Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a Muggle worthy blog in a magical internet. I'm Dave-El, writer of Fantastic Beets and Where To Hide Them.

Two days ago, the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go see something new and familiar at the same time. The familiar part of that is rooted in the wizarding world we came to know in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. The new part comes from everything else: the characters, the location and even the time. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is set in the 1920s in America where the wizard community operates under different rules and expectations. Entering this world from England is Newt Scamander, an expelled student of Hogwarts who is nonetheless regarded fondly by Albus Dumbledore. Newt is a soft spoken but powerful wizard tasked with the rescue and care of magical creatures. It is this mission that has brought Newt to New York City where through a sequence of events, a few of Newt’s creatures have escaped his suitcase. (It’s bigger on the inside. A lot bigger on the inside.)  But there appears to be another creature on the loose in New York, one that Newt did not bring with him; instead it is a dark, malevolent force of chaos and death. One of the New York contingent of wizards is determined to secure this power for his own. It is a quest that leads to an explosion of supernatural energies, exposing the existence of wizards to the world. 

Visually, Fantastic Beasts is astonishing to look at. The look of 1920s New York alongside the magical world that exists just beyond the corner of her eye are beautifully constructed. And the fantastic creatures that Newt cares for strike a balance of otherworldly strangeness with a sense of magical wonder and beauty. The most endearing creature from Newt's magical menagerie is the Niffler, a quasi-platypus with an inordinate attraction to shiny things. Although the green bug-like creature who hangs out in Newt's coat pockets is very interesting and very helpful.  

The core protagonists are likable and engaging. Newt Scamander is clearly more comfortable and confident when in the company of this fantastic beasts than he is with other people but he does manage to develop a rapport with American wizard Tina, her sister Queenie and Jake Kowalski, an ordinary human factory working sucked into a world of magic and strangeness.

The main plot of the movie is where the cracks begin to show. Early on we're shown a montage of headlines that tell us that a dangerous wizard named Gellert Grindelwald is on the loose and up to nefarious things. But given that we are supposed to regard him as a serious threat, Grindelwald carries little weight throughout the narrative. The revelation that one of the main American wizards is really Grindelwald in disguise doesn't really have a very strong impact.

The view of Americans from the point of view of the British Isles is pretty negative with the American wizarding authorizes quick to shoot first and ask questions later and even quicker to employ a death penalty. To be fair, the Ministry of Magic over in the United Kingdom can be very pedantic and obtuse to a most annoying degree but The Magic Congress of the United States seems to have perfected the ability of inserting one's head up one's own posterior.

But whatever shortcomings the story may have, it was still a lot of fun to follow Newt and his friends, whether they be wizards, human or fantastic beasts. Kudos to Eddie Redmayne who brought Newt Scamander to life with a unique collection of odd quirks but always with a heroic attitude towards protecting the creatures he cares for and ultimately, to fight for his new friends in America. And Dan Fogler imbues Jake Kowalski with a perfect blend of emotions as he moves from fear to wonder, from doubt to acceptance of his adventures with his new found wizarding friends.

The word is that there are 4 more movies to come in this new series of films spinning off from J K Rowling's Harry Potter universe. I'm not sure where we're going from here. Fantastic Beasts tells a fairly complete story but I won't mind seeing Newt and the gang again in this newly discovered part of Rowling's world of magic.


Tomorrow, it's comic book time as I look at the latest issues of Superman as part of DC's Rebirth. As we approach Thanksgiving, I take a look at the family at heart of this new series of Superman adventures.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, looking for a post based on the theme of the day on Thursday.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

Action Comics#1000

Shhhhhh! I'm reading Superman in Action Comics#1000!   And it.... is.... AWESOME!!!