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Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: Movie Review

The Only Thing Fantastic About Fantastic Beasts Is Eddie Redmayne

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterstone,Dan Fogler, Collin Farrell, Johnny Depp

Directed by:  David Yates

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Really, Eddie Redmayne  is the ultimate illusionist. And when I say that I don’t only mean his role in his new film,a  Harry Potter preamble  which tends to scramble and ramble beyond the call of duty.Even if Redmayne had not played a  magician in Fantastic Beats  & Where To Find Them(provided you want to find them) he would still qualify as a magician.

See how magically he transforms himself from Stephen Hawking in his Oscar-winning turn in The Theory Of Everything in 2015 , to Lily Elbe the first man to have undergone a sex-change operation in The Danish Girl . He nearly got the Oscar for that too.

I don’t think Eddie would be anywhere near the Oscar for his new film. Frankly, I was excited about Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them(yawn…who wants to???) only to see Eddie Redmayne transform into another character from an era when people were more innocent and uncorrupted and could relate to their inner demons without the  fear of falling and failing.Luxuries denied to heroes (and by extension films about heroes) in these troubled times.

In Fantastic Beasts Eddie doesn’t disappoint. He once again brings to the screen that bumbling brilliance which sets  him apart from the other prominent screen actors of our times.As  Newt Scamander ,Eddie  is every bit the nerdy uncertain dithering child-man with a penchant for unexpected heroism. If as Hawking he grappled with his growing physical disability , and  if Lily seemed so palpable in her gender confusion, Newt is the reluctant magician in New York in 1926 who unwittingly unleashes a  series of catastrophic creatures  over New York.

This could have been the fantasy where the  beasts—fantastic or otherwise–would  bring a wealth of fables into their range of activity.Instead director David Yates(who has directed four Harry Potter films) squanders  the visual opulence in majestic masquerades of “magical” creatures cavorting in an abundance  of arcadianinconsequentiality.

Neither  surreal enough to qualify as epic, nor offhand enough to be taken as  a tongue-in-cheek  homage to Potter-ism, Fantastic Beasts &  what-not is finally thwarted defeated and destroyed by its over-weening ambitions. That  includes the over-blown opitical illusions in 3D which  seem to announce their uniqueness even before we get a chance to acknowledge their true function and merit in the scheme of things.

Initially Newt’s journey to New York and his  genuine fascination  about the sights and sounds is interesting, as is the camaraderie that’s woven into the overpowering fantasy between Newt and his new friend and ally Jacob(Dan Fogler) whose curiosity bewilderment joy and shock at the Newt’s magical world should have been ours.

Alas, we are hardly one with Jacob. There  is an exasperating sameness to the proceedings even when the director makes it a point to remind us that this is a world which is imagined to  exist years before Harry Potter.

It’s all in a suitcase,really. The magic and the illusions. And that’s where they should have remained

None of this goes beyond the level of captivating visuals. The heart is clearly missing, although Redmayne gives it his best shot. Actors  like Colin Farell and  Johnny Depppitch in with a strength that falls short of the glow .

The  good news is that Fantastic Beasts is not  in any offensive or excessively taxing on our patience. The bad news is, there are four other films in the series waiting to be made.

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