Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Based on a fictional wizard textbook of the same name mentioned in the Harry Porter franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a spinoff-prequel that centres around its future author, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a wizard from Hogwarts, who travels to New York with his briefcase full of strange, naughty creatures that can't help but to escape and cause trouble wherever he goes. Little does he know that New York is currently having a mysterious disaster that might cause wizards' existence to be exposed to the No-Maj's (Americans with no magic). Unfamiliar with the magic laws in New York, he is arrested by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a former Auror who's just been fired by the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA).
Not a fan of the Harry Porter film series nor have I read any of its book, and certain references from its mythology did make me scratch my head a few times, but what a thoroughly entertaining spinoff this is. I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them more than any single Harry Porter instalment I've seen (I only skipped one of them anyway). It does feel lacking of the mass scale of the world of the original source. The school fun and drama of Hogwarts are missed a little. But it's definitely more refreshing than the typical "chosen one", "boy wonder" formula that the original series took upon. Even as a standalone, it mostly works for both fans and non-fans of the original franchise.
Directed by David Yates (The Legend of Tarzan), the man who did the last four Harry Porter films, the pacing is a little too quick for proper character and relationship development. The characters are annoying at first before a bit of their backstories and depth are later revealed. I absolutely did not find the characters' friendship and romance convincing. However, everything else is, well, fantastic — the fun action, effective thrills, decent humour and thankfully, the tone is neither too kiddish nor dark (although people do die in this). The production is pretty good as well — the epic and tear-jerking music by James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight, The Sixth Sense), the amazing magical visual effects, and even the adorable video game-quality CG creatures (or "beasts", rather) are believable.
Screenwritten and co-produced by the creator and author of Harry Porter herself, J.K. Rowling (in her screenwriting debut), the story is tight and the main characters are fun and charming, performed well by the cast. Colin Farrell (as Percival Graves) and Ezra Miller (as Credence Barebone) acted well too but they weren't given enough screentime to do more. I also liked the subtle satires on authorities and cult. The protagonist makes creatures-catching way more meaningful than in Pokemon as well. I look forward to the four sequels that are planned and I do hope both Yates and Rowling would stay on for all of it. This strong first instalment of the franchise's new journey makes me care for it more than I ever did for Harry Porter's sequels.
Malaysian censorship: I'd be surprise if anything was needed to be cut.
Verdict: Perhaps the best spinoff (of a big franchise) in recent years. This is how you should do it, cash-grabbers!
Rating: 4 / 5
Based on: J.K. Rowling's "Harry Porter" novel and film series
Running Time: 133 minutes
Director: David Yates
Screenwriter: J.K. Rowling
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman
Malaysia release date: 17 November 2016
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Heyday Films
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