Saturday, May 27, 2017

MOVIE REVIEW: Fantastics Beasts and Where to Find Them

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We watched Fantastic Beasts recently and while it was full of strong performances, took the Potter world into a darker, different direction, I felt as if the narrative lost its direction and veered into something more epic than I really wanted. Now, that’s said from a guy that loves epic fantasy, that writes epic fantasy, that pushed on reading through 14, 900+ page novels of the Wheel of Time, despite 100’s of pages where nothing happened of note. The simple reason I say this is because the derailing change in tone for Fantastic Beasts wasn’t needed.

*MINOR SPOILER ALERT* — Though really, it's pretty obvious in the movie.

Newt’s story of visiting New York, losing some of his animals and having to find them, felt a lot more interesting to me than the eventual Grindelwald reveal with his desires to out wizard society and stop hiding behind the scenes; bringing about the eventual no-maj and wizard war that would result. While I wanted to see all of those underhanded dealings, and Farrell’s character was a beautiful mix of conflicted power and passion, I was annoyed as the retrieval of the beasts took a back seat.

One of the brilliant parts of Harry Potter is it started small. Yes, it was evident that Potter was akin to a chosen one, but for the most part it seemed that his time in the spotlight had already come and passed. His celebration was for what he had done, not for what he would do. Fantastic Beasts misses that beat for me, by trying to start too big right out of the gate. I loved the budding relationship with the baker, as Newt's strangely willing sidekick, and while we got some vignette scenes of them in the suitcase displaying Newt’s passion for the odd and magical, the release and recapture of the beasts was thoroughly trumped by building Story B.

I’m not Rowling, but my inner writer was screaming to want to rewrite the script and push Story B into hints and foreshadowing that could lay the path to explode prominently on the scene in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts. There was enough drama and fun to let the retrieval of the beasts stand on its own as THE story.

I also have to say the climactic conclusion was just a back and forth mess where direction was lacking and it seemed the characters weren't even sure what they were supposed to be doing. Eventually it came together, and yes: it was big, it was tense, but the excitement and edge of your seat anticipation just felt forced.

Nevertheless, it was a solid movie, stronger than some of the Potter movies, even if it missed some of the pacing of the Harry Potter books.

As a fan of the Potterverse, one of the most exciting parts of the movie was imagining what may come with Rowling (maybe) delving into other side stories and building the world still greater and larger. Potter's story may be done, but there is so much more to tell.

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