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szdaily -> Movies
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them
    2016-November-25  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    SOLIDLY extending the “Harry Potter” franchise to a different era with new characters, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” starts slowly before finding its groove, delivering sufficient spectacle alongside a little emotion.

    There’s a bit of a placeholder feel to this fantasy adventure — a sense of keeping the risks to a minimum so as to ensure as wide an audience as possible comes out to support a new series of films. But like the wizarding movies to which it’s connected, “Fantastic Beasts” is better the darker it gets, especially in a robust final reel where the film fully hits its stride.

    Opening across most of the globe by Nov. 18, this Warner Bros. release will do major business, even with an entirely new cast separate from the “Harry Potter” series. Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell bring star power, and advance buzz ought to convince viewers to take one more plunge into J.K. Rowling’s world.

    Set in New York in 1926, the film kicks off with Newt Scamander (Redmayne), a Magizoologist (someone who studies magical creatures), visiting the metropolis to complete a worldwide expedition for these fantastical beings. But after Newt crosses paths with Jacob (Dan Fogler), an ordinary human who longs to be a baker, some of the creatures in Newt’s suitcase get loose, forcing the two men to go on a citywide chase to retrieve them before the No-Majs (people without magical powers) realize there are powerful beings in their midst.

    Directed by David Yates, who helmed the final four “Harry Potter” movies, “Fantastic Beasts” shares a visual palette with that earlier series. The film is impeccably crafted, and production designer Stuart Craig has been given free rein to create a dazzling turn-of-the-century Manhattan, complete with terrific Art Deco touches throughout.

    Notably, this is the first time that Rowling (whose bestselling books launched the franchise) has written the screenplay, and she not only must introduce several central characters but also establish the reality of 1920s wizarding in America.

    The movie’s early sections take too much time chronicling Newt and his friends’ attempts to track down the creatures, leading to sequences rich with superb visual-effects work but low on dramatic stakes. The film can feel frustratingly episodic, Yates focusing on each beast’s unique look and powers at the expense of our main characters. But once Yates turns his attention to this mysterious killing force — and Percival’s shadowy reasons for finding its source — “Fantastic Beasts” morphs into a muscular Potter-style adventure in which the participants’ astounding powers, juxtaposed with the handsome period architecture, build to a rousing finale.

    Amidst the action and light humor — the latter mostly provided by Jacob’s disbelieving shock at these magical people — “Fantastic Beasts” also manages some nifty social commentary. Our heroes aren’t just battling dark forces but also bigotry – there’s a great fear of what No-Majs will do once they uncover this other realm of beings — and, for some characters, the lingering trauma of childhood abuse. Rowling may not always deftly interlace all the different characters and plot strands, but she successfully pinpoints her story’s emotional core.

    The performances are solid if not stellar. Redmayne has a geeky charm that’s perfect for Newt’s bookishness, but he drifts into cutesiness too often. Fogler is a bit broad as the film’s comic relief, while Waterston is a calm, measured presence as a detective haunted by past failures.

    The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen.

    (SD-Agencies)

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