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Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a wizard with a passion for magical creatures, and is on his way to the United States in an effort to secretly release a creature he captured in Egypt, and was a long way from its home in Arizona. Newt has also come to the U.S. to continue to write his book about magical creatures.  It’s 1926 and he gets into New York and immediately starts to cause trouble and attention as a creature or two from his magical suitcase has escaped, and it snowballs into more.  Scamander’s adventure takes him all around New York City and eventually he helps uncover an evil plot of Grindlewald’s, who’s has been terrorizing people across the world because of the suppression of magical folk.

Being completely straight, this movie is neither that great nor that bad.  If the goal is to see a film that captures the same magic as the main Harry Potter films then this movie fails at that goal.  This movie is indeed a fun watch and full of eye candy for the usual Potterhead but in truth it falls short in many ways.  All of the elements are in place for a good Potter-esque film; J.K. wrote it, David Yates directed, and Steve Kloves produced, but there were numerous odds stacked against them on this one.

The film opens (just after a short scene with a few aurors attacking a blonde man) with a whole bunch of magical newspaper pages flashing past the screen in an effort to set up the story about Grindlewald later…but they flash by so quickly it is hard to take it all in and makes the beginning feel like a whirlwind right away.  After that spiral the film calmly opens to New York City 1926 and the audience is introduced to Scamander as he makes his way past customs, and has to flick the switch of his suitcase so it isn’t suspicious.  In what seems to be British Sci-fi/fantasy tradition the suitcase is like many other items where it is much bigger on the inside, so that already feels a little cliché.  The introduction to Newt is rather weak as well as the audience is not given much to relate to or to learn besides that he is quiet and a little bit clever.  To be honest Eddie Redmayne may be a pretty face but he really is lacking in on -screen personality.  His characters feel rather dry and emotionless.  To date his best role was probably as the Danish Girl and that is only because he made a convincing looking woman.  Redmayne’s abilities are there, they just need to be worked on a bit and then he will begin to impress people.  The lack of personality from Redmayne’s performance made it harder to believe the character of Scamander, as the passion was truly lacking.  Any task that he faced in the film was easily overcome by the flick of a wand or use of another magical item.

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Along that same vein, the main antagonist of the film was a young wizard who had been suppressing his powers for a long time and thus creating a creature of pure evil magic known as an obscurus/obscurial.  Of course for some reason Newt Scamander was the only one who really knew anything about them because they were viewed as magical creatures and he even had one inside of his suitcase.  The story ends up being relatively predictable as a whole and with the lack of passionate acting from the protagonist it created a bit of an issue for the movie.  Moving on, there were very good elements to this film to outweigh some of the bad.  As a Potter fan there are a handful of Easter Eggs to find within the film and nods towards the future of the wizarding world, as this story takes place near 80 years before the events of Harry Potter.  Continuing on with that, there were a plethora of creatures in the movie and they looked great.  The issue with these creatures is that only one or two of them were ones that were seen or mentioned in other Harry Potter films, like the Nifflers.  That being said, it would have been great to have seen hippogriffs, owls, thestrals, blast-ended skrewts, hinkypunks, pixies, centaurs, unicorns, dragons, giant spiders, toads, boggarts, basilisks, mandrakes, another cerberus or numerous others from the main books and movies mixed into the folds of the creatures of this film, but they chose not to and that is a poor choice.  With a movie lacking so much in story and heavily dependent on visuals this would have been an advantage.  Again, the creatures were truly cool looking and the VFX for the film was a great point to it.  The movie truly was eye candy for a fan of the Potter world.  Besides the creatures, the audience is introduced to New York City in a magical way with seeing a NYC from 90 years ago made to look new and have a few places that were magic friendly, including seeing the MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the United States of America).

Please do take note that most of the other side characters were not mentioned in this review because they were relatively unnecessary.  Jacob Kowalksi (Fogler) was there as a muggle and comic relief, Mary Lou(Morton) was there to move the minimal story because she could read minds, and Tina (Waterston) was there as Scamander’s partner and very subtle love interest.  None of these characters were truly necessary but there is hope that they will be in one of the sequels.  Due to this film just being okay it is sad to inform readers out there that there will in fact be at least one sequel to this movie.  In various news threads on the internet it was stated there would actually be 5 films in total with the Fantastic Beasts line in them.  To recap, this movie was okay, but not necessary to see at all or in theaters.  Good for the Potter fan and probably just okay for any muggles.  Perhaps the sequels will end up strengthening this first film.  One thing can be said when viewing this film…stay to the end…there is one heck of a cameo.

 

Directed by: David Yates

Produced by: Steve Kloves

Written by: J.K. Rowling

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Dan Fogler, and Ezra Miller.

Distributed by: Warner Bros.

Released: Nov. 18th 2016

Run time: 133 mins

Rating: PG-13

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