Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

At the conclusion of Harry Potter, JK Rowling promised that this would be the end of Harry Potter. Fast forward a few years later, there is sequel (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and there is prequel (this Fantastic Beasts movie). After the initial great reviews, it is announced that Fantastic Beasts will be made into a series of 5 movies. Wow.. if I am not a Harry Potter fan, I surely think that this is just a money grab.

I read the wikia for the Cursed Child and it got me hooked for a few hours. JK Rowling surely has not lost her magic touch yet. That made me even more excited with the Fantastic Beasts movie which already got me excited since it was announced. I am so happy to see that its duration is quite long (133 minutes) and that is a good candidate to justify watching it at Gold Class. I am frustrated that the Gold Class are always almost full house since the release. I am planning to take time off tomorrow to specially watch this. But after seeing the magic popcorn combo at GV, I decided that I should just watch it today and get the magic wand while stock lasts.

Welcome back to the new world of Harry Potter :) The plot is actually pretty simple and can be summarised as such: Newt Scamander arrived in New York with a briefcase full of magical creatures. There has been weird incidences in New York City which cannot be explained human-ly and MACUSA (USA's equivalent to Ministry of Magic) is concerned this disturbances will expose the magical community to the No-Maj (USA's equivalent to Muggles). With certain creatures escaping from Newt's briefcase, it is convenient to blame all the disturbances to these creatures. So Newt has to find all the escaped creatures to proof his innocence and at the same time, the 'thing' that cause the disturbances finally decide to lose control at the same time. The 'thing' is revealed to be an obscurus and Newt decides to do something since a few months earlier he just encountered one in Sudan. At the end, everything is revealed to be Grindelwald's scheme to bring war between human and wizards in America.

With all the positive reviews since the release, I have pretty high expectations. With the story being loosely or distantly related to the Harry Potter series that I am familiar with, the plot is certainly interesting enough to be made into a movie. However, for the 2+hours duration, there is too much 'filler' on the parts of recapturing the escaped beasts. Despite being titled Fantastic Beasts, there is too little screentime to feature the beasts. The journey inside Newt's briefcase is like a visit to the zoo and you just see various creatures and that's it. You don't really catch their names or know anything much about them. The action and adventure part is also pretty weak. The fights are not that exciting and too much of the black cloud CGI. Bleah.. It is really a waste that we don't see any action from Queenie and Seraphina. Tina is supposed to be an Auror but we don't really see much from her.

Eddie Redmayne is great as a lot of his interactions are with CGI monsters. However, I find his accent quite difficult to catch at times. So apt for Queenie to say that it is not easy to read minds of people like him because of the British accent. Lol. I know Newt is supposed to be a shy person but I find it awkward when he speaks to someone but he is not looking into the person! Tina's persona on screen is also rather lacking while Queenie and Jacob's screen presence is so enjoyable.

I feel that there are certain parts which are glossed over in the movie. If magical community is supposed to keep themselves secret, why do our protagonists so easily involve Jacob Kowalski (who is a No-Maj) into the wizarding world? Even MACUSA's president seems to tolerate it and think that everything can be settled just by obliviation. What is Newt's actual purpose of going to New York?

With all the high expectations, I find this rather underwhelming. I will give it 3.5-4 stars at most: not enough magic and not enough fantastic beasts. Having said that, I still look forward to the continuation. I am pretty sure the Shaw family will somehow have some memory about all the magical events despite the obliviation and will play a role subsequently. I look forward to more action from Tina, Queenie, and Seraphina. Surprisingly, I am not really excited to see how this is going to tie up with the eventual Harry Potter timeline that we are familiar with. I guess that is a proof that JK Rowling does a great job in creating a whole new story that is relatively independent from the original Harry Potter.

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