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The Holdovers Review
February 20, 2024

An Analysis of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’

Warning (spoilers)

If you have not seen the movie, check this link for a short synopsis: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, set in the creative and immersive Wizarding Universe. The movie was full of action, incredible visuals, and captivating characters, but my favorite aspect of the movie was its plot. It was fascinating to delve into an alternative setting, 1920s New York City, and to experience brand new subjects in the wizarding world.

There were three main plot points in the movie, the first being the struggle between wizards over whether or not to keep their magic abilities secret from No-Majs, humans who are not wizards and are unaware of magic. In the past, No-Majs were aware of the powers of wizards, and as a result they would burn wizards at the stake, such as what happened in the Salem Witch Trials. On one hand, revealing their magic abilities would allow wizards more freedom. They could practice magic openly instead of in secret, and would not have to live in the constant fear of revealing their magic to the public. On the other hand, No-Majs would react violently to having magic revealed to them, as violence is the natural human response to things that we do not understand.

Another struggle in the movie is between wizards and magical animals. Wizards are afraid that magical animals will reveal themselves to No-Majs, exposing the wizarding world. As a result, there is an anti-magical creature sentiment that pervades the wizarding world, which the main character of the film, Newt Scamander, fights against. As a magizoologist, a job quite similar to a zoologist in the No-Maj work, Newt studies and protects magical creatures  Throughout he works hard to educate other wizards about the peaceful nature of these animals, insisting that they are not a threat to both of the world.

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Lastly, there is the conflict between Credence, one of the main villains in the film who is an obscure, and the world. An obscurus is a wizard that had their magical powers repressed, eventually developing extreme dark chaotic energy that breaks free and causes mass destruction. Credence is a character whose adopted mother leads an anti-magic organization, and Credence develops an obscurus as a result. Credence is ruthlessly beaten by his mother and betrayed by his only friend, leading to more destruction and his obscurus takes control.

At the end of the film, when Newt tries to calm Credence down, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) try to kill Credence in order to end the destructive effects of his obscurus. Instead of trying to understand him, the group immediately attempts to end his life, in a similar fashion to how No-Majs would kill wizards instead of trying to understand them. Credence is misunderstood in the same way that magical creatures are misunderstood by wizards, and neither seem to be given a second chance. Lastly, after countless No-Majs witness the MACUSA’s destruction of Credence, Newt proves the usefulness of magical creatures by releasing a Thunderbird, a magical creature that is able to wipe the minds of all the No-Majs in New York City of the magical events that they witnessed, preserving the secrecy of the wizarding world.

The idea of destroying what we do not understand is a human flaw that has been widely discussed in media. The film can even be viewed through a racial lens, seeing how certain cultures ostracize, repress, or attack other cultures based on the fear involved with a lack of understanding. By presenting topics such as this, J.K. Rowling’s universe starts conversations not only about the wizarding world, but the real world as well.

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