Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Staying up late to catch a Fantastic Beast

Last Thursday night we did the crazy and exhausting thing that every true fan does, and we went to the midnight opening first screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at the IMAX. We'd already seen the first ten minutes thanks to attending the amazing Fan Event last month, but the movie continues to be a delight for fans of JK Rowling's Wizarding World.

You probably know what the story is by now - Newt Scamander, magizoologist, arrives in New York by ship (thinking about it, you can only apparate so far without risk, and portkeys have a nasty habit of making you sick... maybe a portkey would have affected the animals in the case too). He has a TARDIS-like suitcase storing many fantastic beasts, and some escape when his case gets muddled with budding baker/muggle, sorry - no-maj, Jacob Kowalski. The chase is on to recapture the beasts before they are harmed.

Simple huh?

Minor Spoilers follow... so shhhhhh...

No. Not simple at all. Behind this is not only the underlying threat of Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard that fought to undo the International Statute of Secrecy protecting the wizarding world from muggles (and vice-versa), but also the threat of a different kind of "beast" that is terrorising New York.

As expected, I loved the film. Great stuff, though very, very different from what you could have expected. It really does feel like the start of a much longer story (which will be told over the next four movies) and it doesn't follow the predictable Hollywood structure. Things happen because they have to, not because it follows a three act structure or "set pieces". It's a little jarring at first, but refreshing in the end.

At first I was unsure about the casting of Eddie Redmayne, especially as it felt in the trailers that he was going to be mumbling a lot through the film, but when you actually watch it it all makes perfect sense. He's quiet, introspective, shy, and (much like someone who spends all of his time with animals) rarely makes eye contact. He's determined to save lives, both the creatures he's protecting, and everyone around him - even the villain(s) of the piece.

It has some seriously dark moments too. With the major monster of the movie being the way humans treat things they don't understand, you can expect some dark turns. Not only that, MACUSA (the US equivalent of the Ministry of Magic) is super-paranoid about creatures, and exposure to the muggles. A bit of a comment about gun registration with the need for wizards to have a license to carry a wand. Hmmm... But also, a nasty bit about capital punishment as well, with MACUSA's equivalent of the gas chamber, where wizards are executed in a "death cell" - but it's okay, because they'll take your nice memories out of your head and put them in the pool that'll kill you and you'll be happy to go and see all those nice memories again. As I said... DARK!

We're already planning a second trip to see it, so we can take in the extra details that we missed the first time around (mostly due to it being the early hours of the morning).


On top of that, the few free moments I've had recently have been spent playing a little free app (available on Android and iOS) called Fantastic Beasts Cases from the Wizarding World. A new game approved by JK Rowling where you play an investigator for the Ministry of Magic's Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

You partner with Mathilda Grimblehawk and go around locations trying to solve mysteries that involve beasts. It's a basic "find the object" game, with timers, mirrored levels, spot the difference, and more. It's horribly addictive.


What with that, and the announcement of a new Harry Potter Miniatures game coming next year from Knight Models...

Looks like I should brush off that pitch for a Harry Potter RPG again...  one day... one day...