Initial Reactions to “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”: A Rage-Filled Catharsis
Do I have to write this post?
Can we just pretend this didn’t happen?
I don’t even know how to start this.
Buckle your seat belts – this post is going to be LONG.
NOTE: THIS REVIEW WILL BE FULL OF SPOILERS. AND SWEAR WORDS. LOTS OF SWEAR WORDS.
So as you all know (hopefully), Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on Sunday, the script of the West End production, a two-part play written by Jack Thorne. The script had J.K. Rowling’s approval, since she was a major collaborator in the story development, but she did not write it. The play opened on July 30, although previews have been going for the last several weeks. I avoided all spoilers prior to reading the script, which I did after receiving it at midnight in true Harry Potter spirit.
Typically, my reviews are traditional narrative style, but for this one, I’ve decided to section it off based on the major points fans have been discussing on the interwebs since the release. I’ve been participating in MuggleNet’s Cursed Child spoiler chat group on Facebook, which you can join here. It’s going to be a LONG review, so that way you can also skip around if you want.
Let me also say before I begin that I did not have high expectations for this play. I was skeptical. So my disappointment was not because I set a high bar for it. Let me also also say that Harry Potter is as dear as a series can be to someone; I work at an HP fan site; it’s kind of a big deal in my life. Let me also also also say that I do not consider this play canon. For an explanation as to why this is, please view my previous post. Okay, okay, review time.
SPOILERS START NOW!
Let’s start with the big one, shall we? This plot was Steven-Moffat-meets-Harry–Potter-fan-fiction… and not in a good way. I could not believe that the cleverest plot line Jo and co. could come up with was a freaking Time-Turner plot! Seriously!? Of all the rich stories you could have developed with this new generation of characters, you decided to simply go back and revisit things that have already happened?? Jo even admitted on Pottermore that the Time-Turner was a weak plot device, which is why SHE DESTROYED THEM ALL in Order of the Phoenix! (BTW, that article has since been taken down). Here’s the worst part: The story did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to progress ANY plot WHATSOEVER. Literally, all that happened was this: “Let’s go back in time to change a bad thing. Okay, we changed the bad thing, but we done fucked up and created an alternate universe where everything sucks. Now we have to go back and fix it. So we did. And now everything is normal again. The end.” Literally nothing new happens. They just mess up the past and then fix it. I feel so incredibly cheated. If I want a story like that, I’ll just watch Back to the Future Part II. At least that movie is GOOD.
THE FAN SERVICE
Oh my God, this was the most fan-service-y piece of shit that I have ever read. So many of the old major characters randomly appear who we didn’t expect to appear because we knew the play was supposed to be about the next generation. Because of the time travel, we get to see all our favorite (and some least favorite) characters again. Some people liked this, and I understand why. It’s nostalgic. But the fact that it’s nostalgic does not cancel out the fact that the characters and plot were poorly constructed. Don’t let the feels and nostalgia blind you; if character appearances are largely used for feels and nostalgia purposes, the plot suffers.
Now I’m going break this one down into several different characters who deserve to be discussed. As a general comment, I think the writing was just slightly off for every character, and honestly, it’s because Jo didn’t write it. Their voices, which are so distinctive in the books, were not captured accurately.
Harry: A lot of people had a problem with Harry, but he was actually one of the characters I was more okay with. He’s always been hot-headed and impulsive, so his comments and choices in the story jived with his character decently well. No major gripes there.
Hermione: She was okay, I guess. I’m ambivalent about her being Minister of Magic because I’m not sure she would want a position of that much power, and I really wanted a calm life for her. She was probably a killer Magical Lawyer, and I kind of wish we would have seen her as that.
Ron: Oh, poor, poor Ron. You got the sidekick treatment in the movies and the comic relief treatment in the play. Why can’t anyone ever get Ron right?? He’s so much more than a goofy, brainless uncle! I will concede that I had a good laugh at a lot of his lines, but man, this was not how I pictured him 19 years later.
Scorpius: Scorpius was actually the best. Nerdy, quirky, original, hilarious, heartfelt. He was the best part of the show.
