starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell
written by J.K. Rowling
directed by David Yates
by Walter Chaw J.K. Rowling is more plotter than writer or editor, more rambling fantasist than disciplined storyteller--explanation there as to why her Harry Potter novels aren't classics so much as very popular stories for children. This also explains why Rowling flinched at the prospect of Harry martyring himself at the end, something the entire series leads up to. Rowling betrays, too, heroine Hermione, the logical successor to Dumbledore's seat, not wife to Harry's drippy buddy. She didn't have the heart, she says, to do the things she should have done, and so produced books you'll grow out of. And quickly. The film adaptations (like Beethoven's Symphonies, only the odd ones are good, and you should skip the first) are uneven largely because they're best when the folks doing the adapting take Rowling's ideas and craft narratives and narrative subtext from/for them--and worst when they try to pack in all those volumes of blandly discursive blather to please a massive fanbase. Asking Rowling herself to write the screenplay for David Yates's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (hereafter Fantastic Beasts), then, has yielded exactly the expected result: the film is bloated, boring at times, rambling most others; and it's rich with genuine ideas and an honest-to-goodness progressive heartbeat. It's topical, boasts of an extremely able cast it squanders mostly, and acts as a glossy coat sheening over the "real" story, pulsing but drowned, at its centre.