Millions of Harry Potter fans are clamoring to return to the magical world or wizards and monsters. They have high hopes for this new film series. Unfortunately, and it brings no joy to announce this, the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," opening Nov 18, is an absolutely shameful disappointment and a black eye to the franchise. Does "Fantastic Beasts" exist in the same Harry Potter universe? Yes. Does it contain even a part of the same spirit, sense of wonderment, or fun? Not even close.
The real culprit here is that this project may have been doomed from the start. It's based on the 2001 book of the same name, by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, which itself is based on a book that Harry Potter himself has with him in the first film...it's required text at Hogwarts. Rowling's book is more of a compendium and doesn't include a plot or even much structure, it just chronicles several magical creatures that exist in the world. It also includes what is meant to be hand-written notations from Harry Potter himself, as if this was his textbook. Now, how exactly does this work as a movie? Exactly.
Adapted to the screen by J.K Rowling herself, and under the direction of Harry Potter guru David Yates (who directed four of the previous Potter films), Rowling astonishingly seems to miss the very essence of what made the Harry Potter movies popular and successful. They opt for a movie filled with several uninteresting magical CG creatures, none of whom we remotely care about, and fill the movie with even more banal humans that don't hold - or float - a candle to the ensemble of characters we've come to know and love from the other films.
As it were, this movie centers on British magician Newt Skemander (Eddie Redmayne), who travels to New York City some 90 years before the events of the first Harry Potter film. Magic is under attack, and there is a deadly beast of some sort that is ravaging the city and threatening to expose the mystical underworld to the muggles, or "non-majs" as they are referred to here. Newt brings with him a briefcase full of beasts, that will help him. Along the way, "non-maj" aspiring baker Kowalski (Dan Fogler) gets mixed up in the mayhem, as does a mage-detective, Tina (Katherine Waterston). They are chased by the powerful magi Graves (Colin Farrell) for reasons too thin to care.
This film might keep the interest of a toddler, but then again it's probably too dark and scary at times for them to get through. But adults will find themselves in an agonizing episode of "Tom & Jerry," where the majority of the film is spent watching humans chase around CG creatures, knocking over furniture and having things fall on their heads. Like how the "Star Wars" prequels were criticized for having way too much in the way of special effects, "Fantastic Beasts" proves the theory that more is less.
And Eddie Redmayne is nearly unwatchable. Yes, he is an Oscar-winning actor, but he's also capable of some massive Razzie-worthy bad performances (see "Jupiter Ascending," or on second thought, don't). Here, Redmayne gives one of the most abrasive, painfully bad performances of this or any year. His mannerisms, the way he holds his head, the way he carries a constant smirk throughout the film, was enough to want to make me get my mind "obliterated" like a muggle who saw too much. And if the constant flood of annoying creatures wasn't enough, the story itself is an absolute joke, and not the funny kind. By the time a rainstorm is used to "obliterate" all of the muggles of New York who just witnessed a ginormous, destructive magical showdown, one has to wonder...were there no humans that were indoors? Because if they were, how will this water wash away their memories of what they just saw? And if magicians can simply repair everything back to how it was before, and wipe the minds of all involved, then what truly, is the point of it all?
The answer to that, friends, is that "Fantastic Beasts" looks to cash in on the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise, but the truth is that this film is not worthy. There's nothing even good or redeeming to say about it. It's not only the worst Harry Potter film by far (if you can even call it that), it's one of the worst movies of this or any year. Avoid this film like a Dementor, and reject it outright if you call yourself a Harry Potter fan. The best we can hope for is that it flops at the box office (fat chance), and that they pull a "Divergent" and announce that the next four "Fantastic Beasts" movies will be made as TV movies. Now that would be magical.
Genre: Family, 3D, SciFi/Fantasy
Runtime: 2 hours, 13 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller
Directed by David Yates ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix")
Opens locally on Friday, November 18th, 2016
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