First Hit: Engaging at times, wonderful visualizations, and slightly misguided.
Although I left the theater thinking that this film was very entertaining, upon reflection it seemed like the film was too convoluted and didn’t know what it wanted to be in the end. Granted it was fun to watch, the beasts were extraordinary, and Newt (Eddie Redmayne) was very good as the kind hearted magician coming to New York with a goal of freeing his Thunderbird in Arizona, but the sweetness got lost in the hoopla.
There is a lot else going on in this film, however it is really enough to say that the beasts are extremely well done? Probably not.
Although wizardry and the like is viewed as naturally dark, Redmayne did a great job of bringing some light heartedness to the story as did Dan Fogler as Kowalski. What also added to the darkness of this film was watching a 3-D version which reduces the light on the screen.
The basic story is that New York is being attacked by an Obscurus (a dark entity) and MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) is trying to find a way to capture and stop the Obscurus from destroying New York as this sort of entity also puts magical wizards and witches in the public eye which isn’t good and Newt, just arriving from England and Hogwarts, gets caught up in this battle.
Arriving via ship, he’s carrying a suitcase filled with an odd assortment of creatures, including the Thunderbird, some of whom are mischievous and occasionally escape the case. Although this part of the storyline is entertaining it really didn’t work for me in that I kept wondering why he didn’t get a case with more secure locks.
During his first few hours in New York, he ends up entangling with Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who is going to a bank to ask for a loan to open a bakery. The reason for the engagement of these two is that they both have the same type suitcase. Kowalski’s is filled with pastries he wants the bank loan officer to taste.
However, with the cases switched, three of the beasts get out including a platypus looking animal called a Niffler, that steals anything shiny like coins and jewelry, adding additional complications to a troubled city. While the Niffler is ravaging jewelry stores filled with shiny bangles, Newt is desperately trying to find his suitcase of creatures, and capture the escapees. When he finds Kowalski, and hopefully his suitcase, he realizes that this person could help him despite him being a “muggle” or “no-maj.”
This is part of the overall story as muggles and no-majs cannot know about wizards, magic and witches therefore Kowalski, knowing about this magic, puts himself in danger for getting part of his mind erased. But being open and kind towards Newt, accepting of the wizard’s way, and being liked by a beautiful witch named Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), he gets a temporary pass. Queenie’s sister Porpentina “Tina” (Katherine Waterston), who is a previously demoted inspector for MACUSA, captures and arrests Newt for using magic publicly. When she takes him to a MACUSA hearing, they ignore her and see Newt as an odd misplaced individual. However, as Tina learns more about Newt, she befriends him and hides Newt and Kowalski in her and her sister’s home.
When MACUSA learns that Newt has real experience capturing Obscurus types of entities they support him, with the assistance of Tina, Queenie, and Kowalski, in helping MACUSA rid New York of this entity.
Redmayne is very good as an introverted wizard that relates more with his fantastic beasts than people. He’s good at acting clumsy around people and great when in his own world. Fogler is really good as the budding baker and muggle who helps the wizard Newt. Sudol is wonderful and the engaging witch sister of Tina. Her brightness was welcomed in the film. Waterston was strong as the demoted investigator of MACUSA. Carmen Ejogo is good as President Seraphina Picquery of MACUSA. Colin Farrell is OK as Percival Graves a high ranking and powerful wizard in MACUSA. J. K. Rowling wrote this somewhat predictable script that seemed more complex than needed. There is limited character development which makes the story somewhat shallow. David Yates who directed three of the Harry Potter films, knew what Rowling wanted and outside of doing a great job of making the beasts fantastic, he did his best with Rowling’s limited vision.
Overall: Although I was, at times, enchanted during the film, my interest and fascination faded away too quickly.