At the end of the seventh book in The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, the author urges and recommends the reader to close the book at this point. The final chapter could be controversial, so King suggests finishing the story with the happy ending. Well, something like this could be added to the end of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows editions – a friendly suggestion that you may not want to read the eighth story.
It took J.K. Rowling seven books to create a complex story, tangled with deep real characters and personalities. Each title of this epic saga grew not only in length but in stories with literary value and amazing plots, features that made Harry Potter stand out for its originality. As if it were a Hollywood remake just wanting to raise money, The Cursed Child falls into the basic cliches that most sequels use.
The main plot is enriched by two devices – one on each part – that seem childish (for their originality), they do not belong to the world of Harry Potter. The time travel and unknown-son-of-defeated-villain.
Time travels are not bad. Personally, Back to the Future is my favorite movie! But it is a delicate, difficult to use resource and that only works if done well. J.K. Rowling had it at the edge in Prisoner of Azkaban – and as she knew that handling them was not as simple as it looked, she destroyed all time-turners in Order of the Phoenix.
Here they are presented as a tangible excuse. Amos Diggory’s request is sensitive, empathetic. It should have been used to trigger emotions in the characters – especially Harry, but not for real action. The logic behind the trips Albus and Scorpius take is not kept through the script: when they return to the future, it should have already changed, as well as the past that they modified.
But if that is too complicated to understand, time travels do not work like that in the Harry Potter World – at least not in Azkaban. They operate under the single flow methodology, where the changes made using the time-turner were already made, and there are no alternative realities.
But let’s suppose we can forgive these errors – at the end of the day, it is a fantasy world. Traveling in time gives us a good excuse to see alternative realities: that Hermione without Ron would be very different, that Snape would stay loyal no matter what happens, and above all, how would the world be if Voldemort had succeeded. We are witnesses of parallel worlds that can lead to good theories, and let us see other paths that Rowling could have taken.
Putting it on a scale, the time travel are not so out of place. They are not ideal, but they are not entirely new, have already appeared in previous books.
But what is exaggerated, childish and out of place, is the emergence of Delphi, the daughter of Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange. Her battle with Albus (Voldemort’s daughter versus Harry Potter’s son) seems a bad piece of fanfiction, a flat story without depth that does not add anything relevant, a human villain who was not necessary in a story where the complexities and problems could be more internal than anything else.
The creation of Delphi looks like something out of a formula where demons are always from outside, where you fight against others. The Cursed Child was the perfect excuse to show that sometimes we fight against ourselves, and against loved ones. Because trouble does not always come from outside, and this is well illustrated with the problems that Albus has with his father, his cousin and his friend.
But that opportunity is wasted with Delphi’s appearance, which does not seem to make much sense, and a final duel is set up in what looks like the wrong place. What is the sense of making it happen outside the place where Harry’s parents died? There was a very strong symbolism in that place and at that time, and now it looks trivialized. In fact, the battle between Delphi and Harry/Albus is as far as possible from being epic.
But it is not all bad. Leaving aside those plot twists, Jack Thorne has done a good job. The dialogues are interesting and the characters seem funny. This new adult Ron has a different sense of humor, but funnier, and Scorpius brings something new in each of his appearances.
The emotional scenes are also the good side, specially the one with Harry giving Lily’s blanket to Albus (although its use at the end of the play is reminiscent of Nolan’s Interstellar). Astoria’s arc is powerful, and the new shades of Draco trigger new questions about him.
The book is entertaining and enjoyable, it reads well. And as a unique and independent story it is good. But as part of a whole, as a continuation of the epic saga, it brought a lot of expectations and it fails to satisfy.
When reading the script, you can not understand that the play is a richer experience and being part of that experience makes you feel like the plot is not something as critical and can be enjoyed as a whole.
But when one is alone against the paper with just his imagination, the plot is the only weapon to make the eighth story a good one. And if it is weak, everything else is on a basis that does not seem to hold.
Perhaps J.K. Rowling was right, and the best format for this was theatre, and possibly the only one. The fault, after all, is our. By asking ambitiously to read the script when the live experience is what matters, and wanting to settle for something that was not due.
Although, after all, only J.K. Rowling could write something like Harry Potter, and maybe she is the only one who can do it.
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