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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them poster

Save JJ Abrams and Star Wars: The Force Awakens I don’t think any director or film has had such a weight on their shoulders or such ardent fans to please. To say Fantastic Beasts had a lot to live up to would be an understatement. The Potter books and films have changed the world. Returning Potter Director David Yates had a task and a half on his hands, so too did JK Rowling who takes script writing reins here (and for the subsequent four installments).

And did they pull it off?

No doubt.

The familiar Potter soundtrack plays as the Warner Bros logo hovers forward through dark clouds… The opening sequence is slightly ambiguous, giving way to the familiar montage of Daily Prophet headlines about a dark wizard. But not the dark wizard we’re all familiar with. Grindelwald takes over bad-guy duties from Voldemort for this franchise and even though he doesn’t yet take centre stage, his menacing presence conjures some solid atmosphere.

Atmosphere is what David Yates does best, and the foreboding he brought to the final four Potter films is evident from the first few seconds of Fantastic Beasts. But Yates also brought style and awe to his Potter films and he doesn’t hold back on either with Fantastic Beasts. Every scene is rich in detail, most of which isn’t spotted until second or third viewings. The 1920’s New York setting is a big change from the epic landscapes and castle corridors of Hogwarts that we’re used to, but it’s just as compelling and makes Rowling’s world seem that much more real and sprawling.

Eddie Redmayne had a tough responsibility too, taking over protagonist duties from Harry, Ron and Hermione and having to carry what is essentially an origin story for the Fantasic Beasts series. Redmayne himself can’t be faulted. Newt Scamander is awkward, bumbling, avoiding eye contact and generally rubbing people up the wrong way, more Sherlock Holmes than Harry Potter. But at times Scamander doesn’t feel like the protagonist, mostly going along with what is happening rather than forwarding the plot. The other actors and their characters suffer the same, taking a step back so the world-building, plot and set-up can all be handled. The characters will be fleshed out in the next installment, but for now they’re not as compelling as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Where Rowling’s script does excel is in how contemporary it’s morals are. There are more than a few allusions to the divisions of today’s society, the prejudices and political turmoil and despite it’s period setting, Fantastic Beasts is never old-fashioned.

For all its awesome special effects and spectacle, slick directing and great acting, Fantastic Beasts is not perfect. Rowling’s script is sharp when it comes to dialogue, but a bit thin in story. The first film was always going to be more about set-up than story, and it is the case here. A slow first half and a slump in the middle throw the pacing off, and there is never a clear main plot to invest in. Gathering up the escaped Fantastic Beasts offers plenty of chances for great set pieces (Scamander’s imitation of a mating ritual, a chase sequence in a department store among a memorable dozen) but it isn’t strong enough to be the bones of a film. The various other sub-plots are interesting but, can at times feel all over the place and until the final, massively impressive, climax Fantastic Beasts is as scatterbrained as it’s main character.

But in that impressive climax, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which I defy anyone to guess beforehand, and Yates’ pitch-perfect directing, the stunning CGI and photography, Fantastic Beasts does deliver a prequel worthy of the Potter films. Fans will be grinning at foreshadowings and at the mere joy of being back in the Wizarding World and newcomers may be a little confused but will find plenty of enjoyment.

Fantastic Beasts is not perfect, but neither were any of the Potter films. It had a tough task of setting up a world, story and characters, and overall… it pulled it off and promises great things for future installments.


Have you seen Fantastic Beasts yet? What did you think?

Jurassic World Review

Jurassic World Review

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fourteen years since Jurassic Park 3, and 22 years since Spielberg’s original masterpiece. Jurassic Park is my favourite movie of all time, and probably always will be

I’ve been waiting for Jurassic World (Jurassic Park 4 until it had an official title) since the last sequel was released. Jurassic 3 was a decent movie. The dinosaurs were awesome and Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler came back. But Jurassic 3 didn’t have what the first and second movies did. Something was missing. Maybe it was because Spielberg wasn’t directing. So I was a bit uneasy about how Jurassic World would turn out when I heard a one-movie director (Colin Trevorrow would be at the helm, and not Spielberg.

I’ve been waiting for Jurassic World for 14 years, hoping it would deliver…

And it does–mostly. Once I stopped comparing it to the first movie, which Jurassic World never had a chance of rivaling, I enjoyed the movie a lot more. It’s a solid, action-packed sequel that improves on 3, almost improves on 2, and is worthy of the original.

The story isn’t all that original. It’s almost a replica of the first movie. Only this time around the Park is fully functioning. It has been for years, and like the idiots humans tend to be, we have gotten board of dinosaurs. “No one’s impressed by dinosaurs anymore,” says Claire Harding, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character–who is in charge of running the park. So to up the interest in the Park, they go ahead and give Ian Malcolm the satisfaction of being right again. “They were so busy wondering if they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should,” he says in the first movie. And here, they didn’t stop to think again, when they create a hybrid dinosaur… and it get’s out…

But the Indominous rex isn’t just a dinosaur–it’s several dinosaurs, and a few other things too. It’s fast, smart, bloodthirsty. And it’s pretty damn scary.

The story is the weakest aspect of Jurassic World, but everything else works well. The dinosaurs still look awesome, and there are plenty of them, even if there is too much CGI and not enough practical effects at some points. The first movie worked so well because the dinosaurs were there, really there. They were robots. But this time around, save a few close up shots, every dinosaur is CGI. That takes something from the movie. But the effects look epic, and there is no shortage of them.

The dinosaurs have more character than the actual characters, but Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard make a good pair of main characters. Pratt isn’t all that different from Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy, but he’s different enough in Jurassic World that Owen is a character we can root for. The two brothers are decent characters, and reflect Tim and Lex from the first movie.

The action is full-on, and some of the set pieces are awesome. Colin Trevorrow, an indie director, handles everything like an expert. He might not have Spielberg’s eye for detail and memorable shots, but there are some epic moments to make Jurassic World stand out.

It would have been cool to see more than just one of the old character’s returning–Doctor Wu gets a decent part in the sub-plot– but the new cast are solid enough to make the film stand up. The new cast includes the velociraptors. I was worried from the trailers that the movie would turn them into something that they’re not. These dinosaurs were vicious and intelligent, and the trailers played that down. But the raptors are still what they were in the other movies, and another familiar dinosaur gets a good solid part to play in the film’s climax.

Hearing John Williams original soundtrack (adapted and expanded by Michael Giacchino) on the arrival to Jurassic World was like re-living my childhood, and all the years afterward of re-watching Jurassic Park (lost count long ago of how many times I’ve seen the first movie). And watching Jurassic World, after I stopped comparing it to the original, was a pretty satisfying experience. It is a worthy sequel. The dinosaurs still come thick and fast, like the action. The pace is relentless, the set pieces are gripping…

Jurassic World isn’t perfect. The story could be stronger, there’s too much CGI at times, Giacchino’s soundtrack doesn’t come close to John Williams’s… But it’s a great movie, and as a die-hard Jurassic Park fan, I can highly recommend it.

Rating: 4/5


Has anyone else seen Jurassic World? What did you think? Are you a big fan of the original, do you think Jurassic World is a worthy sequel?

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