2016/ UK, USA
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller
Words: R. Topham
Watching all two and a bit hours of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you start to wonder if JK Rowling has inadvertently created a wizarding version of the global phenomena which was Pokemon GO. Tensions are already high among the wizarding world when well-meaning but skittish Newt Scamander misplaces his suitcase full of – drumroll please – some pretty fantastic beasts. Chaos ensues and instead of chasing charmanders and squirtles, the main characters, simultaneously full of wonder and exhausted by their efforts, are trying to catch for the escapee titular beasts in prohibition-era New York, a city of ignorant muggles – or “no-majs”, as the Americans call them.
Newt is yet another perfectly introverted role for Eddie Redmayne, who fits the profile of the awkward, slightly unhinged outcast with such sickening ease, as Newt’s shape-shifting acumen is parallel only to Redmayne himself. The now infamous Erumpent mating dance alone has intensified the Redmay-nia. But the star performance really has to go to Ezra Miller and his downright disturbing portrayal of Credence, whose malicious witches brew brims with the angst of an adolescent Freddy Krueger, which makes me all the more excited for his debut as The Flash in next year’s Justice League.
I hasten to add how exhilarating it is to see two love stories unfold which defy the typical traits of Hollywood features. Newt and Tina don’t share a classic teary-eye, impassioned snog goodbye when Newt boards his plane back to England, because they’re both too shy to make the first move. That’s a romantic blunder most of us can actually identify with. Dan Fogler’s Jacob regards himself as just another average factory-working chap with a pot belly to show it, but Queenie loves and idolises his no-maj authenticity.
But alas, more often than not, it feels like the visual sorcery takes precedence over an enchanting narrative. It’s a much more jovial alternative to the Harry Potter films, and the story unfolds at a much quicker pace, but it’s substantially more predictable. Oh, nice guy Newt’s going to defend Credence even though he’s caused widespread damage and almost blew the cover off the wizarding world is he? Didn’t see that one coming. Obviously Johnny Depp’s cameo will be extended and explored in the next installment, (which is a damn shame because the film loses a lot of its erratic charm when he shows up) but it’s difficult to see how JK Rowling will fill another four movies with such full-bodied excitement as this, or any of the Harry Potter films for that matter.