As HBO Max and its Canadian brother, Crave, kindly reminded us prior to the new year, 2021 marked the 20-year anniversary of the beginning of the Harry Potter franchise in cinema. It was in November 2001 that we were first introduced to Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as our official Harry, Ron and Hermione; which feels like centuries ago. ‘Blimey’ as Ron would say, I sound ancient. Good enough for the franchises and its creators, all 8 movies have not lost their touch as all of them are considered good films and are now family classics in most living rooms all around the world.
To commemorate the 20 years of the Wizarding World, HBO Max produced an anniversary documentary in the form of a reunion with the cast members and the directors: Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts. This was quite an emotional and in-depth exploration of behind-the-scenes anecdotes from all eight films, as the actors and directors involved shared good memories of their time shooting the films. For the mature movie fans that we are today, interested a bit more about ‘how’ movies are made, that was really fun! For the hardcore fans only interested in the stories and characters, you might get another thing coming your way.
After enjoying the reunion with my girlfriend, I was curiously waiting for the end of the credits roll to come, as I was looking for a special announcement from HBO Max and Warner Media. Unfortunately, that never came. When will Warner Bros. announce that they will start production on an official movie adaption of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, which was first published in 2016? The ideal time is now!
To summarize the story briefly, we discover that Harry, Ron and Hermione are now parents of young children. Harry has now a desk job at the Ministry of Magic, under Hermione who is now Minister for Magic herself. Ron is working at the Weasley family shop with his older brother, George. Harry and Ginny Weasley have two sons, one of them named Albus Severus Potter, to honour Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape. Albus is getting ready to start his first year at Hogwarts 19 years after his father, but big surprise: he is placed into the Slytherin House (he is the first of his family to break the chain of the Gryffindor legacy). He befriends none other than Scorpius Malfoy, the son of Draco Malfoy, Harry’s former nemesis from the books. Together, Albus and Scorpius will have ambitious plans that will put them into trouble, as they will attempt to change the past in order to brighten the fate of some of the characters from the books (like Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part III). Their quest will put them into serious trouble, as they change history for better and worse. Their parents will have to become involved in order to restore order but also do what good parents do: love and support their children, whatever happens.
This is another ‘coming of age’ story for Harry Potter, as he is now learning how to become a father, like many of the fans, including myself, who grew up with the books as they were being published.
The debate around the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to the big screen is an interesting one as it is already possibly plagued with challenges.
First of all, the latest book is not a novel but a stage play that was purely destined for a theater experience, so it’s hard to consider it an ‘official’ Harry Potter story. In fact, there are many who view it as glorified fan fiction. But it is based on a story by J.K. Rowling and because it follows the path of the original characters 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is for sure canon. There is also the question of the criticism surrounding the story of The Cursed Child. Many pointed out that it is actually one of the weakest Harry Potter stories in the whole franchise, ranking below Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This is a story that may not be quite as original as the books, as it mainly relies on what came before, while also bringing some inconsistencies. Funny enough, there is a similar pattern in the Cursed Child that was a big chunk of Avengers: Endgame: going back to visit iconic moments in the past in order to change the present.
Secondly, there is what I like to call ‘the J.K. Rowling problem‘.
You see me coming. J.K. Rowling has been in hot water since 2019 now for issuing harmful tweets for the LGBTQ community, most especially transgender individuals. She remained out of the limelight ever since, avoiding the public scene as she works on other novels. The best example of this: for the 20th anniversary special on HBO Max, the producers clearly marked her interview appearances as footage dating back to 2019, which means that she has not been approached to participate in the reunion, or the producers scrapped any footage shot for the special. As we can see, the harm has been done, and the Harry Potter community is trying to distance itself from Rowling, whose name is barely visible in the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The same goes for Warner Media and the cast & crew of the movies as they distance themselves from the writer.
There is however the question of rights to the play. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child seems to now be officially part of the Wizarding World universe branded by Warner, but the title indicates that it is still the property of J.K. Rowling (alongside contributing stage writers Jack Thorne and John Tiffany). In this case, there is possibly an ongoing legal discussion to buy the rights of the play for Warner Media to have. *This is only pure speculation, but it would make sense.
So, as you see, easier said than done!
Why it could work (and it sure can)
Leaving the challenges behind the adaptation of this project aside, there are a lot of pros to dedicate time and efforts to a movie right now.
- This can be Warner’s response to Spider-Man: No Way Home – Marvel and Sony Studios played a very strong hand in 2021, with Spider-Man: No Way Home officially the tenth biggest Box Office opening of all-time (IN A PANDEMIC)! To counter-attack, Warner needs an ambitious project to invite movie goers, mostly families, back in the cinemas once COVID-19 allows us to. The Harry Potter franchise might do the trick, as it is popular and influential enough to move audiences in cinema seats in the age of streaming.
- The actors are (mostly) the proper age – Daniel, Rupert and Emma are in their early thirties, making them old enough to be young parents, with limited make-up and prostetics. The same can be said of other important members of the cast who would be called upon to star in this movie, including also Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy and Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley. All of them have gained maturity and experience as actors since 2011 to deliver very profound performances. They all do look young, but they can make it work!
A few roles might need to be recast, one can surely think that Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape (RIP good sir) would be perfect for a rising actor like Adam Driver (thank the Internet, not me).
- The Fantastic Beasts movies are not delivering the merchandise – It’s no secret, the two Fantastic Beasts entries, respectively in 2016 and 2018, have not yet delivered on their promise. Although there is talent involved, the fans are not as commited to the story of Newt Scamander and Gellert Grindelwald, as most of the characters of the Harry Potter books are absent. The third and final entry in the franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, is scheduled to hit the screens later this year.
- A new generation of fans are ready and asking for more – This is a crucial time in the lives of Harry Potter fans to release another movie. Following the 20th anniversary in 2021, the first fans of the novels who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione, heroes of the same age, are now young parents, so the new story will resonate with them. Also, younger fans never experienced the movies like we did, and they would love to see young wizards like Albus and Scorpius explore this universe with a youthful touch.
- It gambles with nostalgia and time travel, an important recipe in modern blockbuster classics – Difficult to argue here, this is an old trick (or magic spell) in the book that has been done. Nevertheless, big nostalgic references are quite popular these days, we only need to look at recent hits like Ghostbusters: Afterlife or Avengers: Endgame, two films that heavily rely on Nostalgia to drive the plot. Fans will surely love it, regardless.
Warner Bros, the golden snitch is in your court!