fantastic_beasts_and_where_to_find_them_ver4_xxlg#1 movie, weekend of 11/18-11/20/16

Gross: $74,403,387

What it is: A J. K. Rowling-scripted story from the Harry Potter universe in which a wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) must recapture a bunch of magical creatures he’s lost in 1920s New York. There’s also an evil force menacing the city, but to honest I was never entirely clear on what the deal with that thing was, even after it was supposedly explained.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them illustrates the hazards of taking franchise mythology too literally. The Harry Potter series set up an expansive world of clandestine wizardry, but it was also very clearly a metaphor for the experience of childhood and adolescence. This film explores the implications of the larger context (magical police forces, a distinctly American version of magical society, etc.) but never really ties that stuff in to the journey of the characters in a way that resonates. It’s fine–the special effects are cool and the acting is good and all–but it feels unmoored from the real-world underpinnings that made the original books and movies work. It also works too hard to lay groundwork for sequels, spending lots of time introducing characters who don’t really seem necessary in this installment, including Jon Voight as a politician who happens to look a lot like Trump, or maybe I’m just losing it.

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Also parts of the soundtrack sound a lot like the theme music from the Saw movies. Weird.

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