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What To Expect From Harry Potter And The Cursed Child
With much fanfare and anticipation, the “eighth story” in the Harry Potter series was released in end July 2016. What followed, expectedly, was a few rounds of polite accolades, and a whole storm of heated criticism.
As a long time “Potterhead,” I bought the book immediately after its release. In my opinion, it’s far from the injustice some are decrying it to be, but neither is it also the sort of sequel a Harry Potter fan would long for. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect if you have yet to watch or read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I leave it to you to decide whether this entry should be considered a true sequel, or just a marketing ploy.
1. It’s A Play! It’s A Script!
A lot of the negative reaction revolved around Harry Potter and the Cursed Child being … a two-part play and its rehearsal script. Some fans thought it was a novel, or at least a novelisation of the play.
Now, I have no idea why this happened. Admittedly, the producers and publishers downplayed these aspects, but it wasn’t as it was completely unmentioned. If you’re concerned about this, don’t be. The story is not at all awful, not at all un-Potterish, and it’s certainly not what one silly reporter described it as, a Shakespeare lesson. Actually, I thought it made for lighter reader. And it is long enough to require a few hours to finish the entire script. It felt very much a “book” reading experience to me.
2. It’s Pure Fan Service.
If I were to describe Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with one statement, I’d say this. It’s pure, 100 per cent, completely unabashed fan service.
The story is spun around all the what-ifs Potterheads have daydreamed about for years. Many scenes are homages to classic ones in the earlier books or movies. It even brings back some fan favourites, whom I wouldn’t name to prevent spoilers.
Is this enjoyable? Well, that completely depends on how much you’re into fan service. I can only say it’s gratifying, but beyond a point, it also makes the story predictable. In other words, you have to decide yourself whether to celebrate or denounce this. Do also be prepared for a lot of sub-plots happening the way you would “expect” them to. There’s not a lot of surprises here, especially for true Harry Potter fans.
3. It Addresses The Weaker Segments Of The Earlier Books.
With the previous story stretching over seven years and seven books, there was bound to be plot holes here and there. The worst one, parodied so often, involved … …
J.K. Rowling must have known about this. And so with Cursed Child, she set out to address them once and for all. Now, I don’t know about other Potterheads, but I thought this was done reasonably, if a little too predictable. I also felt it was the right thing to do. If you eventually read the script or watch the play, do let me know how satisfied you are with the “explanation.” Do comment and too whether you found this explanation to be too conventional.
4. It Shines The Limelight On The Malfoys.
The Malfoys featured heavily in the earliest books. They continued to be around until the end of Deathly Hallows, with Draco playing a crucial part in the final story arc. But never did they become the sort of grand ally or formidable adversary we thought they would be.
Cursed Child returns the limelight to them. In fact, it elevates them to an importance they never had in the earlier books. Fans of Draco will surely be thrilled by his much heavier feature in this new story. I suspect they’d also love the “new” Malfoy introduced. This one, hint hint, brings out both the best and the worst in the Harry Potter family.
Was Draco Malfoy ever a favourite character of yours?
5. It shows The Human Side Of Harry Potter
By “human,” I don’t mean Harry was revealed to have muggle lineage. I mean the face of him beyond that of a hero.
A great appeal of the Harry Potter story has always been how typical he was. Like so many of us, he struggled with school subjects. He had notable flaws and quirks too. Still, he was a world saving hero and there were things he was supremely talented at, such as Quidditch. This “eighth story” shows how he’s like when there is little left to be heroic about. When the greatest challenge is not to bring down dark wizards, but to sustain one’s family and career. Fans looking for spell whizzing action might find this a notch too dreary. For me, I thought it completed the character of Harry. It made him more personable, more acceptable.
6. There's Too Much Fan Service
Not repeating an earlier point, but emphasising it. Fan service is enjoyable because things pop out the way you want them to. You also feel a connection with the author (and playwrights). But when it happens in every page, it becomes disappointing and trite. You feel so because nothing new is ultimately added to the whole saga.
In the case of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I wouldn’t say nothing fresh was added. Still, because there’s so much fan service, it doesn’t have the sort of thrill found in the earlier books. To be more specific, I wished the third and fourth acts were played out quite differently. It would go against what I hoped for as a fan, but precisely because of that too, the story would have been more intriguing.
7. It’s Not About The Boy Who Lived, But The Children Who Grew Up.
Personally, I think this is the most important thing to note. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not about Harry fighting another dark lord. It’s about a middle-age father struggling with office paperwork and an angry son, in a story set two decades later.
Why is this important? Because if you read or watch this story expecting Harry and his friends to be on an adventure again, you are going to be SORELY disappointed. These teens have grown up. They now have the burdens of adulthood all over their robes, and like the rest of us in real life, they no longer talk the way they do when they were young. I’m highlighting this because I read a fair bit of criticism about how Harry and his friends do not feel the same as before. All I can say is, if you hate the idea of them growing old, then this is not the story for you. The saga for you should end with Deathly Hallows. Disregard anything beyond that.
This sets the tone for this new story. Actually, this was reused as the prologue.
8. Some Classic Characters Are Completely Omitted.
Despite obvious efforts to include as many characters from the earlier books as possible, a good number were still left out. For example, Hagrid. Or the minor members of Dumbledore’s Army. Or Remus and Nymphadora’s orphan. If you are a big fan of any of these characters, be prepared for their complete absence from Cursed Child. Sorry to say, you just have to wait for a “ninth story,” to find out what happened to them after Voldemort’s defeat.
Many aren't important characters, but it would be nice to have some updates about them.
9. There Is A Lot of Promotion For The Original Series.
This is only to be expected. And I’m not condemning it, just saying that you should be prepared that some are quite in-your-face. There’s a good number of scenes that truly to have no other purpose other than to promote the earlier books and movies. If this feels too much of a turn-off, consider skipping those scenes. Most of them are short and inconsequential. To put it in another way, treat them as TV advertisements. Press skip if they bother you too much.
10. There Is A Lot of Ambivalent LGBT Undertones In The Story.
I place this last because it is obviously the thorniest. The one thing most capable of conjuring a dark storm.
J.K. Rowling is openly LGBT supportive. Remember her not-so-vague affirmation about Albus Dumbledore being gay? With Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, her team doesn’t not go that far. But still the undertones are pretty strong. Just an inch away from pushing opening the closet door.
Here’s the deal. If you think sexuality should be at least mentioned in the Harry Potter saga, if you think this is an endorsement of LGBT equality, if you’re that sort of fan with BL-ish fantasies about the boys, you’d love this.
If you, well, aren’t any of the above-mentioned, you might get a bit turned off at what’s going on.
May I share my opinion on this. I thought these undertones were unnecessary. I’m not saying that I’m anti-LGBT, I’m saying that sexuality issues were never a part of the Harry Potter saga, and so their sudden fringing of the limelight feels so odd. Besides, it wasn’t as if it did please the whole LGBT community. Some reviews still criticised the story as a “wasted opportunity for LGBT representation.” Unless you feel very strongly about LGBT matters, my recommendation is that you disregard these undertones. Read it as a magic adventuring story, of which it is. To interpret it beyond that, well, hmm. Somehow that takes away the enchantment of it.