Harry Potter and the Beating of the Dead Horse

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

Tea: Date Chocolate Tea

 

Well isn’t this a change of pace. This week I am covering a book and not just any book: the eighth Harry Potter book, though calling it that is a bit misleading. Should the whole thing have sailed right by you, the latest chapter in the series is a play and only the script is available for purchase. Seeing as I grew up with the books and movies about a power-hungry adult struggling to kill three teenagers with a lot of magic sprinkled in between, I, of course, had to read the next words that have found their way on J.K. Rowling’s paper. Since a comparison between a book and a script seems unfavourable as it is unflattering to the latter, the only thing I am going to judge it on is the plot. Now return to Hogwarts with me where things have not changed much.

The story follows Albus Severus Potter, who can only be pitied for his name as it flows of the tongue like concrete, and his first year in Hogwarts. He meets the son of Malfoy, though there are rumours of the boy being Voldemort’s son, conceived through time travel. The boy is named Scorpius and quickly becomes friends with Albus. We are sped through the schoolyears with little happening, except an ever growing dark aura around Albus which all started with him being the first Potter to be sorted into Slytherin. He grows more and more distant, only keeping to his only friend Microsoft’s Project Scorpio. Things go awry when they aim to change the past. Together with Delphi, the girl in the trio to recreate the original team, they set out to right a wrong of the past and of course the consequences to this are dire.

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There will be both a spoiler free and spoiler filled part to this review, since I cannot talk about my biggest problems without pointing to them. But spoiler free we start: One things that always bothered me during the main series of books was the time traveling as it made little sense in the grand scheme of things, simply due to the fact that it is never used again to undo other horrible mistakes. Adding to this is the fact that it makes no sense. And the same problem can be found here. Actions are carried out in the past and must later be undone to set things right, yet at other points the past is impacted in another bigger manner and nothing happens in the present. Characters remember timelines they should not know about and so on. Not going to delve too deep into this, it was just annoying to read. The characters are lacking with Scorpio being the only one slightly developed. Everyone else is a flat canvas or a slightly older version of the original character. Hermione seems a lot more inept, Ron has lost a lot more of his IQ, Harry has become a boring office worker, my dear McGonagall is a scared lady that can no longer stand up for herself, and Draco keeps flipping between two opposed characters throughout the story.

There was a lot of badly written dialogue that felt neither genuine nor organic. Especially interactions in the altered realities feel stiff and unnatural. And of course my most hated thing of all: fan service. There is tons of it in here. Going so far as to bringing back all your favourites by some means or others and not shying away from ruining their character and depicting them completely different. Characters and locations are merely checked off a list so all fans will gush when said character or set-piece makes an appearance. It hinges entirely on nostalgia and cannot stand on its own legs for the life of it. It is a mess from start to finish, albeit be it an entertaining mess in the sense of “can they outdo this bullshit?” and yes, they can, every time until the final showdown. Not only does it makes little sense on its own, it also devaluates characters in the original, making their motivations seem odd and out of place. If you desperately wish Harry Potter could go on forever, it can. There are millions of fanfictions out there with more sound plots than this one. The spoilers will now begin. Thanks for reading to all those who leave here.

Spoilers incoming

So the biggest complaint, which I assume everyone had, is the fact that Voldemort conceived a daughter, which is absolutely illogical for a man who is hell-bent on living forever. Voldemort is not concerned with his legacy like Tywin Lannister, but only himself and to think that he would ensure his bloodline to survive is atrociously stupid. Adding to this is the fact that is weakens the character of Voldy as it shows him as a person giving in to his sexual drive and the interesting part of Voldemort was always his dehumanised nature. Delphi does not make for a very interesting villain and is all too easily spotted as such even though the book is trying its best to hide it. The constant reappearance of fan favourites, such as Snape and Dumbledore felt out of place and the Snape scene in particular felt rushed and forced to the n-th degree. He is introduced again and behaves nothing like the Snape we know and love and within minutes can die a heroic death, again. Box ticked.

