Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - special to Fortune



What did the Harry Potter films offer, which the books didn’t? Not much or, some would say, even less. And I agree, whenever a book is adopted into a movie, character depth is likely to suffer. Potter and Voldemort might have been brought to life with the use of actors, costumes and awesome special effects, but in terms of emotion or spirit, they was always more ‘alive’ in the books. Of course the villains take it too far. They believe wizards are the better species and that humans should be subjugated to them. 6 out of 10 stars.


Harry Potter is probably the most iconic literary character of our time. Who has not heard of the bespectacled kid with a unique scar on his forehead? The scar, almost a mark of exceptionality, is given to him by he-who-should-not-be-named (or for those that are brave enough, Voldemort) – another equally unforgettable character from the series.

Obviously enough, Harry Potter was adapted into a film franchise, which became nearly as successful as the book version. It introduced to the world names like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, but more importantly, J.K Rowling, mother creator of the whole phenomena. She remains one of the most well-known and, by far, commercial of all authors. As an excessively successful woman, she is charged with influencing other female young-adult authors like Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth of the Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent sagas, respectively.

What did the Harry Potter films offer, which the books didn’t? Not much or, some would say, even less. And I agree, whenever a book is adopted into a movie, character depth is likely to suffer. Potter and Voldemort might have been brought to life with the use of actors, costumes and awesome special effects, but in terms of emotion or spirit, they were always more ‘alive’ in the books.

From all the Harry Potter novels, my favorite is probably The Goblet of Fire, which was intense and suspenseful, while from all the movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban (directed by Alfonso Cuarón) was the most visually vibrant. The second best Harry Potter movie is most likely Deathly Halloweens II, which was directed by the franchise’s favorite David Yates. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them also bears his mark.

There is no Harry, Hermione or Ron this time, the film takes place in a time a little before that of theirs, during the early 20th century. The setting too is different – New York. At the heart of the city, a strange young Brit appears. He doesn’t at first seem to be going anywhere, just idling away, but then we notice that the suitcase he carries with him is hiding much more than his clothes, like maybe fantastic creatures with supernatural powers.

He too has some powers, in fact, he is a wizard. After some accident at a bank, Newt Scamander loses his suitcase to a No-Maj – called Muggles in previous franchises – a non-wizard, or as I like to call them, a human being.The beasts escape. One of the stringent rules of wizardry is that no human should ever find out about the wizardry world, so Scamander, along with a couple of friends, tries capturing the beasts and returning them to their natural habitats. Meanwhile, a very dangerous monster has been let loose in the heart of New York, and threatens to expose the wizards to No-Majs.

Fantastic Beasts, like the all Harry Potter films, is adapted from a Rowling novel of the same name. I haven’t read this one, I think seven books from the same literary universe are four too many. But judging from the film, and some synopses, Fantastic Beasts is very different from the main Potter franchise, especially in the lack of a gripping mystery plot to drive the story. The main villain is not revealed until late in the film, but it finally turns out to be exactly whom we have suspected all along.

Eddie Redmayne plays Scamander. Redmayne is a very weird guy. At first look, it is easy to regard him as mentally challenged. His gestures and facial expressions, which I don’t think he could consciously control, are incredibly creepy. But the actor grew on me; he is some type of acting savant. He is a little like Benedict Cumberbatch, but far less (or far more?) calculating. He knows how to give a warm performance, at his disposal are the little bits and pieces that make a character sincere and believable. His Best Actor Oscar came at too young an age, but I hope he won’t be discouraged into thinking too much of himself, and continues to put an effort into his performances.

But Redmayne is done an injustice by the film’s derivative dialogue and, worse, paper-thin argument.The theme at the heart of the film is that Muggles, or No-Majs, or humans, should never find out about the magical world of wizards. The good guys uphold this theory as a way of survival and avoiding war.

Witches and wizards are essentially afraid of the race (or is it species?) differences that will occur if they were ever to be merged with human population. So, they prefer to live in the shadows, hiding their abilities and true identities. The villains of this film argue that this should not be so. Wizards should never cower; they should rise above and reveal themselves.

Of course the villains take it too far. They believe wizards are the better species, and that humans should be subjugated to them. And that smacks of fear and weakness on their side than a sign of heightened intelligence (which should determine which species is better) and strength. But, if it wasn’t for this one particular detail, I would probably be on the side of the villains. They should make themselves visible, and appeal to a relatively liberal 20th century human civilization that is less nervous of change. They should do this, with a Martin Luther King kind of suavity, and if the world doesn’t agree, if they are rejected by society and mistreated, then by all means, bring out their Nat Turners.

 

 



By Christian Tesfaye
special to Fortune

Published on Nov 29,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 865]


SHARE :
               


Editorial

Currently, Ethiopia has a state of affairs where the centre is struggli...


Agenda

The incidence of abuse against migrant workers has raised concerns abou...


Fineline

On Saturday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) inaugu...


Commentary

Despite being a continent with abundant energy resources, a great chunk...


Viewpoint

When the first telephone was installed in Emperor Menelik II’s palace...


Opinion

The City Administration of Addis Abeba will open over 161,000 jobs oppo...


View From Arada

Asmera and Addis Abeba are two cities with similar beginnings and influ...




ADVERTISEMENT



Business Indicators




ADVERTISEMENT



Editors Pick















//