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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them [2016]: J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world returns in a brand new story set in 1920’s New York where magical zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) finds himself wrapped up in a desperate adventure to recapture his escaped creatures and evade the suspicion of an ongoing wizard investigation.

Pass the Camera: From the haphazardly abrupt opening scene to the underwhelming and awkward final shot, Fantastic Beasts replaces the wonderful cinematic splendor of the Harry Potter series and replaces it with lazy editing, mumbling clumsy dialogue, and unmemorable characters. David Yates, director of the previous four Potter films, returned for Fantastic Beasts along with Rowling helming her first full-feature screenplay. Although both have shown great talent in their field, Yates and Rowling have failed to hit their mark in their new collaboration. Yates has removed his ability to capture drama and emotion and has chosen to focus on the poorer elements of his Potter installments namely jump cuts in editing, poor shot composition, and discontinuity. Magically locked doors are kicked down, scenes move along without ease, and blocking feels unrehearsed with characters stuck in a scene feeling as if there's nothing for them to do or say.

Does Maturity Lead to Boredom?: Rowling’s books and the adaptations are well known for their eccentric dialogue and imaginative characters; the adults, in particular, possessing captivatingly mysterious back stories. Now with the solely adult protagonists in this new installment, one could expect a more expanded or mature story, but instead, Rowling’s writing stumbles into movie format. Newt Scamander (Redmayne), despite being a wizard whose life is dedicated to studying magical creatures, is rather unremarkable with his sense of enthusiasm and eccentric wonder being replaced by shy apprehension and bland ambiguity. He’s joined by auror (wizard investigator) Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) who, despite her impressive job title, lacks any quality of bravery, cunning, or intuition one would expect from an auror. Scamander is also joined by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an insufferably uninteresting muggle who could be the 1920’s equivalent of Kevin James in The Zookeeper. All of who leave little to impression upon the engagement of the story or upon one’s memory.
 
You’re Gonna Need a Better Adjective: When the movie finally reveals the titular fantastic beasts we're presented with creatures that, although intriguing when given the screen time, are very reminiscent of real world animals such as a rhino, sloth, and a platypus. What’s expected to be a thrilling adventure with a vital objective to recapture these beasts turns out to be an underwhelming wild goose chase reminiscent of a Scooby-Doo routine. The lack of wonderment and unexpected variety in the creatures only adds to the ultimate problem in the film and that is the overwhelming feeling that the creators are embarrassed by magic.

Where’d The Magic Go?: It’s dumbfounding that a movie set in the magical universe of Harry Potter could be so disappointingly uninteresting. Maybe Warner Bros wants to deemphasize the "childish" concept of magic or maybe the prolific Rowling is growing tired of her own world (though that’s highly doubtful). Overall, the movie is shamefully lacking the magically infused atmosphere that made her books and movie adaptations beloved and far more successful than other movie-to-book adaptations. Movies such as Inkheart, Mortal Instruments, and even Twilight possessed magical or supernatural elements, but fell flat in inspiring audiences or engrossing you in a brand new world by being too closely knitted to reality. Fantastic Beasts sadly falls into this category by grounding us in unappealing colorless 1920's New York where the American wizarding society focuses on staying as hidden as possible. Though their choice makes sense, it leaves you desperately homesick for the briefly mentioned school of Hogwarts.

Four More Tries: Although it isn't an overall bad movie, Fantastic Beasts certainly leaves a lot to be desired in the elements that matter the most. Muggle protagonists should reflect our own fascination, not befuddled awkwardness. Magic should be ever present and tangible enough to touch those who watch it on screen. Screenwriting and direction should possess just as much creativity and effort as the source material. Guillermo Del Toro or even Chris Columbus (director of the first two Potter films) could add considerable cinematic life to this new series. On a positive note, the two redeeming locations audiences will feel most at home and intrigued by are the hidden menagerie inside Newt's briefcase and the depressing orphanage of witch-hating propagandists simply because of their captivating possibilities. Seeing witchcraft paranoia in a “modern” setting with uncomfortable overtones is morbidly refreshing for the series. Here’s to hoping for the same captivation and endless possibilities in the four sequels to come…

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an underwhelming return to a world of magic that was once found amongst the castles of Europe but is now left on a grey curb in New York.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
2.0Overall Score
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