Fantastic Beasts a whimsical hit
THERE'S a phrase those with wizarding powers use regularly in this mightily impressive new JK Rowling adaptation.
They talk of "obliviating” No-Majs (muggles) who've seen them at work.
To be "obliviated” is to forget what you've just witnessed. There's no danger of that happening to audiences who come to see Fantastic Beasts. This is rousing film-making that combines astonishing special effects with plenty of humour and pathos.
At times, the storytelling becomes dark, verging on film noir, but even at its most foreboding, the film never loses its charm or its winning whimsicality.
Instead of enrolling again at Hogwarts, we're in New York in 1926, the era of Boardwalk Empire, gangsters and speakeasies.
Amiable British eccentric "Newt” Scamander (Redmayne), expelled from Hogwarts some years before, is arriving in America.
The young wizard is carrying a battered brown suitcase that contains within it some of the fantastic beasts that give the film its name.
As in the Harry Potter features, the film makers have filled the cast with redoubtable character actors.
These include Ron Perlman as a goblin-like gangster who runs an underground bar, Samantha Morton as a stern, Quaker-like matriarch who wants the wizards destroyed, and Ezra Miller as a troubled adolescent who turns out to have hidden depths. Johnny Depp also makes a brief but effective appearance, one suggesting we'll see more of him in subsequent episodes.
At times, the storytelling is a little confusing, but rather than trying to unpick the narrative, it's best just to bask in the wondrous performances and the extraordinary craftsmanship.
The recreation of Twenties New York here is meticulously detailed. Extreme care has been paid to everything including the costumes and the jazz-era music.
The film is a constant dance between light and dark, between playful knockabout comedy and havoc and destruction.
Five years on from Harry Potter's last screen outing, Fantastic Beasts could easily have seemed derivative or anti-climactic. Instead, it's a thoroughly invigorating affair which only whets our appetites for its sequels.
What: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them
When: Dec 9 2.15pm and 7pm, Dec 11 5pm, Dec 12 noon and 2.30pm, Dec 13 1.30pm, Dec 14 4pm and 6.30pm
Where: Proserpine Entertainment Centre
Cost: Adults $13, Pension/Student $12, Child U15 $10