Fixing all the little mess ups in the past was fine, but to then make me believe that stopping Cedric in the final challenge and having him free the two protagonists had no impact whatsoever was ridiculous and only served to appease all the Cedric fans (are there any?). And of course it all has to end where it started. Godric’s Hollow is the stage for an epic showdown where no one notices anything. Neither Harry’s parents nor the Dark Lord walking within in earshot. Nothing, not a single thing. There are a lot of little things I would like to nit-pick such as the fact that Harry and his son only ever seem to talk at the train station right before he has to leave. Or the horrible Nazi-like timeline where everyone has a comically low regard for life that it makes Stalin look like a humanist. But all of these are just adding to the central problem of lacking characters and plot. If I were to cynically guess, J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of Scorpius and the rest was hastily patched together around him. It is weak in every moment and never was the childhood feeling rekindled. It is bad fanfiction, the worst kind of fanfiction. To say it with the words of Voldemort: “Harry Potter is dead! Ehehehe!”

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7 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Beating of the Dead Horse

  1. As (almost) always, I have to agree. Sadly enough, seeing that I am a die-hard Harry Potter-fan. However, your article stating all the negative facts (or most of them, at least, there are so, so many), I also feel compelled to mention some (of the few) positive things. In this sense, I´d like to point to the form: who would have expected a script? I, for my part, was positively surprised, seeing that the dramatic form has lost much of its importance, nowadays. Thus, for me, it was a welcome change, an interesting read (again: we´re talking about the form, not the content!) and an apology for a once great medium which has (sadly) lost a lot of its importance: the theatre.
    On the other hand, I´d also like to point out that the script wasn´t written by J.K. Rowling herself but by Jack Thorne. The terrible dialogues can thus be attributed to him and Mrs Rowling can only be accused of the utterly ridiculous story.
    My last positive point doesn´t concern the script itself, but rather the cast for the play (which can exclusively be seen in London and good luck with getting a ticket), as Hermione is played by a black actress. When some fans began to complain about her skin-colour, J.K. Rowling firmly defended this choice by stating that she´d never once mentioned what skin-colour Hermione had, that her most important character traits – her intelligence and her courage – have nothing to do with it and that she – in short – loved the black Hermione. Thus, in my book, Harry Potter and the cursed child isn´t connoted all too negatively as it – in a sense – contributes to more inclusiveness.

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    • I am always a bit angry when it comes to changing formats simply due to the fact that a story is established in a particular medium for a reason. While script and novel may not differ greatly there are, as you know, differences and for a tightly constructed world like Hogwarts, a script lacks the depth. It can only hinge on the knowledge previously established in the books and thus as a stand-alone experience falls flat.
      Well, yes. But I did not review the performance but the script. Although I do not like J.K.’s statement about the skin colour as it detracts from the problem. People complaining about the skin colour of an actress and taking offence are low beings. Saying that she never mentioned the colour is a bit of a cop-out, seeing as a western perspective on any story would never state the white skin colour and only that which is perceived as different in this cultural environment. If she had left that out, her response would have been fine to me. Skin colour does not define Hermione and that’s that and this is, after all, an adaptation, meaning an interpretation of the core-text.

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  2. Great review of the book! I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child but needed to suspend disbelief to do so. I agree that there are many spoilerific parts that just don’t make sense. Perhaps it was because time travel can be difficult to properly write a story around (even though they sort of implemented it in Prisoner of Azkaban. I agree about the Cedric stuff (what an odd place to return to), though what confused me most was their plan to stop him from dying. Couldn’t they have just started at the part where he actually dies? Or couldn’t they have prevented him from competing in the first place? I know that both would have likely ed to the same outcomes in the story, but at least we wouldn’t have them pointlessly going to each… separate… event in the Triwizard Tournament. It was also a huge stretch to make Cedric suddenly do that to Neville. Seriously, it was unbelievable. Overall, I had fun and enjoyed the fanservice. It was a nice return to the series, just not the best-written.

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    • I have yet to come across a time travel story that makes perfect sense. I agree, their way was very round about and odd. But otherwise we could not have returned to all those memorable moments. I felt the consequences of time travel were always very convenient to the plot. Not implying that the consequences of time travel should be easily foreseeable, but some events just had to grand/small an impact for me, while others did not at all.
      Glad you enjoyed the overall experience though. I would not be surprised if they’d make a movie out of it and perhaps that will smooth out some flaws.

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