It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been busy. Not only has she shepherded her two-part sequel play to the West End, but she has also written the screenplay for this spin-off prequel, which is set some 70 years before Harry was born. The American setting puts a fresh slant on her elaborately imagined wizarding world, and the film has enough lively humour to keep things entertaining, but the movie itself is thin and derivative, never quite engaging the audience with its magic.
In this alternate reality, 1926 America has forbidden all magical creatures out of fear of terrorist attacks taking place around the world. Then an expert in these beasts, the cheeky nerd Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York with a suitcase full of them. He's on some sort of mission, which is immediately interrupted by three escaped critters, drawing in hapless wannabe baker Jacob (Dan Fogler) and witch detective Tina (Katherine Waterston). Joined by Tina's breathy sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), this rag-tag team is trying to recapture Newt's escaped creatures when they run afoul of aggressive wizard enforcer Graves (Colin Farrell), who's working for American's magical President (Carmen Ejogo). But there's something more seriously nefarious going on in the city.
Continue reading: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Review
Colin Farrell has been cast as a wizard in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.
Colin Farrell has joined the cast of the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The 39-year-old actor will play a wizard in the upcoming film, due to be released in 2016.
Colin Farrell at a screening of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet in Los Angeles in July 2015.
A huge asset here is gifted lead actor Andrew Garfield, who takes on the role of Peter Parker with real passion. Peter is a 17-year-old science nerd in high school who has real depth due to his personal history. Growing up in New York with his aunt and uncle (Field and Sheen) after his parents disappeared, he's more than a little unsettled when the object of his secret crush, sexy-brainy Gwen (Stone), notices him. Meanwhile, he's bitten by a mutant spider and develops some strange powers, which he exercises by chasing down bad guys all over the city.
Continue reading: The Amazing Spider Man Review
The eight-part saga comes to a close with an action-packed finale that neatly ties up the strands of the whole series and also manages to give its actors some meaty scenes to play with. While it's hugely satisfying, there's also a letdown as we reach the end.
With Voldemort (Fiennes) in possession of the mythical Elder Wand, and four Horcruxes still at large, Harry (Radcliffe) and pals Hermione and Ron (Watson and Grint) know that they have work to do. Breaking into a Gringotts vault is tough enough, but when they sneak back into Hogwarts, they find themselves in all-out war against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. So with the help of adults (Smith, Walters and more) and fellow students (including Lewis, Wright and Lynch), they make their final stand.
After a sort of "Previously on Harry Potter" prologue and a quietly intense opening, the film plunges into the Gringotts heist and barely pauses for breath. Director Yates adeptly juggles action and drama, keeping images razor sharp and making sure the effects work is seamlessly eye-catching (they're also the most consistently high-quality effects in the series). But of course Lord of the Rings-scale spectacle is nothing without great characters, and this film pushes everyone into new territory.
Radcliffe takes on the challenge extremely well, bringing Harry's self-doubt and crippling guilt together with a potent sense of destiny and sacrifice. Of the supporting cast, Rickman, Smith and Gambon get the weightiest scenes, while Lewis and Walters finally have superb moments in the spotlight. And Bonham Carter clearly has a ball with a terrific scene as a shape-shifted Hermione.
Meanwhile, that outrageously starry ensemble fills out each scene, including many who barely utter a word.
As the story propels to the climactic moments, there are a few fits and starts while events recoil and wait to burst forth again. Even though this is the shortest of all eight movies, it feels a little long due to its intensely focussed plot. This means every moment on screen is vitally important, and most are given the chance to play out without feeling rushed. But it also means that, as the ending (and epilogue) get closer, we simply don't want it to end.
Cranking up the action and emotion, JK Rowling's Harry Potter saga moves into the first half of its extended grand finale. It's a relatively harrowing film punctuated by real violence, and it cleverly starts weaving together both the plot and the relationships.
After the tragic events of the previous school year, Harry (Radcliffe) and his pals Ron and Hermoine (Grint and Watson) know that they can't go back to normal. Instead, they're on the run from Voldemort (Fiennes) and his fearsome Death Eaters. They also have an overwhelming task: collecting the horcruxes that Voldemort has hidden to ensure his immortality. But where to look? And when they find one, how do they destroy it? Then a rebel journalist (Ifans) tells them the story of the Deathly Hallows, which makes their quest even more urgent.
The plot has a very different structure, as our three heroes are propelled by startling events into increasingly uncertain situations. Persistently chased by the bad guys and unable to trust anyone, they are profoundly alone and constantly in danger. We strongly feel their lonely desperation all the way through the film, so when another nasty thing happens to push them further along, it's genuinely unsettling.
Although it feels far too long, Yates and Kloves thankfully mix the dark drama with lighter comedy, allowing the characters to grow organically. Over seven films the story has grown increasingly gloomy but, despite the relentless anxiety, this chapter has an insistent pace, which is helpful since pretty nightmarish things are happening. There's also some subtext in the political storyline, as the villains seize control first of the media and then the government.
By now, the three central actors have settled solidly into their roles, adding subtle edges in every scene. Intriguingly, Grint has emerged as the most complex performer, but all three are excellent. And the who's who of British acting talent around them is fantastic. Stand-outs this time are Nighy (as a slippery politician), Isaacs (as a disgraced baddie) and Mullan (as a vicious security guy). But several others get a chance to shine as well, and of course there's a lot more action to come in Part 2.