Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler
Directed by: David Yates
Distributor: Warner Brothers
Original Year of Release: 2016
Run Time: 2 hours and 13 Minutes
This was my second time around for Davids Yates’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I was immediately skeptic the first time, but after about 20 minutes into the film, I was all in. Upon watching it again, knowing full well what was in store, I was able to enjoy the film on a whole other level.
To start, there are the performances. I am not a huge fan of Eddie Redmayne. I know that Jupiter Ascending was not all his fault, but his performance there really tainted me on his acting. Here, he is in an ensemble piece and I really appreciated what that brought to his character. He plays an outsider and a reluctant hero who is coaxed out of his shell to save the day. Redmayne really brought Newt to life, but I think without Dan Fogler supporting him, as Kowalski, it wouldn’t have been as perfect. Folger’s work outside of the film Fanboys is unknown to me. He portrayed a perfect wide-eyed 1920’s Ralph Kramden who has not yet been beaten down by life. It is through his eyes that we really see how different the magical world is from the one we know, and Folger easily one of the best performances of the year. His chemistry with Alison Sudol, as Queenie, is something that is rarely seen in movies anymore. It was an instant, engaging, and believable. This is a credit to not only the actors but the writer and director as well. Katherine Waterston was also a surprise. I have no memory of seeing her in anything else, so she will forever be associated with her character of Tina Goldstein. What I liked about her character is that the story came first and her romantic relationship with Newt was completely put on the back burner. Yet, somehow, at the end, you really felt that a connection was made between the two characters.
It can’t all be praise, though. I should state that this is just my own personal take on the character of Grindelwald, but did it really have to be Johnny Depp? He was a fine actor but has now become an icon unto himself where any character has only become secondary to the man playing him. I actually wish that Colin Farrell could have played Grindelwald after we learned Graves was just a disguise. At least this way Depp wouldn’t be back for the sequel.
The story was also refreshing as prequels/ sequels go. After seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story later in 2016, I found that Fantastic Beasts is the superior film. Rogue One was too close to the movie that preceded it, so there was some fanboy service that found its way into the film. Certainly, an argument can be made that Fantastic Beasts is closer in technical specs to the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but I think you understand what I mean. We get a quick reference to some characters from Harry Potter’s story, but they are mere mentions and this tale is allowed to unfold and retain its magic. Certainly, there will be more connections made in the future, but after seeing the story unfold, I found myself attached to these characters and want to know how their stories unfold. Engaging characters will always win out over fanboy service.
I had a slight fear there might be another edition come Fall. Upon watching the extensive special features contained below, I don’t think that is a possibility now. So buy with confidence and be prepared to watch it over and over again because the adventure is just beginning, again.
Blu-ray Special Features
Before I get into the special features, I would like to thank Warner Brothers for making them easily accessible. I mention this because my first Harry Potter DVD was for the Sorcerer’s Stone. To this day I have never seen one special feature on that disc as I was unable to crack the magical code. I’m sure I could find a cheat on the web somewhere, but it has become a matter of pride to do it myself. Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about this for Fantastic Beasts.
Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins! (15:31)
J.K. Rowling, David Yates, and David Heyman and the magical quartet spin a fantastic look at what to took to bring this new story to life. What I found so appealing was the ease with which people fell into the project once they read the story. Though it is Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, and Dan Fogler who gush in the stories about meeting Rowling, who they now affectionally call Jo. It’s a great starter, but there is so much more on this disc’s special features.
o The Magizoologist (4:14) If you have not scoped out Newt’s complete backstory on the internet, Redmayne gives a little backstory away here in passing.
o The Goldstein Sisters (5:04)
o The New Salemers (4:42) J.K. Rowling reveals their backstory, which is not shown in the film. They are essentially descendants of Salem Witches who have bred out their magical abilities.
o The No-Maj Baker (04:42)
o The President and the Auror (5:37)
o Meet the Fantastic Beasts (4:18) David Yates discusses how he wanted them to feel real and not be a fantasy. If you did not pick up the art or production book for Fantastic Beasts, you will want to watch this. You also see the puppets that the actors had to react to. Fantastic!
o Bowtruckle (2:36) Watch Picket, Newt’s Bowtruckle, in his various forms of CGI and puppetry come to life.
o Demiguise (2:20)
o Erumpent (3:42)
o Niffler (2:29)
o Occamy (3:09)
o Thunderbird (2:25) Learn all about Frank, the Thunderbird, who is completely an American magical creature.
o Shaping the World of Fantastic Beasts (360°)
o New York City (360°)
o MACUSA (360°)
o Newt’s Magical Case (360°)
o The Shaw Banquet
o The Blind Pig (360°)
There are 14:23 minutes of deleted scenes (11 total). I always find deleted scenes to either be brilliants cuts, or a nightmare of used possibilities. Here is the first. The scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor are not needed to the story. The most obvious of these is Kowalski’s fiancé. Yes, you read that right. It makes him generally more sympathetic but is not really needed. Her inclusion in the story would have hurt the audience reaction and general love they have for the Kowalski and Queenie dynamic. Each scene is worth the watch, especially for the giant three-headed snake, but you’ll find nothing that will be missed or re-inserted in a special edition.