt weird to me. Of course, as a genius wizard, he needs to be unique but why doesn’t he ever make an eye contact with people and what’s up with his retarded facial expressions? Director doesn’t make a strong case here for us to like the lead protagonist. Also, most of the time when Eddie speaks, he is hardly audible. A fault from the technical department or Eddie and David just ignored this crucial thing?
The first half is quite boring with so much detective stuff going on and Ms. Goldstein trying to figure out Newt’s adventures. Addition of Kowalski was a good move by Rowling but Goldstein’s sister Mary Lou and all their chatter during the dinner was sleep inducing. I mean, get to the point where you can experience some magic and beasts. David Yates tests the patience in reaching to that point.
Image Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
The treatment to New York City was effective and dark, just like David has done in his previous Harry Potter works. It gave a sense of imminent danger throughout the film. The core moments when Newt and Kowalski enter the fantasy world through Newt’s suitcase are remarkable. These are the scenes I am talking about which make the film and these should have been shown for a greater amount of time. Beautiful and gigantic creatures, each with their peculiar characteristics and all the fun and dangers it can cause are visually fantastic. Light moments of Kowalski with his non-magical surprise to this fantasy world and his reactions to Newt were ticklish. The visuals of Obscurus and the city’s destruction were striking.
Being a visionary is an applaud-worthy thing but Rowling weakens the plot by adding multiple characters in the narrative. This film should have focused mainly on Newt and his adventures with the beasts. As a first film of the franchise, it must have been linear and simple. Extra care for Graves, Credence and Shaw took the film off the track and it doesn’t justify the title.
Eddie Redmayne has given some mind-blowing performances (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) but this is not one of his memorable ones. May be it was from the director or his own way of portraying the role but he looked dull as Newt. No eye contact with people naturally gives away the reason for audience to connect with him. Also, his mumbling goes on for a long time in the film so there are not many enjoyable and appreciable moments for his performance. I hope, this will change in next films of this series.
Katherine Waterston was charming and sweet. She needed to look dumb initially and then come off as an important part of the investigation and she delivers a good role. Dan Fogler owns the humor element of the movie with his confused, curious and humane approach. Colin Farrell carries such roles effectively where he has to hide a darker mystery inside him. He looked interesting and threatening.
Fantastic Beasts gives an average cinematic experience. Rowling and Yates goof up by treating it as an investigative storyline instead of making it a miraculous affair with magnificent creatures. The film is great in visuals and dark treatment but the plot is dull and the lead protagonist’s unlikable personality traits makes it a fragile premise.