Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

B

I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and probably gave overly generous scores to the movies, but I liked the characters and the series was a Who's Who of great British actors, so I hope the movies hold up. J. K. Rowling wrote the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts based on a reference book mentioned in the Harry Potter series (also released as a real book, but without a story), plus a little bit of backstory brought up in the original series (this movie is a distant prequel, set in 1926). The story here is good and again features some very good actors, but it is a little bit too straightforward with entirely too much CGI. Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar portraying Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, plays a bumbling collector of magical animals whose ineptness is a serious danger to people around him, while his reluctance to communicate could solve a lot of his problems and feels contrived for the plot.

There are a number of other story threads to keep things interesting, including some groundwork for an evil wizard named Gellert Grindelwald, who will be featured in the next movie. One of the threads about a woman who beats her children and tries to warn the world of witches in their midst, is quite dark. So it kind of feels like this whole movie is just an appetizer instead of a standalone work (maybe just soup since this is expected to be a series of five movies). The characters are decent, albeit a little plain, but the main story of the beasts has little to do with the rest of the movie consisting of conflicts between the muggle and wizarding worlds and feels a little too familiar. The CGI beasts are sometimes interesting, but can feel a little like Ghostbusters and like all of Rowling's magic have a bunch of rules that we don't know about until the plot requires them to come into play. So the movie is enjoyable even though so much of it is just a big CGI mess. And these new characters have potential even if it isn't realized in this movie.