Imagine you’re asked produce a sequel to a beloved series that shaped generations, and given a week to churn it out.
You’d probably take the most gut-wrenching scenes, re-hash the protagonists, add some laughs (maybe a romantic sub-plot?) and pepper the narrative with plot twists to not let the book sag.
This is what Hollywood does every summer to churn out the next blockbuster. Unfortunately, this is also what appears to have inspired the writers of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
One always knew a published script would never fill the void of a full-length text, especially for a world one has grown up with. But for a book billed as the eighth story in the series – the script has little original story.
Instead, there are a lot of nods to Harry Potter fan favourites – The Triwizard Tournament, the Sorting Ceremony and Godrics Hollow.
Harry retains some semblance of his guilt-ridden conflict about being The Boy Who Lived but Ron and Hermione are silly shadows of their book selves and appear to be in the book because it’s a commercial requirement. The book is set 19 years later, but unsatisfyingly, little seems to have moved on. We had more progress from the fourth to the fifth book.
Characters have too little meat in them and with the exception of the Trolley Witch on the Hogwarts Express, there are no delicious tidbits about the lives of wizards and witches that helped us construct our own magical worlds a decade ago.
The writers fall back on the most sensational and inconsistent plot device, time travel, not once or twice but thrice. The book feels like an elaborate set of plot twists, it is almost like a magical Fast and Furious.
I picked up my fist Harry Potter book from a friend’s bookshelf when I was 13 and Harry was 11 – you couldn’t get many English fiction books in the small Andhra town I grew up in.
Over the next year, I devoured the first four books, sometimes skipping school, sometimes dreaming at backbenches about a parallel world where trigonometry could be transfiguration and a chalkbox could be a portkey.
For the last three books, I travelled to a different city every time, queuing outside bookstores and growing up with Harry – a whole generation of us experiencing pain, love and trauma alongside The Boy Who Lived.
But the Cursed Child is from that world. It seems a forced Muggle-sponsored fan fiction that thinks Hermione will be an angry, crazy woman just because she didn’t get to marry Ron or thinks it’s alright to insert a cringe-worthy awkward scene between the two, one that is right out of He’s Just Not That Into You.
This isn’t the Harry of our childhood. But, worse, this isn’t the Harry of our adulthood either. This is some alternate reality Harry whose cloning went very wrong.
I felt angry that the writers thought it necessary to emotionally manipulate readers by going back to the most iconic themes from the series – Harry’s parents dying, his wretched childhood, Hagrid’s first visit to the Dursleys and a vapid Dumbledore who talks only in platitudes.
The only saving grace in the laboured exercise is the son of Draco Malfoy – Scorpius – who is the only character in the book to have some brains and humanity infused into him.
The touching dad-son dynamics intended between Harry and his second son Albus is as dry as cardboard – words come out staccato and resolution is all too quick.
Actually, that is the problem of the entire book. The reason Harry Potter stayed with us for years after we first read about him was its similarity to our lives: Harry is just another boy with no easy resolutions his way.
But here, in the race for the next big plot, the solutions are quick and obvious and even the final climax is limp. If this is a demand of a play, this script should never have been published as a book.
For every year since 2007, I have spent two weeks each summer re-reading the books and inevitably laughing and crying, reliving my childhood as much as Harry’s.
But the Cursed Child doesn’t deserve this, having packed in less emotion that the slim last chapter of the Deathly Hallows.
I’ll try to forget the curse that this book is and go back to the adieu in the seventh book that made so many of us cry, sad but jubilant as were at the same time. JK Rowling, Harry is as much ours as he is yours. Leave him alone, he deserves much better than this rehash.
Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.