Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Country: UK, USA
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Family
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Music: James Newton Howard
Cinematography: Philippe Rousselot
J. K. Rowling’s magic realm reopens with this first installment of a 5-picture deal, directed by wizardry old-hand David Yates, adjusts the time back to 1926, New York City and introduces us a new protagonist, the 29-year-old Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a self-consciously introvert wizard, carries a suitcase which contains all the heterogeneous beasts he has captured all around the world, although, some naughty ones constantly sneak out into the world of No-Maj (a precursor term of Muggle), and unleash some considerable commotions, notably the cutesy Niffler, a relentless, reckless and ravenous treasure-hunter.
Newt’s pursing action in a bank catches the attention of Tina, a delegated former Auror employed by the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), also causes his suitcase unintentionally swapped with the one belongs to Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), a portly No-Maj who fails to get a loan to open his pastry shop. The triad soon will be joined by Tina’s mind-reading sister Queenie (Sudol, aka. the musician A Fine Frenzy), woozily inveigles herself into a tabooed romance with a No-Maj, but, it is the Jacob-Newt pair gets the full treatment of a constellations of awesome beast-hunting exploits.
Meanwhile, a mysteriously destructive dark force, later identified as Obscurus, wreaks havoc in the city, killed a bigot Senator, Percival Graves (Farrell), the head of Magical Security of MACUSA, yokes the advent of Obscurus to Newt’s arrival (indeed there is a dormant Obscurus captured by Newt inside his suitcase), but on the sly, Graves also coerces a young Credence Barebone (Miller) to locate the human host of the amorphous Obscurus with his own ulterior motive, on the grounds of a quid pro quo to extricate Credence from his abusive stepmother Mary Lou (Morton), a No-Maj extremist against witchcraft. In the process, Newt and his friends must save themselves from the persecution from MACUSA and during the climax, when a rampant Obscurus threats to expose the witchery universe to the whole world, it falls on Newt and his fantastic animals’ shoulders to do the reparation job, a finale sounds like boilerplate on paper, but in fact, emanates a feeling of cleansing solace owing to its visual and aural grandeur.
First time takes on the sole credit for the script, Rowling timely orchestrates a storyline simmering with a cauldron of repressed torment from an anomaly, whilst adheres to the family-friendly, mass-appealing tenet, punctuated with a kaleidoscope of SFX creatures to lure any goggle-eyed audience. Among the core triad, Redmayne walks us through the journey with his unaffected self-effacement, Waterston engages us with a competently innocuous impression in the traditional heroine mode and Fogler makes for a sufficient comic foil tailing around as a proxy of us Muggle onlookers. A key revelation may suggest Farrel’s future involvement with the franchise would be blunted, after being supplanted by an even more named star, however for my money, Miller upstages others to demonstrate his versatility, he can go very dark if necessary, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN-style.
By and large, the film sets a solid first step to usher the large demography of Harry Potter fans to a similar milieu after a 15-year stretch (bar those have become too skeptical to take the story seriously) and establishes Newt in a grown-up Harry image as our sympathetic guide, hopefully, peddles new audience at the same time even if the whole enterprise feels like being constructed by rote and commonality, that is what masscult for, isn’t it?
p.s.: The 3D format I watched is rather murky and blurry, which as usual, is poles apart from its pristinely clear quality from its trailer, always a disheartening factor to put potential viewers off from cinema-going, since Blu-Ray DVDs are only several months away, 3D, once an eye-catching pull, now has legitimately become a thorn in our flesh in its stalled technological progress.