Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Is it Fantastic?

I find myself finally catching up with all of the writing and film reviews that should have been completed last month; perhaps it is the cold weather? Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them is a new way for Warner Brothers' studio to keep the Harry Potter franchise relevant to keep bringing in the cash, of which it was rather successful. It was a fairly entertaining film with a lot of magic, so perfect for families and younger audiences, and tolerable for those who are older. It was okay, but honestly it came off rather weak for me. Ironically it suffered from a similar problem, in my opinion, that Rogue One suffered from. I think there is something that big "blockbuster" filmmakers are forgetting, and that is it was simplicity and small/focus that made a lot of blockbuster films very successful and enduring (Alien, Star Wars, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Terminator, and The Fellowship of the Ring).
So the story of this film is basically this wizard, Newt Scamander, is traveling through New York City to deliver a specific animal to Arizona when the several of the creatures in his suitcase menagerie get loose and he has to round them up. Add to that a side story of anti-magic sentiment in the US (probably mirroring something akin to racism that was actually happening; J.K. Rowling is losing her subtlety regarding how she conveys her themes, messages and topics. This film was rather preachy), with some sort of "creature" running around killing people and causing a wreck of the city. Voila! Eddie Redmayne as always was perfect; the man can act like no other, and he brought to life Newt Scamander in a heartwarming and charming manner, but also brought humor to the role as well. Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski was a muggle or "nomage" (how they describe a non-magic person in America apparently) and he was also charming and funny, but his character came off as more of a prop used by Newt and his magical associates than being able to stand on his own as a unique purposeful character. Katherine Waterston who played Tina and was the other lead to the film came off as wooden, boring, preachy, and had extraordinarily poor chemistry with Mr. Redmayne. Perhaps it was her character, perhaps it was the writing, or perhaps she just delivered a fairly bad performance; all are equally possible, and quite possibly all are probable. Alison Sudol who played her sister, Queenie, suffered from the same problem, although I'm not even certain what the point of her character was except that she romantically falls for Mr. Kowalski. Those four are the main actors on screen. Colin Farrell plays a small but significant role as Mr. Graves, who is some big shot at the local ministry of magical law enforcement and does fine, boring character but it works out in the end. Jon Voight has a small role as a media mogul and is atypical of that time period. Ron Perlman has a small role as a goblin gangster, which was odd seeing a goblin speak with a Brooklyn accent and smoking a cigar, and I'm still not certain if it worked. And then Johnny Depp had a brief appearance as Gellert Grindelwald, of which he will return in the series and I'm assuming Dumbledore will also appear at some point. What was missing from this film which was present in all of the original Harry Potter films was the stellar British acting talent, but I guess you can't have everything.
David Yates directed the film, and he directed Harry Potter films: 5, 6, 7 pt.1, & 7 pt.2. From what I hear he's going to direct all remaining four Fantastic Beasts films, but we'll see how that goes even though he is off to a successful start (at least fiscally). I think they needed someone fresh to the world to give it a new feel and look, like Guillermo del Toro, or bring back Alfonso Cuaron, but they've stuck with him for some odd reason. J.K. Rowling should stick to writing books, and leave screenplays alone; it wasn't an atrocious screenplay, but it wasn't nearly as good as any of the previous Harry Potter franchise films. James Newton Howard composed the music, and it wasn't half bad, but it doesn't compare to the work John Williams did with The Sorcerer's Stone or Prisoner of Azkaban, or what Patrick Doyle did with The Goblet of Fire, or what Nicholas Hooper did with The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. If anything he's on par, perhaps even better with what Alexandre Desplat did on The Deathly Hallows 1 & 2. I wasn't impressed with the cinematography or costume design at all really. The action sequences were negligible also, so the technical elements of the film weren't even that impressive. Aside from Eddie Redmayne, his cast of magical creatures were perhaps the best parts of the film; they were empathetic, funny, dark, and quite complex for CGI.
I felt the film was essentially flat; not really that good, and not really that bad. It was entertaining enough, but suffered from a slight problem of having too much going on all at once. The story should have been more focused on Newt and his newfound friends, but then the film would follow this other story line of a tortured boy and his family preaching the evils of magic. Also, unlike in Harry Potter where audiences were slowly shown how cool magic can be to being dazzled by the end of series, right off the start in this film people are bombarded by magic, so it quickly looses its "coolness" factor and becomes commonplace unfortunately. So Warner Brothers Studio threw money at David Yates and the production and they went all out and I think that is what nailed them, in my opinion. If you think back to the original Harry Potter film, it was far more simpler than this film, and I think that made it much more enjoyable. I will probably watch it again and all of the future films, and I'm sure they'll all be entertaining. I doubt however if any of them will possess that magical sparkle that fired an entire generation's imagination with the original Harry Potter franchise.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trailer

 Fantastic Beasts Cast Interviews

Voltron Legendary Defender season 2 trailer

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