HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
HTS Overall Score:92
I was one of those people that actually despised the IDEA of the “Harry Potter” books (and films) for far too long. The popularity of “Harry Potter” had begun years ago, and every kid and teenager I knew was OBSESSEDED with the series. I worked at a bookstore back then and would see people lining up around the corner for the release of each of the books like it was the unveiling of the Mona Lisa and as a result got burned out from the series before I even read a page. It got to a point that I loathed even HEARING about Rowling and the words “Harry Potter”. As HD DVD and Blu-ray started taking off some of the first movies to come out were the initial batch of films based upon the books. At this point I was collecting anything and everything on HD media so I got over my fairly ludicrous grudge and found out that I REALLY liked the series. This prompted a binge of my wife’s books and I was hooked.
Now, some years after Harry had defeated Voldemort I hear news of J.K. Rowling coming back to the big screen once again, and was coming up with a brand-new story to tell based off of hints and tidbits in the “Harry Potter” universe. There was once again some reticence from myself and the potter fan base, because lightning rarely strikes twice, but “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” had a great cast, and the pre-movie buzz was that Rowling and director David Yates (who directed the final 4 “Harry Potter Films”) had done it again.
For those of you who aren’t fans of the Harry Potter books and have only watched the movies (or haven’t seen ANY of the Potter films) then I will say that you don’t have to worry about knowing everything that goes on in the backstory. “Fantastic Beasts” is a prequel to the 7 book/film franchise, but also acts as a complete story on its own. I WILL say that if you’re a potterhead then you’re sure to get a LOT more out of the movie than if you went in without any knowledge of the books. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is also the name of an instructional book taught at Hogwarts. Rowling took that idea and expanded it to tell the story of the war BEFORE Voldemort came to power. Back in 1926 a young mage by the name of Newt Scaramander (Eddie Redmayne) has come to New York City in order to set free a magical beast that he’s been caring for. Only thing is, after running into muggle (or no maj as they’re called in the U.S.) named Kowalski (Dan Fogler) his bag of creatures is let loose upon the city and it’s up to Newt, Kowalski and a disgraced ministry of magic agent named Tina (Katherine Waterston) to get them all wrapped up and back into their box.
As with all things relating to the wizarding world, things are not as simple as they seem on the outside. While Newt is running around New York City trying to recapture his beasts, the opening of ANOTHER war is under way. The U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic (known as the MACUSA, ironically pronounced similar to Yakuza) is trying to control the appearance of a new and dangerous beast inside the city. It seems that a powerful creature known as an obscuras is wreaking havoc in the city and the magi community is on the verge of being exposed to the rest of humanity. Something that will certainly bring civil war to the doorsteps of everyone and unleash death and destruction upon us all. While the MACUSA is looking for this beast (which is actually an aberration created from a magic user suppressing their powers until it’s too much to bear), MACUSA headmaster Graves (Colin Farrell) is searching for the USER behind the obscura in hopes of using its powers for his own. Simultaneously the MACUSA are also trying to find and neutralize the one wizard who could rival even Voldemort. The first dark lord of terror himself, Gellert Grindelwald.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94170[/img]As someone who has read the Harry Potter books quite a few times I can tell you that there will be some name dropping going on in here and some of the “reveals” will not be nearly so sudden or unexpected. Credence Barebone is a name that had me chuckling long before the fateful reveal, and I had a sneaking suspicion about Gellert Grindelwald before the end of the movie. Still, Rowling has an incredibly inventive mind and “Fantastic Beasts” is a blast of a film. The characters not only tease at will come to pass some 70 years in the future, but also creates an array of likeable characters to have adventures with in this and future films (supposedly there are 4 sequels already planned and in pre-production, much to Warner Brothers obvious glee as dollar signs are already tantalizing anyone near the project).
Rowling is incredibly gifted at both imagination AND the ability to balance multiple plot lines within a story simultaneously. Even though “Fantastic Beasts” is its own contained story you can still see her weaving the groundwork for future films and hinting at a conflict that was only touched upon in passing during the books. For those of you not in the know, Gellert Grindelwald is the original dark lord of magic. The only wizard who had just as much evil power as lord Voldemort, and was the reigning terror until Voldemort took that crown from him, so You can tell that the anticipation and buildup for this final conflict is something that Rowling as planned out and thought about for quite some time. The attention to detail and the surprises laid out along the way are proof of that alone (including a little Cameo near the end that was surprisingly kept under wraps until after the movie came out in theaters. Something which doesn’t happen very often).
