There is a lot of visual candy in this new franchise, no doubt. But, sadly, there isn’t a lot of story, even though there are few good characters. Unexpectedly, Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) isn’t really one of the ones I’d call out. His character is a rehash of some of his old tricks… all done well, and endearing, but not exactly surprising.
This film is stolen by Dan Fogler (Europa Report) and Alison Sudol (Transparent). Their energy and relationship is all that lifts the tale from a drudge and treasure hunt to something a bit more meaningful to the audience. Ezra Miller (Suicide Squad) brings his own magic and ability to the game, but much like Redmayne’s Newt, there isn’t much in the performance we haven’t seen before. Sure it is done well, but that isn’t going to help it stand out. Even Colin Farrell (The Lobster) couldn’t find much to bring for his audience, but that was more the script.
The rest of the cast is fine, from a solid Katherine Waterson (Steve Jobs) to the brief moments of Ronan Raftery (Moone Boy). There are also a series of nice cameos and other characters I would expect to return and be expanded upon.
I realize there is a bigger picture of the world being set up (and which will unfold over the next four films) but that has the smallest impact emotionally. We don’t have books or story to sustain us while we wait to understand. This story is really just an introduction. What is left is a big dungeon crawl with some additional trappings even as it reflects upon the current world and political fears that are rising. Perhaps because of that last bit it was particularly disappointing; the magic world appears ruled by fools rather than competent people. With tension the way they are and prejudice rising, the story doesn’t provide enough escape and hope from our own realities, nor does it provide any kind of useful message or way out.
If you’re a Potter fan, you’ll likely be drawn in as you get to explore Rowling’s world from an entirely new angle. If you aren’t a Potter fan, there isn’t a lot to hang your hat on with this one. Even the bucket loads of “pretty” don’t make up for the thin plot as more than a minor diversion. Perhaps over time and as the plot unwinds I’ll feel better about this new launch, but for now it is a simple entertainment without a lot of reason to go back and see it again… at least for me.