MovieBob Reviews: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM | Movies | Geek.com

Oh good, a new Eddie Redmayne movie! …said, nobody. Ever.

Describing convoluted modern genre movies as being similar to bad fan-fiction has become a common criticism even I’m getting pretty sick of. But where it fits it fits, and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is far and away the closest thing to the grotesque incestuous fuckpile that defines the deeper recesses of modern “fanfic” culture ever to grace a movie screen: It’s a Doctor Who meets Pokemon mash-up rewritten into a tangential Harry Potter prequel. How did we get so lucky?

It’s become pretty clear that the lasting effects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment paying off huge is going to be with us for a long, long time: Shared continuity is the name of the game for big franchise movies with prequels, sequels, spinoffs and side stories now all grist for the Blockbuster mill; and no level of “deep lore” bullshit is too obscure to throw up onscreen and see if it sticks.

Case in point: Here we’ve got a Harry Potter prequel that deigns to offer up the riveting backstory of… the guy who wrote one of Hogwarts’ zoological textbooks. Yeah.

And they’re already planning four more of these! I assume if they ever decide to tell us where that talking hat came from it’ll be a 15-episode Netflix series. Anyway, the premise here is that Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander is a wizard animal-lover who’s been traveling the world collecting and studying magical critters so he can write a book convincing other Wizards to not be afraid of them. Why are they afraid? What brought him to this vocation? I couldn’t tell you – and the movie doesn’t care to elaborate. Yeah, I’m sure it’s all laid out piecemeal in the appendices of this or that book or on the Pottermore site; but I review movies folks, not whatever J.K. Rowling jots down on a goddamn cocktail napkin every time her house needs a new addition.

I was only half joking about Scamander basically being Doctor Who: Pokemon Trainer, incidentally – he’s such a direct knockoff of The Internet’s favorite Timelord that it’s practically plagiarism: A tweedy, fumbling British eye roll-generator whose personality is wall-to-wall quirky affectation, flits in and out of trouble on his own vague agenda, picks up and discards goofy sidekicks including a lovable wide-eyed oaf and a pair of quirky “adorkable” ladyfriends and does his business by way of a seemingly modest base of operations that’s a lot bigger on the inside.

Plotwise, Scamander shows up in 1926 New York City for reasons he keeps secret without a clear rationale as to why and through one of the most hackneyed plot devices in the screenwriter’s arsenal (identical suitcase mix-up – no, really) winds up having to recapture a bunch of the creatures who escape from his collection; a development that seemingly exists solely to pad out the runtime by turning the first two acts into a lazy Jumanji ripoff and to make sure our stammering, mincing fop of a hero can cuddle a floofy animal often enough to complete the Frankenstein’s Monster of Tumblr-bait that is Redmayne’s characterization.

It’s certainly not there because the narrative demands it: In case you were wondering where all the promised “Potterverse” worldbuilding would be in this glorified bug hunt, the remainder of the film is built around a subplot with Katherine Waterston as a disgraced female Wizard Cop trying to suss out the connections between an anti-Witchcraft hate group, a mysterious dark force terrorizing the city and a proto-Voldemort supervillain whose gone missing from Europe. Is there a big important bad guy hiding somewhere in the tertiary cast? Gee, I dunno, have you not seen a Harry Potter movie before? (Yes, that cameo you heard about is, in fact, real, and it’s exactly the groaner it sounds like.)

But this secondary storyline (which, as tends to be the case even in the good Harry Potter movies, blunders ahead and decides it was supposed to be the main story after all at the last possible minute) is actually interesting! It feels genuinely fresh after eight fucking Hogwarts movies, Waterston’s Tina Goldstein is instantly one of the most interesting characters in the whole franchise, Alison Sudol as her psychic sister Queenie is a constant delight and she has fascinating chemistry with the ever-underappreciated Dan Fogler as Scamander’s unwitting Muggle sidekick.

And any time the movie is about these three characters? You could easily fool yourself into having a good time – they’re that appealing. Sure, you’d still have the problem that the on-the-nose Prohibition-era setting and underground jazz-scene aesthetic ends up (inevitably) as a vehicle for making a movie “about” persecuted minorities while still having an almost-entirely white cast… but seriously, the “sidekicks” are so much more intriguing and their storyline so much more theoretically compelling it’s fucking baffling that they aren’t the main feature: I mean, holy shit – you’ve got a promising star like Waterston playing “Hermoine but also Agent Carter” right there in the lineup, and you decide to build the whole movie around the screamy guy from Jupiter Ascending?

But yeah, they more or less did exactly that. So what we’re left with is a pretty dull, dreary, uninspired, overall surprisingly shitty movie with (sort of) the idea of a good movie hiding in the middle of it and hoping that finishing strong with a surprisingly grim final battle sequence will make up for the rest of it basically, well… sucking. I get wanting any excuse to dive back into the Harry Potter universe, and maybe for the most profoundly devoted fan the familiar musical cues, creatures and general sundry “wizard stuff” plus the handful of good characters (in search of a better film) will be enough to get you through it – but for me it was a fucking slog.

Sorry, folks – it’s just a bad movie.

MovieBob Reviews: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM | Movies | Geek.com

MovieBob Reviews: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM | Movies | Geek.com

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