Photo: Warner Bros Pictures
PG, 133 minutes, 4/5 stars
Brace yourself for the new phase of the Harry Potter world domination series. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is the first of five planned films and it is guaranteed be a worldwide hit – not just because it is part of the Potterverse, but also because it is tremendous fun to watch.
The source book, published in 2001 as a textbook on “magizoology” in the world of the boy wizard, lends itself beautifully to the visual medium of cinema. Less talk, less background detail, more antics from the bestiary contained in the briefcase of Newt Scamander.
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Eddie Redmayne gives a terrific performance as a wizard with a touch of autism and obsessive- compulsive disorder, a classic British batty genius in the mould of Doctor Who.
Potter author J.K. Rowling adapts her book into a classic three-act script, which director David Yates – helmer of the fifth to eighth (and final) Potter films – augments with computer-generated animals.
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The first act sees Newt as a British fish out of his depth in American waters, not helped by his running into the conflicted Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a lowly operative in the bureaucracy that controls the wizarding world in the United States.
Yates and Rowling are careful not to bog down things with cuteness or backstory, but the horror element that made the Potter series so much heavier in the later chapters is already present, in the form of anti-wizarding crusader Mary Lou.
Samantha Morton is at her best playing characters possessed by a great, insane idea and her Mary Lou is a powerful villain, but the movie paves the way for another even more formidable adversary, certain to make life hard for Scamander in later episodes.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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