There are a handful of franchises, both literary and cinematic, that number themselves among the elite in pop culture. This group includes Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who, and is defined by an unrivaled level of popularity. Also in this group is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, having wrapped up with the release of the seventh and final installment in the series. The movies in turn split the final book into two parts, spanning eight total films over a decade. After the conclusion of the eighth movie, the thought was that Rowling’s legendary franchise was finally complete. However, recent months have proven that not to be true.
Hollywood’s propensity for never letting a franchise die reared its head with the announcement of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie, based off of a 42-page fictitious textbook written by Rowling in 2001. This alone is enough of a reason to give us pause, as we’re left with one simple truth: The Harry Potter franchise is finding itself extended for no other reason than to make money. If a movie based on a few dozen written pages isn’t enough to prove that, we don’t know what is.
Things aren’t stopping with Fantastic Beasts though. The announcement recently landed that J.K. Rowling would be staging a Harry Potter sequel play, set 19 years after the events of The Deathly Hallows. The synopsis, straight from Pottermore:
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.
The play, titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will take place in two parts and is due out next summer at the Palace Theatre in London. It will be written — “in collaboration with J.K. Rowling” — by playwright Jack Thorne, and represents the first new Potter story since 2007. The big question here though is whether this enhances the original Harry Potter novels, or actually takes away from them. Rowling’s return to the universe that made her famous comes on the heels of three non-Potter novels debuting to middling sales over the last few years.
The best sequels are ones born of necessity to their story, not someone’s pocketbook. It’s why Fantastic Beasts is nothing more than a cash-grab, and it’s what made the original Harry Potter novels as amazing as they were in the first place. The first three Lord of the Rings films were Oscar-worthy because they all served a narrative purpose. The three Hobbit movies fell flat because they were unnecessarily stretched out. Similarly, we’re seeing the expansion of the Harry Potter universe years after the fact for little else but lining pockets.
In the end, Harry Potter is Rowling’s property to do with what she wants. Far be it from us to tell her how she should (or shouldn’t) be telling the story she herself invented, but it’s still worth acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, this one’s better left alone. The Deathly Hallows caused enough controversy with its entirely unnecessary “19 years later” ending; why compound the biggest flaw of the entire series with a continuation of that? It’s sure not because there’s a story left to tell here.
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