Am I the only one who just doesn’t “get” Eddie Redmayne? Honestly, there’s something about the guy that I’ve just never really liked. Still, I went into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with an open mind. I confess, when the film started with the iconic Warner Bros. logo accompanied by the Harry Potter theme we’ve all come to know and love, I got goosebumps. I was reminded of my childhood, sitting on the edge of my seat in the cinema, with bated breath so I wouldn’t miss a single moment.
Unfortunately, the goosebumps didn’t last. Based on J.K. Rowling’s short handbook and expanding the Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tells the story of the handbook’s fictional author Newt Scamander (Redmayne). On a trip to New York City in 1926, to find something he doesn’t end up finding, Newt’s plans are disrupted when the zoo of magical creatures he keeps locked in a special beaten-up leather briefcase manages to escape, causing havoc on the anti-magic population of NYC.
There’s a point where Redmayne’s social awkwardness is just too awkward, and you begin to wonder if he’s even playing a character or just doesn’t want to be there. To make matters worse, most of his dialogue is delivered in a mumble, as though he’s just grown teeth and doesn’t know how to use them.
Newt joins forces with a ‘No-Maj’ (no-magic), the American equivalent of a ‘Muggle’ – trust Americans to be *so* sophisticated. I really hope the following was Rowling’s idea of a joke – in addition Newt also teams up with a disgraced auror and together they round up the creatures, whilst something more sinister preys on the people of New York, whilst a billionaire newspaper tyrant helps his corrupt son run for mayor, whilst an anti-magic spokeswoman beats orphans into distributing her propaganda. There are so many sub-plots that the story is haphazard and ends with literally no pay-off, but the promise of four future films.
Don’t get me wrong, the Wizarding World is great and there is so much waiting to be explored. But what drove the Harry Potter series were strong characters; the character development in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is non-existent. Also, just a word of warning, throughout the 2-hour and 12-minute running time, there is absolutely no mention of where to find these fantastic beasts.