This July, so many of us were apprehensive of what was about to come: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the ‘eighth book’ in a series that changed children’s literature forever. It was supposed to be the biggest event in recent years in the world of books — and it so was.
It broke records for the number of pre-orders made on any book ever: kids and the now-adults who grew up with the boy wizard lined up outside book stores to get their hands on the books the first thing in their day. Only to be disappointed — a feeling we never thought we would associate with Harry Potter. But looks like we still have something left of the canonical series to destroy and behold, the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and four more movies.
The eighth book (or the rehearsal script of the play that it really was) was a lazy, unimaginative job done under the blessings of JK Rowling herself. A few of her characters, who we so came to love over a decade, were reduced to mere caricatures. Some pivotal characters bore no resemblance to their younger selves, while many of the new ones were one-dimensional at best. When you compare the book to her earlier works, it didn’t seem to belong in the same universe.
But, instead of taking a deep breath and revaluating their choices, Warner Bros announced they were planning four more prequels after Fantastic Beasts. Now because we haven’t seen the film yet, it would be premature to say it is a bad decision and they are only doing it to squeeze out as much money as possible out of the franchise. What’s wrong with wanting to squeeze out money, you ask? Nothing really, except, it’s not very tasteful when you have to kill your own babies for it.
Harry Potter was like the most precious child Rowling gave us. It was encrusted with gems of characters that anyone could connect with, an inspiring storyline and an imagination, the likes of which were never seen before. But what she let happen with Cursed Child makes us not want to subject ourselves to her judgment again. The Rowling seal of approval doesn’t seem to be a guarantee of quality anymore. After finishing with the original seven Harry Potter books, she said that was it. She would frequently write tidbits about the magical world on Pottermore, without any major commitments. But when her ventures in the other genres of literatures (Casual Vacancy and the ones under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym) did not reap the same fruits as Harry Potter did, she slowly tried to get back to what she knew best.
George Lucas, with the Star Wars prequels and Peter Jackson with The Hobbit prequels, made the same mistakes as did the books by Stephanie Meyer with The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner and Midnight Sun and EL James with Grey. (The originals weren’t the best works of literature but were hugely popular none the less.) It has never worked for the biggest names in Hollywood and literature and Rowling’s attempt with Cursed Child makes her worry about Fantastic Beasts too.
What can perhaps offer a little comfort and hope is that the story and screenplay for Fantastic Beasts are written completely by Rowling herself. Not as a collaborator or an overseer, but simply as a free writer. We can only hope that she will treat the Potter universe with the respect it deserves this time, and not like a cow to milk as much possible until it, and the memories of it, are completely soiled.
We pray you have been gentle this time, Joanne, to your own creations and to the ones who have loved it through all this time, always.
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