21 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

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This is the first film in a new series of non-Harry Potter Harry Potter films and, to cut to the chase.. it's fucking brilliant. Do you know what a Niffler is? Well it's basically a creature from the magical world that likes to steal gold which looks like the bastard offspring of a mole that was gang-raped by pack of rowdy mallards. In many ways, that little bastard sums Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them up in that he's charming, full of energy, and when you shake him upside down he begins shitting out gold. In the way that he runs about causing trouble and trying to steal as much money for himself as he can get his stupid little hands on, he's also a magical creature for our new Trump-Era. In fact... you have to wonder if the makers of this film could predict what the polls couldn't and somehow knew that we'd now be living in a world in which the American President would be that gassy haired fuck. I mean, this film features winged snakes, invisible monkeys, and a giant, horny, horned rhino-thing.. but if you wanted to know where to find the most dangerous of creatures then it apparently looks like an Umpa Lumpa crossed with a down-syndrome Guinea Pig and it's soon to be living part-time in the fucking White House.

Set in the 1920's, the film begins with Newt Scamander arriving in America with a suitcase full of magical creatures. Beyond what the fuck kind of hairstyle Trump does actually thinks he has, the two biggest things we need to worry about with him are the environment and our ability to live together in peace. The creatures in Newt's case are all endangered and he seems to be one of the few people that's able to see the value of continuing their ability to exist. However his visit is slightly side-tracked when he's roped into a plot involving the brewing tensions between wizards and non-wizards. Wizards have essentially gone into hiding from the normal humans in order to avoid a war with them however the magical community is beginning to split down the centre over it. Some agree that this is for the best whereas others believe that wizards are so superior to us boring normals that they should be ruling from above rather than hiding in the shadows. The main leader in this fractious movement even has a stupid blonde hair cut. I mean, if the filmmakers could predict as much as they seem to have been able to then you'd think they'd have give a pre-election clue and called the movie Fantastic Beasts And For The Love Of Holy Shit You Have To Vote Because Trump Fucking Wins For Fuck's Sake. Although I suppose that's probably not quite as catchy as 'And Where To Find Them'.

Ignoring the not-so-obvious subtext of the movie, there are two main plot threads running through with one being the rising tensions of the wizarding world, and the other being Newt's attempts to re-find a few creatures that have escaped from his case. You could argue that the main thrust of the film is the rising tensions and that the escaped animals simply provide the film with a bunch of fun scenes to pad everything out and add a bit of humour. You'd probably be right to. However you could take the entire hours worth of Yule Ball shit out of Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and the plot wouldn't change.. but why would you want to? This has always been a series that's about charm and heart and these magical creature scenes are full of exactly that. Could you remove the scene in which Newt dances about with a giant Rhino that wants to fuck him? Yes. But in the way that I could relate to the teen angst of the Yule Ball, I'm sure we can all relate to the dancing Rhino too can't we? Well you can if you've been for a night out to any of the clubs in Liverpool anyway.

Obviously by being set in the 1920's, I suppose this film is a prequel to the Potter series and so before going in there's always a worry that it'll fall foul of the prequel curse. I mean, The Phantom Menace is to prequels like what AIDs is to junkies that share needles. The constant threat of it happening is just consonantly there. However, by being set in a different country, with different characters, and dealing with a different problem, the film avoids all of this by being more of a spin-off that expands the world rather than a prequel that over-explains it. The real question regarding this franchise therefore should be whether or not the film can work without England? The Harry Potter series relied on a nostalgia for our great youth-hating, Brexit-voting, cup of tea-loving nation, and so this one being set in America seemed like a risk. Thankfully the film also survives this perfectly thanks to the casting of Eddie Redmayne. His Newt Scamander is like a cross between every great 'English gent' cliché and Paddington Bear. Director David Yates said he cast Redmayne because he knew that the actor could do 'serious', but he wondered if he could also be funny? I guess Yates hadn't seen whatever the fuck Redmayne was doing in Jupiter Ascending to know that he clearly could.

The thing that I think made the Potter series great was the sense that the characters were all outsiders. Harry was the chosen one, Hermione was from the human world, and Ron was a ginger. By having Newt as a Brit in America, this feeling is continued as the world he finds himself in is as alien to him as it is to us. This obviously allows for some easy moments of exposition as both we and him wonder everything about the country he finds himself in. What is a no-mag? Who is Percival Graves? And would this country really vote for a hate-mongering, human-bag-pipe like Donald Trump? Well, I can see John Voight over there-- perhaps we can ask him?! As a result, America is also basically a character in this film too by being an alluring, Gilliam-esque world with a steampunk vibe and a seductively magical charm. Although, let's not forget the other actual real characters which are all also great too. It's a bit weird that Queenie Goldstein looks like the transgendered Eddie Redmayne from The Danish Girl, and with the whole Trump thing running through, her surname does sound like what he might call the jizz patches in his underwear. But she's a great character, which is also true of pretty much everybody in this move. Admittedly Colin Farrell spends the movie playing a frown under a haircut, however it is a pretty cool haircut and we do learn more about him as the film goes on.

You could probably slag the film off for having a third act that descends into what could be described as a CG clusterfuck. However without spoiling what's going on, I'd say that it's a clusterfuck that's rooted in both human emotion and the theme of tolerance that the film has been pushing. It's also funny that after years of watching blockbusters end with a city being destroyed, this one ends with a city being magically rebuilt.. kind of like Doctor Strange did a few weeks ago. It's as though there's something in the aether right now that's causing people to think that society needs to be fixed and it looks like it'll take fucking miracles to do. In which case we're on to a good start with this movie, which I thought was brilliant despite all the things that could have gone wrong with it. Apparently we have four more sequels to go which, if it's anything like the previous Potter series, means that we've actually got five more sequels to go. In which case I can't wait to spend the next few years with Trump in charge of America as I watch these movies from a fallout bunker that I've dug into my fucking garden. Thanks for reading and see you next time, motherfuckers.