Monday, January 16, 2017
Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, imagining a world where magic is heavily entwined with political intrigue and power. Not everything here is for kids—there's an X-Men mutants vibe working hard on the edges. Clarke's book, by the way, was published in 2004 but she started it in 1993, four years before the first Harry Potter novel, so all this British publishing magic appears to be a case of serendipity. What Fantastic Beasts reminded me of most was a DC Comics storyline from the '60s, "Dial H for Hero." In this ridiculous series (which has since been revived multiple times, as recently as 2012), our hero, a bicycle-riding tween named Robby Reed, finds a detached rotary dial (yes, that's right, a detached rotary dial), which, when dialed H - E - R - O, turned him into a random new superhero. He always had to take time to figure out what his new superpower was, which was never convenient when he was in a real jam. So this movie is pretty much as billed, focus on the "fantastic beasts," with all their many assorted names and powers. The "where to find them" is an extra dimension more or less inside the traveling case of Newt Scamander (Redmayne) as he visits New York City to collect a few that escaped. He has to keep the rest secured, a few of which are always trying to escape. You get the idea. This all takes place in the 1920s for no apparent reason, but the period detail is charming. Lots of political issues about magic and magic beasts and such. Oh it's going to be big. Wait until you see who shows up at the end. This is a pretty good time, especially with easily impressed and vocal youngsters. Maybe you know a few.