Eddie Redmayne is a British “magizoologist?” and writer whom is on a trip to the U.S.A. with a suitcase full of beasties. However old Eddie manages to swap suitcases with “nomaj” (muggle) Dan Fogler a couple of said beasties escape and start to wreak havoc upon 1920’s New York. Together with ex-“auora?” Katherine Waterston they must recapture these beasties before Colin Farrell’s sinister magidetective gets a hold of them.
Fantastic Beasts is a troubled movie. It does definitely have strong points that are worth going to see, but it also has large faults that I found off-putting. It does seem to be a film that was made purely because of money and not because of any particular story. Thus the film isn’t entirely sure what to do with itself. Sometimes it opts to be genuinely dark and interesting, and sometimes it just wants to be a fun magical adventure for all the family. Themes of child-abuse are juxtaposed with Eddie Redmayne dancing in front of a big hippo thing. For these shifts in tone to work you’d need a truly expert screenwriter and J.K. Rowling isn’t that. In her defence she does make a decent fist of her first ever screenplay but it’s not good enough to stop the movie from feeling overlong and muddled.
The special effects work is generally very decent, aside from one anomalously dreadful floating pastry, although for me the movie lacked a certain sense of physicality. The creature designs though are all rather well done. The performances too are generally very good, although I have to say Redmayne never quite worked for me as the leading man. Katherine Waterston does a solid job with an unevenly written character but really Dan Fogler is allowed to steal the film for large portions. He is the sole comic relief and he is very good at it, though a muggle being the take away performance from a magic film is possibly not the greatest accolade. Elsewhere Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell appear to be acting in a different movie, and arguably a better movie at that. Ezra Miller is fast emerging as one of the greatest acting talents of this generation. He is never the same in any two movies and is always the most interesting person on screen. If anyone is going to save the mess that is the DCU its Ezra Miller.
Overall though Fantastic Beasts didn’t quite work for me. There were individual performances and scenes I enjoyed and found interesting but it just doesn’t quite hold together as an entire movie. And that’s without mentioning the diversity issue, which when you set your film in Harlem and have one speaking POC role is a serious issue.