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Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler
Length: 2hr 13m
Surely the combination of JK Rowling's turbulent imagination, one hundred and eighty million US dollars and the nostalgia of 1920's New York would fuse to create something... fantastic?
This was what I envisioned for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the all new, all exciting Harry Potter sequel that was supposed to crawl, fly, and slither into our screens.
As a devoted fan of Harry Potter, my childhood cinematic experiences had been spoilt with the arid sarcasm of Alan Rickman, the warmth and heartiness of Robbie Coltrane, and of course the binder of Rowling's magical kingdom - Daniel Radcliffe, the adorably humble and brave protagonist.
The cast of Fantastic Beats was a group of up-and-coming actors, who although talented in their own right worked with stagnancy and awkwardness as a group, as if forced together in a school drama lesson. The baby-faced Eddie Redmayne was quiet and un-dynamic and gave an embarrassing performance as zoologist Newt Scamander. His over emphasised adorable fumbling, battered brief case, and huge overcoat all made for a slightly sickening combination, while his lack of enthusiasm created a real disconnection with the beasts I had grown up with in my 2001 Comic Relief textbook. I was not overly entertained by the frustrating chase game with the Niffler. It was unconvincing, like watching a dog chase its tail.
While the main aim of Newt's New York mission was to free the Thunderbird, this was severely underwhelmed by his dweebly taming and disconnection with this huge creature. There was undoubtedly cruelty in the scene where the stick legged Redmayne imitates the huge rhino-like Erumpent. With guilty laughter, I struggled to understand why this colossal beast slides into Redmayne's briefcase while the slightly over-weight human Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), has five minute episode of struggle to finally fit inside.
Surely a zoologist needs to be a character of zest, passion, and humour? While Redmayne delivered a tear-jerking performance of Richard Hawking in The Theory of Everything, in this fantasy his acting abilities did not shine through half as much
This brings be onto the extremely oppositional female characters of the film: Porpentina (Katerine Waterston) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Loren Sudol). While Porpentina was the explicitly androgynous, trouser-wearing and at times, sour career woman, her sister Queenie was the Monroe imitating, promiscuously dressed, dumb blonde stereotype which I thought was a character of the past. Shamefully, the addition of these outdated gender conventions that the two female characters were assigned was distasteful of Yates, who I hoped would present women in a more egalitarian 21st century light.
Moreover, the cluttered and fragmented story line was given some quite disturbing undertones, which although were interesting, did not seem fitting with the rest of the plot. The subplot of a character's satanic mother abusing him with a belt added a new dimension to the film. However, as the rest of the film was fairly light and child friendly, such a macabre happening felt out of place in this fantasy of mystical creatures and Eddie Redmayne - and therefore was an unsuccessful element of the plot. The death chamber scene was also a part of the film I found shocking. The clinical white room and domestic looking chair of death was original but dystopic, while it ticked boxes for the creepy factor I am not quite sure where its pace was in a wizarding fantasy set in the jazz age.
Overall my biggest issue with this film was how unconvincing it was. Harry Potter's Ministry of Magic was never a one-roomed whimsical muggle realm. The set here was shambolic and did not capture the true essence of 1920's New York as John Crowley's Brooklyn did in 2015. I was completely bewildered by the character of Jacob, the non-magical baker who latched onto Newt for the films entirety. Worst of all, the characters failed in animating the magic of JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book.