Darke Reviews | Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)


As you, my regular readers, know I never read the books for the movies I watch. Well almost never, sometimes after I may but that is extraordinarily rare. The same rule applies to even things like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and yes Harry Potter. While the other 6th graders in middle school were reading The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, I was reading Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew. When they were reading The Hobbit, I was on The Stand and Clive Barkers Cabal. This says a lot of my preferences and possibly how my brain works. I earned my nickname in school (thank you Darrin ) for many a reason, reading material was a part of it. The point of this is that my only attachment to the Potter-verse is the films and some well written fan fic.

In the interests of full disclosure when this trailer dropped, I was unimpressed. Nothing about it made me want to see it. It was unfamiliar, but didn’t seem to provide me the sense of wonder and awe that many of the Potter movies did.

So…did it impress me?

Well, let’s tackle the writing shall we? J.K. Rowling herself has the sole credit. No one can say this is beyond the authors intent here.  She brings us what would amount to her own fan fic or head canon, expanding on a bit character mentioned in passing. It’s absolutely correct for her to do so. Any writer will tell you that some characters stick with you, they are a line in passing when you write them but they won’t let you go. I believe she said as much of Newt Scamander. She believed his story needed to be told. Now I can’t be certain if that story wasn’t asked of her by the studio and her publisher as well, but she wanted it too and here we are.

I think though, that she needed an editor on this script. Another one anyway. It’s kinda a mess. The tonal shifts are mind boggling, the story is both convoluted and so painfully simplistic and obvious simultaneously without being particularly good at either. Nothing came as a surprise and to me there, but for a few moments was missing the wonder and joy that Potter brought. A movie about fantastic creatures should truly make them fantastic. I should want my Falcor or Artax, but I am left wanting here. Wanting something not quite delivered on save a brief few seconds and barest moments of reveal. The rest is shot in such a way that you don’t get to really take it in and appreciate it, or are distracted by it rather than being allowed to focus.

That of course goes to the fault of director David Yates, this years mediocre to failing Tarzan and the last few Harry Potter films. After this film and Tarzan I think I was generous with him on that review. While he managed to direct the hell out of beats that were successful, he also – now  – is clearly responsible for the ones that weren’t. He is responsible for the washed out palette I vetched about in my last review as well. The moments of colour are too few and far between. That’s his call and I think it was a wrong one. Muted colours and muted emotions; yet he did manage to pull some things in the film off successfully. That may have to go to the actors though.

Eddie Redmayne remains a mystery to me. I can’t tell if I like him or not. I still need to see The Danish Girl, he was ok as Marius in Les Miserables, but then there is his performance in Jupiter Ascending. I just don’t know what to make of him. Knowing the other tones he can and has done, I would say he does rather well here however showing someone who cares more about his Beasts than anything else around him to a certain point. He is just likeable enough and when you see him interact with the creatures it shines; which is impressive since none of it was there. Katherine Waterston (Boardwalk Empire, Inherent Vice) acts her part well enough but has zero chemistry with Redmayne romantic or otherwise. Our future Flash, Ezra Miller, channels his inner Kylo Ren for this. He’s ok.

Two people however stand out. Alison Sudol (Between Us, Dig, Transparent) as Queenie Goldstein is just the perfect blend of manic pixie dream girl, charming, and sweet to make her a positively endearing and memorable character. This is especially evident as she plays against Dan Fogler (Fan Boys) as Jake Kowalski. While I was annoyed at his intro, I blame the entire movie for that as the set up to the plot was clumsy as a newborn deer, he turned out to be my favourite character in the film. Eddie’s performance as Newt may be the face, but Fogler is the heart. He was everything I needed and once I warmed up to him I was invested in HIS outcome. The movie itself? Not so much because I knew the beats before they happened. Just not his. So he was the only real investment I had in the movie and if I have to have some  – I am ok with it being him.

From a technical standpoint. It’s just as messy as the plot and story architecture.  The acts themselves are mediocre, but the bridges between them tend to shine. The same can be said of the effects which are somehow, yet again, less than a movie from five years ago. There was too much CG, too much colour wash, too much warping. Just too much and too fake to care. There were some good shots, but not enough. There were some beautiful pan and zooms, but not enough against the whole. It was both dull and overly produced at the same time.

TL;DR

The last sentence there really encapsulates the movie. Both dull and over produced. The movie is a mess but it has a heart. The dichotomy of this production is so fascinating I don’t know what else to say. It is deeply flawed and feels as rushed as a Formula 1 driver on the track, but there’s something to it. That said, if you were to compared this to another series, film and book, this is The Hobbit to the Potter films Lord of the Rings. It is both a prequel and has some particularly odd beats that might appeal to children…or something.

It is clear it’s the same universe, but the tone is so dramatically different. The movie itself can’t keep it’s own tonal consistency to the point I really did stop caring and just wanted to see how they’d tie the bow at the end.

Should you see it?

I have been weighing this answer the entirety of the 30 minute drive home.

The entirety of writing this review.

I am not sure if it is me or what, but the movie is clunky but still has heart. I would NOT pay full price, Matinee at best.

But I think people *should* probably see it…I guess?

Will you see it again?

cheap seats or if someone else buys my ticket – maybe. I’d rather save the money for Moana.

Will you buy it?

eh….the magic 8 ball says Not Certain. Ask again later.

About Moana….

I am on media blackout for it until next week. I will be seeing it. I will fight anyone who tries to stop me or spoil it. I want to see this. I want it to be good. Yes I may like it more than Frozen, but not more than Elsa and Let it Go.

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