Besides the writing, David Yates has a great handle on the universe of Harry Potter, so the feeling of familiarity and nostalgia is strong within “Fantastic Beasts”. Characters are new and engaging, but there is this constant feeling of “I’ve been here before” watching the movie, something which makes the experience all the more real to the viewer. Which is a great boon for Yates after the box office bomb that was “The Legend of Tarzan”.
I really like Rowling as an actual writer for the script, but there is always one aspect of her books and movies that rubs me the wrong way. She has a tendency of making anyone in charge (like the MACUSA, or the Ministry of Magic) as being either completely incompetent, or borderline evil like the dark lords they fight. It’s a not so subtle stab at authority in general (something that Rowling has been a giant advocate for) and the result is that you want to punch whoever is in charge of the magi in her series. It’s a portrayal of both the “in charge” good wizards as just being the opposite side of the same coin, and the real heroes being the ones who “rebel” against this authority. This aspect of her storyline has come across as very rough and abrasive, especially when taken in context with her own life and views on things are taken into account.
Eddie Redmayne stands out as being phenomenal as always, and Colin Farrell actually turns in a great performance (Colin has been fairly inactive out of the spotlight for a few years). Fogler is usually someone who overplays his comedic talents in films, but here he is just funny enough to elicit a smile, and somber enough to fit in with the rest of the magical cast. The rest all do a great job due to the stellar writing and directing, but I have to give credit where credit is due and say that Eddie Redmayne has become one of the best actors in Hollywood right now.
Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94178[/img]Shot on Arri cameras and transferred to a 4K digital intermediary, “Fantastic Beasts” looks stunning in 1080p. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, as it is shot by famed French cinematographer Phillippe Rousselot, who shot both of the “Sherlock Holmes” films (Guy Ritchie ones that is), as well as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). In this entry he makes a twofold color grading system that differentiates between the No Maj (muggle) world and the world the wizarding folks. When in “our” reality the colors are a bit sandy and dusty, with a subdued color pallet. When it switches over to the magical realm there is a more golden honey tone to the image and the primary colors literally pop off the screen (even there is hints of that sandy/dusty look even there). Fine detail is jaw dropping, as you can see everything from the shadows and folds of Gravel robe, to light stubbling across chin. The CGI is fantastically done, and so intricately blended with the movie that you can barely see where one ends and the other begins. Black levels are deep and inky, and the ONLY artifact that I could really see was some light banding that occurs on the rooftop where the lights spell out the word “Squire” near the end (you’ll know it when you see it.).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=94186[/img]Warner has always been exceptionally generous by putting the Atmos track of their Atmos enabled films on ALL versions of the movie, and this is no different (almost, both 2D and 4K versions have the Atmos enabled audio, but the 3D version is left with the 5.1 mix onl). As with “Live by Night” there is also the option for a 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix as well, something which puzzles me as Atmos as a TrueHD core that any receiver can decode if they’re not Atmos capable. Still, the Atmos experience on the disc is jaw dropping. The sound design is extremely varied and carries a sense of power and authority that resonates throughout the entire movie. Quieter moments are distinct and clear, and then that quiet moment can be broken by the thunderous crash of the Obscuras, or the shrill cry of one of Newt’s escaped beasties. Surrounds are active at all times and the use of directional momentum is incredible. When the Obscuras is wreaking havoc in New York (and especially underground in the subway) you can hear it shift from overhead, to the sides, to just underneath the feet in the span of a few seconds. Simply phenomenal mixing. Dialog is always crisp and clear, with the only problem being Eddie Redmayne sometimes mumbling his lines like he has a habit of doing.
• Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins! - Join J.K. Rowling as she, David Yates and David Heyman return to Leavesden Studios to build a new and exciting corner of the wizarding universe.
- The Magizoologist
- The Goldstein Sisters
- The New Salemers
- The No-Maj Baker
- The President and the Auror
- Meet the Fantastic Beasts
- Shaping the World of Fantastic Beasts (360°)
- New York City (360°)
- MACUSA (360°)
- Newt’s Magical Case (360°)
- The Shaw Banquet
- The Blind Pig (360°)
• Deleted Scenes (11 scenes)
As I said. You don’t need to have seen any of the “Harry Potter” films to enjoy “Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them”, but having done so (and especially having read the books) greatly enhances the experience. I won’t say that “Fantastic Beasts” is up there with the best of the Potter movies, but it is a highly enjoyable film that completely surprised my cynical nature. The Blu-ray is a stunning achievement and acts as demo material all the way around, and while it’s not as feature packed as some of the multi disc Potter films, there are more than enough special features to go around. Recommended as a good watch.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterstone
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowlin
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese English DD 5.1 (English is DVS)
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 133 Minutes
Own Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on March 28 or Own It Early on Digital HD On March 7!
Buy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3D On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Watch
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