by Cassie Ochoa
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on a fictional textbook in one of the largest modern franchises. As the ninth film associated with the Harry Potter universe, it has an additional four films waiting in the wings. It has none of the original cast coming back, is set in an entirely different country, and essentially is specifically written for the screen by J.K. Rowling herself. Whether you feel Fantastic Beasts is going to be a nice way to expand the world of Harry Potter or simply a ploy for those feeling nostalgic, it’s hard not to get excited by the trailer. With Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne playing a Charles Darwin-esque figure trying to save creatures that escaped during his study in America and David Yates, a longtime staple of the Harry Potter films directing the project, will it have enough legs to warrant the potential four sequels?
David Yates’s tenure as the go-to Harry Potter director is slightly controversial. As the director of the longest books in the series, he’s held responsible for the final decision on cutting important source material, which has caused some fan backlash. Other than the Harry Potter films, he’s mainly worked as a television director for miniseries such as State of Play, The Way We Live Now and The Bill. He’s a pretty solid director with an audience pleasing style.
We’ve written on The Legend of Tarzan before, but as Yates’ sole theatrical film not involving wizards, it’s worth another examination. This clip is from early on in the film as Tarzan, known in England as John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgård), comes out from behind his status as a myth to some children. It starts and ends on Clayton, making sure the audience sees the man before the children see him as a beast. With a glance and a whistle, the audience knows Clayton’s relationship to Jane (Margot Robbie) and his near acclimation into proper English society. His talk with the children is at their level, and it makes sure that the focus is on him without losing the importance of the children. It’s a very simple scene, but it helps establish exactly what Yates can do in a film’s quieter moments.
Having worked in film since 1970, Philippe Rousselot is an extremely prolific cinematographer with no shortage of dramatic work on his résumé. His work has predominantly been shooting on film, finally converting to digital with The Nice Guys. His cinematography highlights actors’ performances and knows how to balance a high action set piece clearly, demonstrating danger without sacrificing any aspect of the visuals. He’s a multitalented cinematographer who knows how to make an audience fall in love and fall apart alongside the characters, and he has a preference for China ball lighting.
The 2009 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes doesn’t do anything particularly new in terms of the source material. However, it did bring the classic character back, offering a slightly modern take on it. This clip shows probably the quickest deterioration of a dinner in cinema that doesn’t end in a murder. Before Watson (Jude Law) arrives, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is crowd watching, picking up details of tiny crimes and conflicts in the restaurant. Once Watson and Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) sit down to dinner, the trio are separated in shots. Homes broaches the borders of all of their shots, but Watson is only in the shot with Mary and Holmes three times. As Sherlock does his deductions, the shots stay primarily focused on him and Mary, favoring a two shot of them over the back of their heads, but when the discussion turns to the ring, the shots get tighter, culminating in a jarring cut where Mary and Sherlock share a larger frame. This of course, signals the end of their dinner as Mary throws her glass in his face and both depart. It’s not the flashiest scene in the film but it showcases both the core dynamic of Watson and Holmes and the ultimate social problems that come with Holmes’ gift.
So what can we expect visually from Fantastic Beasts? It may not be particularly bold or daring in terms of visuals, but it will have flair. The story’s the ticket on this one and with a plot that doesn’t have longstanding fans, the film industry may be taking a risk on this potential tentpole picture. However, if there’s one fan base that is open to an expansion of the world, it’s Harry Potter fans. Chances are if it has J.K. Rowling’s seal of approval, the fans will see it regardless. Expect a visual feast in terms of creature design.