I love Harry Potter. I mean… all things – all things – Harry Potter. I love ’em. I wanted to go to Hogwarts… Okay, who am I kidding, I want to go to Hogwarts (though now I’m afraid I’m more along the lines of teaching a class than taking one – sign me up for Potions master!). I’d cut off your left arm for one ride on the Hogwarts Express and cut off mine for a weekend at Hogsmeade. I bought the supplemental books – Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them – when they were just little side-jobs done for charity. I give Potter-crafts for Christmas (brace yourselves: handmade herringbone House scarves are the gifts this year!) and have been known to throw Harry Potter themed parties on a whim. I commissioned a custom letterman jacket for Ravenclaw (and a plus-one for Gryffindor as a gift!). I carry a time-turner on my bag, still use Double Trouble as Friend Bill’s contact ringtone, and every year from the first of November to the end of December I re-read the entire seven-book series and watch all of the films (the ABC Family / Freeform versions, which contain deleted scenes and which I DVR’d a few years ago during a Harry Potter Weekend because for some – probably commercial – reason no one sells these versions).
But this newest addition to the Wizarding World…
I don’t know, I tell ya. I just.don’t.know.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8)
Authors: Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, and John Tiffany
Genre: Screenplays, Theater & Cinema, Fantasy
Version: Amazon Kindle
“It was always difficult being Harry Potter, and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and the father of three school-age children.
“While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.”
Just being part of the Harry Potter world makes this addition a win for a lot of people. It had five-star reviews from common plebs like me months before it was even released, and even a few respected professionals were singing its praises in – and by their own admission – anticipation of the script. And a lot of the hype now mentions what a wonderful play it is, how magical the production, how enchanting the cast…
But this is not that play. This is the script of that play, and that’s a totally different thing altogether. Not only that, but this is the first edition of the script for that play – they’ve apparently edited and rewritten portions of this original since then and are, of course, planning on releasing that in yet another year, no doubt marketed as something like The Super-Duper Definitive Director’s Cut Special Limited Gold-Platinum-Mithril Potter Approved 100% Real Deal Edition. So, my review will be solely on this script of the first-edition of the play – not the play itself, which I have not seen..
So. Right. I’m not sure how I feel about this newest installment. Rowling said upon completion of The Deathly Hallows that that was it, there would be no more books about Harry Potter, it was the last, finite. And Muggles around the world sighed, clung to their battered copies of the books, and wiped away their bitter tears of disappointment – yours truly included. That final installment is my least favorite in an otherwise excellent series that I love; to me, it seemed Rowling had just killed off a lot of the peripheral characters to whom so many of us had become desperately attached in order to keep anyone else from ever writing stories about them, then tacked on that horrid Epilogue to fast-forward Harry & Co. into adulthood to prevent more tales from other authors. (Keep in mind that the final book came out roughly around the time that issues sprung up between Rowling and various fan fiction authors on the internet.)
Then… suddenly… she was giving interviews about things she’d wished she’d changed, paths she’d wished she’d followed, snippets that changed forever how we looked at certain characters. Suddenly, Dumbledore wasn’t just Dumbledore anymore – he was Dumbledore the Gay Spokesman of the Wizarding World (and, no, before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, I have no problems with him being gay – I always thought he was gay in my own head, too; what I have a problem with is people feeling the need to define everyone by who they are attracted to, and this particular announcement of his sexuality seemed to me to be a statement made simply to be making A Statement, a sudden unnecessary tidbit about a man who was left to be a mystery otherwise – of all the things we were left not knowing or understanding about Dumbledore, I can honestly say who he was attracted to was one of the last things on my mind). And don’t even get me started on her admission that she didn’t like Ron and Hermione ending up together and had regretted not putting Hermione with Harry.
After finishing The Cursed Child I was left feeling… deflated. I don’t mind that it’s a script – I quite like plays, actually – but this reads like the draft that it is; there are very little stage instructions, so you’re left piecing interactions together solely based on dialogue, which is essentially all that we’re given here: conversations. Rowling’s novels are magical in and of themselves – they contain her witty prose, her wordplay, her descriptions of the world she created and shared with all of us. And I’m sure the play is just as magical – it has lighting and soundtracks and decor to give us the magical theme we’ve grown to love, and the cast does the rest, giving flesh and voice to the characters, putting meaning in each moment. But this script has none of that. It has dialogue and meager instructions, such as, “Harry, looking crestfallen,” but that’s it.
The other thing I didn’t really care for is that so much of this story seems to be nothing more than an opportunity to play out all of those alternative scenarios Rowling mentioned in post-Hallows interviews. We see who Ron and Hermione would be without one another, we see a world with Voldemort in charge, we see another world where certain pivotal characters survived and others died in their stead. Sure, around the 60% mark we finally hit upon an alternative universe scenario that I rather liked… but I never wanted a remix of what I loved to begin with – that feels too much like the whole “Bella’s story from Edward’s perspective” gimmick. I wanted something new. Something amazing. Something magical.
So many opportunities were lost here, as well. Teddy Lupin – friend and distant relation of the Potters and Weasleys – doesn’t even get so much as an honorable mention. Victoire, Dominique, and Louis Weasley don’t take a single bow. Neville, who we all know went on to teach at Hogwarts, is a non-entity. Luna, likewise. Instead, we focus solely on Harry’s relationship with his younger son, Albus, and the latter’s friendship with Scorpius Malfoy. And tossed into the mix is the existence of a villain who, rather than highlighting Voldemort’s evil accomplishments, negates them simply by breathing; Voledmort, who once represented the very embodiment of evil, who cared about no one and nothing other than the getting and keeping of power, is suddenly acknowledged as having been a mortal man with very mortal needs and wants… and, hey, he’s a dead-beat dad, too.
I mean. What the what?! Voldemort… the Dark Lord… He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named… a father??!!
The most magical parts of The Cursed Child were, for me, the moments replayed from Rowling’s books: Hagrid bringing Harry his first birthday cake, the Triwizard Tournament, the heartbreaking murders of Lily and James… But I’ve lived those moments already, numerous times, and I can relive them any time I want with a simple turn of the page or click of the Kindle button.
In the end, I’m glad I read it so I know how the series creator views Harry’s middle-aged life – but for me, the Boy Who Lived is more than an over-worked civil servant whose life seems to be on a constant cycle of Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Potter is Rowling’s creation; she calls this book canon, and that’s her prerogative as the creator, I suppose. But I’ve always believed that once you put artwork out into public – be it a book, music, painting, etc. – it’s no longer just yours anymore. Now it belongs to everyone. While Rowling may have created Harry and his world, we all grew up with him, and he and his friends and enemies all grew and grew, they grew away from Rowling, they grew separately from us, they just kept growing until it all became iconic and the entire mythos rose up to stand alone. Rowling can call The Cursed Child part of her Wizarding World if she wants to – just as you can decide to do the same, if you read it and find that you truly love it as much as all the rest – but it simply cannot be part of mine.