David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) starring Eddie Redmayne, Catherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Ferrell, and Ezra Miller is another highly anticipated film for this year-end moving-going season. This film has already been so well covered by journalists and other movie reviewers that I really don’t have much else to add except my own personal thoughts on it. So this post is just going to be a very simple list of things I liked about the film
- Key characters being used as foils for each other: I liked the contrast between Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as a Beastmaster type character and Joe Kowalski’s (Dan Fogler) canning factory worker suffocating under the increased mechanisation of the industry, people and society. The bank representative’s complete failure to show empathy for Kowalski’s suit for a bank loan to start his own bakery becomes a direct foil for Scamander’s uncanny ability to communicate with and understand exotic and dangerous magical animals.
- Scamander’s menagerie of magical beasts felt to me like real characters and should not be dismissed as just a showy use of CGI. The sneaky platypus-looking Niffler was absolutely adorable! (I totally want a plushie now…) Just because this is a non-verbal character does not mean that it lacks value. The personality/character-driven CGI animation of the character means that someone had to sit down and compose that lovely shot of the Niffler chilling in the busted open bank vault, half buried in diamonds and wads of cash; and someone had to storyboard and draw up that slow-motion shot of the Niffler’s forlorn expression as he gets accio-ed past the jewellery shop.
- Even more about the CGI, I personally found the violent expansion and contraction and frenetic movement of the obscurial over the streets of New York apt and reflective of the character’s struggle – both his/her desperate attempt to keep the magic suppressed for fear of discovery, and subsequent total loss of control. It felt as though the breadth and scope of the character’s anguish and inner turmoil which had been suppressed for so long suddenly found expression in this amorphous ball of swirling black smoke.
- I also think the film did a good job in keeping the audience guessing just who the obscurial is.
- I agree with what the reviewers have been saying about how this film is darker. I really appreciated the film’s creepy treatment of execution. The depiction of an innocent/wrongly accused man or woman being emotionally manipulated into walking to their deaths without putting up any kind of fight, is a frightening and unsettling one. The incongruity between the kindly expression on their executioners’ faces and the act they are about to commit is also kinda chilling.
- I appreciate that this is NOT an adaptation. There is no novel to follow, to cramp the film’s style. There are no preset notes/scenes the film is expected to hit or recreate to please fans. And this lack of encumbrance makes itself known in a more coherent plot that is much better paced than any of the previous Harry Potter films, that rests on scenes that add meaningful density to the text. Unlike in the previous films in the franchise where CGI fests came across as mere fanservice, the worlds we are treated to inside Scamander’s case are breathtakingly detailed, with its creatures lovingly rendered in CGI brush and paint. The rousing score and the interaction between live-actors and CGI creatures speaks volumes and adds to the filmic experience.
- Finally, I sort of like what I’ve seen of Grindelwald as a villain so far because he reminds me of Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto from X-Men: First Class (2011). He looks like a more sympathetic villain but there are a few disturbing slips that the character makes in the film that make me doubt how sympathetic they’ll make him in future films in this new franchise. If we end up with another half-crazed, unreasoning megalomaniac like Voldemort I’m going to be so disappointed.