The fertile mind and imagination of J.K. Rowling has produced seven books that have translated eight movies. An entire universe of magic and intrigue. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling's very first screenwriting venture, takes place decades prior to the events in the Harry Potter novels, in New York City.
The year is 1926, and director David Yates and production designer Stuart Craig give us beautifully, brightly lit city scapes and soaring skyscrapers. There were many more scenes that lent themselves to the better usage of light and colors, opposed to the dark corridors and chambers of prior Harry Potter cinematic offerings.
One of the very first things that made itself apparent in this film was the beautiful colors and textures, not only of the Fantastic Beasts, but on the storefronts, in the wardrobes, and overall textures of the people of old New York City.
Here's the run down: Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a self-described Magizoologist. He has come to America to research and rescue magical creatures. Many are hidden within his briefcase, which acts as a pocket dimension inside which he stores his creatures.
From the very beginning of the film, it was apparent that Scamander was a bit of a screw up with an ongoing problem with keeping his creatures under wraps.
A great deal of the movie is spent in whimsical pursuit of the fantastic beasts from which the film draws its name. Also, the Scamander character did strike me as a bit cliche. Red hair, British teeth, scarf, trench coat, time-space altering briefcase. Sight unseen, the prior words could have easily been used to describe Dr. Who. Within hours of arriving in New York, Scamander has accidentally switched briefcases with what Potter and the gang would call a muggle, but what's known as a no-maj on this side of the pond. His name is Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler.
Katherine Waterston plays Tina, an employee at sort of a wizards version of the C.I.A. It is imagined by Craig and Yates as being very steampunk. While Scamander, Kowalski and Tina pursue these magical beasts across the city, an even bigger danger is brewing within an abused child somewhere in the city. Called an obscura, this cyclone of destructive energy cannot be contained for long, normally.
Actress Carmen Ejogo played the role of Seraphina Picquery, president of this police agency for wizardry. But that was about it as far as multiple speaking roles for black folks in this film.
Normally, I would give you guys some idea of the the movie's main villain, but I won't this time. There are several plot twists I'll defend.
Our protagonists soon discover that these are not ordinary circumstances. As previously mentioned, the overall color palette of the film is much brighter than all of the Harry Potter films. Additionally, the fantastic beasts were marvelously illustrated and articulated.
From the miniature bowtruckle to the majestic thunderbird, every minute detail of these creations was made life-like and with no detail left out. I also felt Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was nowhere near as dark as some other fantasy filmworks.
Yes, there are some deaths, but everything being relative, those were few. Now, whenever I review a piece, I can only approach it from a worldview that is native. When it comes to the house elves, how they're portrayed in the film and the occupations they had, I could not help but see them as a disenfranchised group. I know, I know it's only a fantasy movie. There are no real disenfranchised elves to worry about. But, man, seeing one elf as a wand shiner, another as a bartender, another was a lounge singer, and yet another was a backstabbing lowlife.
I don't know, man.
Maybe the recent American racial-political unrest has got me seeing racism phantoms everywhere, and maybe not. All in all, I feel like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which also stars Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton, is a creative and beautiful, if not somewhat crowded, work of art.
Definitely worth the price of admission to see everything play out on the big screen.