Plot: What’s it about?
It’s been over twenty five years since the first Harry Potter book was written. And it’s been over twenty years since audiences were treated to the first Harry Potter film. We all know what happened in the next seven film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s iconic hero, so when Warner announced the Fantastic Beasts series, I’m sure that it raised more than a few eyebrows. In much the same way that Breaking Bad ended its run and then came out with Better Call Saul – a prequel though still taking place in the same universe – Fantastic Beasts took the same approach. And, really, who can blame them? The Potter films generated tons of money for Warner and, well, everyone associated with them. Since movie studios are about making money, it was logical to try and stretch every little bit of that universe into something tangible. And so in 2016 we were treated to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Now we find ourselves at in the middle of the planned 5 installments, so here’s what’s going on with Newt and Dumbledore…
After the events of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, we find the story set in 1932. Newt. Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is set on protecting newborn Qilin, a magical animal that can see into your soul and tell your true nature. Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, taking over from Johnny Depp) are, naturally, very interested in this and have their own agenda. All the while Hogwart’s professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) is assembling a team of wizards that consist of Theseus (Callum Turner), Jacob (Dan Fogler), Bunty (Victoria Yeats), Lally (Jessica Williams) and Yusuf (William Nadylam) who are all out to stop them. There’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s the central theme of this third installment and all of its 142 minute glory.
Here’s what I don’t get…on one hand you’ve got source material that we all know is a home run. The director, David Yates, is no stranger to the Potter universe and this marks his seventh outing behind the camera. It all started with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And while this series doesn’t have the underlying story of “the boy who lived” or the ominous presence of Voldermort, there’s still plenty to work with. But still audiences have been giving these the cold shoulder. And I and I’m sure Warner Bros. are trying to figure out why. That’s the real question, isn’t it? With only two installments left, it’d presumably bring us right up to where the Potter films started. So…why stop now? I’d find it difficult to believe that they’ll throw in the towel and, after all, the films are still technically making money. But is the magic waning or should they have quit while they were ahead? Time will tell.
Video: How’s it look?
Given that all of the Potter films as well as the first two Fantastic Beasts have looked glorious – no detail overlooked, that’s what we can expect here as well. The 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image simply oozes with HDR, tack sharp detail and everything in between. The definition in the tweed suits, the individual bricks in the buildings and so forth; they all look amazing. Contrast is strong, shadows show no signs of artifacting. This is one of those films that, despite being all over the place with its story, will look good. Even the included Blu-ray dazzles and sparkles without the benefit of high dynamic range. This one’s a winner, folks.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The score is a bit different from those in the Harry Potter series, but James Newton Howard’s take in this film is simply marvelous. And yes, there is an ever-familiar tune that longtime viewers will immediately recognize. The included Dolby Atmos soundtrack pulls no punches. The apparations are constant and sound stunning, likewise the surround effects and atmospheric aura abound. Vocals, as expected, are rich, crisp and pure and with the diverse cast, we get a solid range of vocal dynamics. One doesn’t watch a film like this and leave disappointed, not when it comes to the technical aspects. This one, like all films in the Wizarding World, delivers.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The Dumbledore Family Tree – Pretty much that. We get a look at Albus Dumbledore and a few of his relatives dating back.
- Dumbledore Through the Ages – Members of the cast and crew discuss the iconic character.
- Magical or Muggle – A guessing game with members of the cast and crew.
- The Magic of Hogwarts – The cast members discuss making movies on the set of “where it all began.”
- Even More Fantastic Beasts – We get a peek at some of the new and old, beasts featured in the movie.
- Newt in the Wild – Actor Eddie Redmayne, producer David Heyman, and a few others comment on Newt in his “natural habitat.”
- The German Ministry of Magic – We get some brief insight about the locale featured.
- A Dumbledore Duel – A look at the duel between Albus and Credence.
- The Candidates’ Dinner – Essentially the same as above, we get a look at this scene as it’s dissected.
- Erkstag Jailbreak – And yet another one in which we get a look at the jailbreak scene.
- Battle in Bhutan – This last one is perhaps the most interesting yet with comments from the cast and crew.
- Deleted Scenes – Given the film’s bloated running time (nearly two and a half hours), these were wisely cut though it’s nice to have them.
- Hogwarts Owlery
- Newt’s House
- Credence Kills Auror
- Wands Checked
- Vogel at Nurmengard
- The Secrets of Cursed Child – A promo for the ongoing Harry Potter stage version.
The Bottom Line
This one’s a head-scratcher. On one hand, the film did manage to make more than double its budget back ($400 million worldwide), but given that this is part of the Harry Potter universe – it probably should have been more. Are audiences finally getting sick of muggles, wizards and witches? With two films left in the series, we have to wonder if those last installments will see the light of day at the theater or on a streaming service like HBO Max. Regardless, this one looks good, sounds good and should make a good addition to your existing collection.