Female Filmmakers · Film · Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Would that the title were more accurate. The only ‘Fantastic Beast’ to be found in the film is Colin Farrell. Because damn; there exists a theoretical point in time where that man starts becoming less handsome. Or a time when he goes for a look so stupid it ruins him forever. Like when Ethan Hawke had frosted tips for a while and it became impossible to look at him without seeing wacky frosted tips man. What I’m saying is, Colin Farrell is an incredibly attractive man (and to be fair, so is Ethan Hawke but man that look was whack.)

The rest of the film, you know, the frames unoccupied by that charisma machine, is a dreary, confusingly-paced slog. Which brings me no great pleasure, honestly. You read Harry Potter from the age of like six or something and you really hope for the best. Then a west-end play comes out and it’s impossible to care because, for real, theatre? What,? Why,? In whose mind is that a good idea? As an actor I gotta love theatre, its part of that Faustian bargain we make with casting directors. As a human, theatre (especially spectacle theatre) is a grand mistake.

So they announce a new film. And J.K. is writing the screenplay. And Yates is back in the director’s chair. It seems there’s hope for the franchise.

It’s a mess, a real mess. The plot nominally involves Eddie Redmayne, who bafflingly is still gainfully employed, as Newt Scamander, a wizard zoologist, who enters New York with a case of illegal beasties. He arrives at a time of high tensions as an invisible destructive force is rampaging through the city and threatening to unveil the magic community. Several of his creatures escape and he (with the help of his motley and mismatched crew) have to track them down.

I give that synopsis because that’s what the film tells us it’s about. That’s indeed where it spends most of its time. That’s about as interesting as the perfunctory description I gave. See the movie got thigs on its mind, and not a one of them involves any of the fuckers running about chasing the fantasy vole, or fantasy rhinoceros, or fantasy invisible monkey. Yeah, there’s a fantasy invisible monkey. You’d wish there wasn’t because that’s one of the last ones they get. I’d forgotten about it by that point because, well the film had as well, still important enough for them to spend five excruciating minutes faffing over the damn thing though.

The other half of the movie (the interesting half) involves the magical intrigue going on around New York. A wizard’s council, a fundamentalist family of witch hunters, there’s even an operational mystery going on (for a time when the screenplay gets its head around how to reveal its hand.) This means nothing though because its only sharing the reel so got no sense of pace cuz we keep going back to the A-plot.

Let’s get to the actors then. Redmayne remains an insufferable screen presence. His performance here is worse than even those he gives in Tom Hooper’s fucking films. Seriously, he’s out of control, someone should have reigned him in. Like, Tom Hooper got no idea what human is and even he achieves something better outta Little Price Edward then what we get here. Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol star as the team’s girls. It’s hard, they deserve so much better than that description and their performances even get charming occasionally but they get nothing (to be fair, Katherine Waterston has a little) but they get nothing. No character, no motivation no… Alison Sudol is literally just there to fall in love with Dan Fogler’s Kowalski. I believe it, she’s putting in some cool-ass work, but beyond that she is so underserved by the script that, eugh, enough.

Dan Fogler is a great presence as Kowalski. He’s comic relief, even more so than Ron comic relief and better than a thirteen year old Rupert Grint too. He’s like proper entertaining to watch and gotta be going big-time now. That’s my apologetics, this guy ain’t insufferable. Unfortunately because of the film’s bisected focus and the magical community’s purism he is sadly fated not to encounter any of the interesting happenings whatsoever.

God there’s too much of this blown out, overlit shit to talk about. Yates clearly has no proper knowledge of New York, nor period. Who cares, because it’s magic? Well, the design dept apparently, it’s all so goddamn dreary. Young wizards in jeans is relatable. We back in the midwar, people. New York is shitty, everyone is poor and three piece suits are the height of fashion. Gross, gross, gross. Liven it up a bit. There is one sequence that manages to be visually interesting wherein Newt takes Kowalski on a tour of his magical case. But the scene is too slow and too long and stuffed to the brim with exposition as two characters have to explain literally everything that will be of importance in the climax. It’s frustrating to watch.

I’m not going to spoil the ending here, more because I want to save myself the three paragraphs it would take to get through it all. Imma leave it here: These films will be our generation’s prequel trilogy. Get to hating them before it’s cool.

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