News broke last week that J. K. Rowling, who has made it clear that Harry Potter is over, will produce a play based on the famous wizard’s childhood. The play will premiere in London; development begins this year. This move follows the September announcement of a film inspired by the Potter-verse textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Like a lot of other Potter-heads, I wanted more of the story when I finished book 7. I also hated the epilogue (how did Neville and Luna not end up together?!? why did Harry fall for Ginny in the first place???), so I would’ve loved to get some closure on how everyone ended up the way they did.
That said, I really cared about the characters more than the world-building. While the magical communities Rowling created are undoubtedly rich and fascinating, I enjoyed learning about them through Harry’s eyes. I felt like I was along for the ride with him and that a part of me sort of grew up with the characters. That’s what made the books special.
An entire play about Harry’s life with Dursleys does not ignite my interest. We got a great impression of that story via Harry’s interactions and recollections of them (the snake incident, Aunt Marge, the hints of Aunt Petunia’s knowledge of magic) and I appreciated the nuance of introducing Harry’s background. And it’s not like Harry’s magical abilities could be all that overt, right?
Honestly, I’m just not sure this Harry is the one who interests me.
The Fantastic Beasts movie is a whole different animal (pun halfway intended). Harry and company have nothing to do with the plot; apparently, the movie takes place 70 years earlier than the HP series and focuses on the book’s writer, Newt Scamander. This film might be great, or it might go the way of Oz the Great and Powerful, which I found straight-up mediocre. Oz featured (somewhat subtle?) adult innuendos and kind of a weird message for the kids (you can con people, lie to a girl to get her in bed, be generally selfish, and still be the good guy?). It wasn’t terrible, but it felt superfluous.
If Fantastic Beasts focuses on an adult protagonist in Newt Scamander, it’ll have to depart significantly from the tone of the Potter films. Moreover, there will have to be some sort of actual plot. What will Newt’s conflict be? Trying to save the Care of Magical Creatures course at Hogwarts? Fighting the Ministry of Magic on a law against certain animals or trying to get some beasts on endangered species lists? is he trying to get a girl and his actual work is just there for context? No matter the storyline, it has to be enough to get us in theaters instead of just waiting for it to show up on Netflix.
It’s hard to predict how these productions will turn out without more details, but for the moment I’m skeptical. The assumption is that we care about Harry’s worlds, both in his Muggle life and in the Wizarding World without him. I’ll probably see any new movies, but I’m not convinced that these decisions are better than giving us more of the story and characters we love. How about you?