Draco Malfoy: I liked Draco’s character a lot. After his realization in Books 6 and 7 that he was in too deep, he deserved a redemption. He’s still an ass, but a redeemed ass. Loved the part when he admitted to being jealous of the trio’s friendship.
Snape: Opinions on Snape are still pretty well split depending on which Snape camp you’re in to begin with. I’m in the camp that thinks Snape had a beautiful, tragic redemption story but is still a total dick (in other words, the on-the-fence camp). I thought the writing of his character was very off, but that might be because he was in an alternate universe where every character was “alternate.” However, considering the off-ness of the other characters in the “real” timeline, I’m inclined to chalk that up to the bad writing. His appearance was pure fan service.
Dumbledore’s portrait: Fan service.
Albus Severus: Meh.
Teddy Lupin: “Wait, Teddy Lupin was in the play? Did I miss him?” No, you did not miss him. He’s only Harry’s godchild who lost both his parents in the Battle of Hogwarts and is a huge part of the Potters’ life as a result. In a play about the new generation of wizards. Yeah. Not in it.
Cedric Diggory: I appreciate that his death was commemorated by this play, but seriously?? Embarrassing him during the Triwizard Tournament would turn him into a DEATH EATER?? WHAT THE FUCK!?
Craig Bowker, Jr.: WHO THE IS FUCK CRAIG BOWKER, JR.? And WHY should I care if he dies? WHAT THE FUCK!?
The Trolley Witch: WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK!?
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
Let’s talk about the secret love child of Voldemort and Bellatrix. If the play was already feeling fan-fiction-y to me after Act I, then this just took the cake. Yes, we all know there’s probably nothing in the world Bella would want more than a Voldy love child, but I just cannot see them doing the nasty. It’s too human of an act for Voldemort. He’d never stoop to it. This is another point that fans are split on, but to me it oozes pure fan fiction.
PLOT HOLES AND CONTINUITY
Fails. Fails all around. It would take an entire separate post to list all of the plot holes and continuity issues with the original series, so I’m not even going to start because I’m already over 1,000 words and want to be done.
Many fans are upset at the lost opportunity for LGBT representation with Albus and Scorpius. I definitely read their relationship as homosexual at times; it was pretty clear. However, as a few of my friends pointed out, Thorne was probably trying to emphasize the theme of friendship that’s a big part of the Potter series but went a bit too far with the melodramatic dialogue. Again, bad writing if your goal was just to portray friendship.
THEMES AND CLOSING THOUGHTS
Daddy issues: Ultimately, I understood and appreciated the point of the play being the development of the father-son relationship between Harry and Albus. It was touching. It connected together as a nice foil to the other characters with daddy issues, Scorpius and Delphi. But did you have to invent a ridiculous-ass plot in order to convey that theme? No. No, you didn’t. I was expecting more of a character drama since good had already triumphed over evil, but instead, I got a decidedly un-funny version of A Very Potter Sequel. (Seriously, demon trolley witches and convoluted Time-Turner plots? StarKid wouldn’t have to change a word of this play to make it a parody.)
Stage production: I tried to give this script the benefit of the doubt because after all, so much hinges on the performances of the actors that you can’t possibly get all the information in the play simply from reading the script. I’m a theater nerd; I understand this. I’ve talked to people who’ve seen the show, and they said it was a production management masterpiece, with dazzling effects and seamless staging. But largely, I’m hearing that people who saw it still disliked the hoaky plot, the fan-fiction-y nature, and some of the characters’ off-character lines. The acting and the staging can’t make up for the fact that the plot is just bad.
Canon and fandom memory: I’m giving this play 2 out of 5 stars because it did have its moments of clever laughs and heartfelt feels. It might even gain an extra star if I see the production and am sufficiently pleased by it. But my hope is that this play will fade from most fans’ minds once the hype is over. I’m also hoping that the amount of continuity issues will make fans realize that we should not consider all this extra content canon. I hope that the fandom can laugh about how bad it was in years to come as “that one thing that happened that one time, wasn’t that terrible?” Every fandom has one of those, right? Well, Potterheads, ours is Cursed Child.
You can read the original post here.