A live-action TV series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World has been in the talks for some time now and it was recently unveiled that the newly rebranded steaming service Max (a result of the merger of Warner Bros and Discovery) will indeed be bringing us to Hogwarts yet again. Just maybe not in the most inspired way. The streamer has committed to a ten-year project to adapt all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books across seven seasons as faithful adaptations, with Rowling serving as executive producer of the series. But an adaptation of the books seems like such a safe and frankly uninspired choice. Let’s get into it.
I don’t want to seem like a total downer with this article. But I find my excitement, as a big fan of the world, on the “meh” side with this reveal. Despite omitting a lot of content from the books, the eight Harry Potter films are beloved. There’s no doubt about it. From the sets, the on-point cast, the music and the charm, many have a special place for these movies in their lives. So an adaptation of the books will no doubt bring up comparisons, something that may be brutal for young actors who will no doubt be placed side by side with the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Roberts and Rupert Grint, who played Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively. That kind of pressure in this ever-online world of toxic fandom is just inviting stress for these prospective new talents.
There’s also how the decision to adapt the books comes off from a marketing point of view. Warner Bros and the Wizarding World suffered a defeat with their Fantastic Beasts films. Each one brought in less money at the box office, despite being an original story set in this world. I’ve talked about this in length, but the main problem of that franchise is that it had an identity crisis. Was it a kid’s series or an adult series? It tried to do both and it caused so many problems with tone and script. I think it’s safe to assume executives are now afraid of doing anything new, of releasing anything with an unfamiliar title for the casual audience. Fantastic Beasts failed not because of its ideas, but because it didn’t know which ideas to commit to (that and plenty of controversy surrounding the cast over the years may have harmed box office results). So where does Warner Discovery go now with their most lucrative IP? Well, “Harry Potter”, of course. Re-sell the brand. People know the name and anyone who’s read the books knows there’s tons of content missing, especially in the later books. So this is a safe move for general audiences and those deep in the fandom too who are clamoring to see every detail brought to life.
And by the looks like the reveal teaser, they’re going to keep the musical theme and aesthetic as well that was established in the films thanks to the iconic castle being the first piece of marketing. That in itself brings a bunch of problems. Hogwarts is already easily identifiable in the pop culture sphere and is a key attraction at the Universal theme parks, so from a branding point of view, I get why the castle won’t change (despite it being the wrong castle, ugh that viaduct irks me like you wouldn’t believe. Mini rant, but the castle has been completely CGI since Deathly Hallows Part II as opposed to being an on-location/movie set/miniature/CGI- hybrid and the model shown in the Max teaser is the same Hallows model, which is also the same model used in Fantastic Beasts (chronologically before the Harry Potter franchise, so this is a deliberate aesthetic choice rather than “the castle is evolving cause magic”. Hogwarts Legacy, it should be noted, does not use this model. Rant over. But thanks to reusing the iconic design of the castle, the show also might struggle to find an identity of its own if it’s just repurposing the visual style of the movies.
But taking risks is part of being an artist. The Harry Potter films, as mentioned, are beloved. There was a 20th Anniversary Special that aired in 2022, highlighting the lasting power those films had. True, a new generation can grow up with this new show, but if the biggest angle is it’s going to be adapting the books page by page, why not just read the books then? (shocking, I know). Instead, as I’ve mentioned before, I think Max should’ve considered pulling from the lore and fleshed-out stories we’ve only heard about in passing. Do seven seasons about James Potter’s education instead, the formation of the school, or even a Tom Riddle series. Heck, even an adaptation of Cursed Child may not be a bad idea if the original cast could come back.
It’s also worth highlighting that J.K. Rowling will serve as an executive producer on the show. Beyond the fact that that seems like a poor marketing angle and the politics involved with that decision, we have to once again look at the cast, bearing in mind they’re children. Sebastian Croft, one of the voice actors for the main character in Hogwarts Legacy, faced heavy criticism for joining the game, to the point where he had to issue a statement saying he was cast in the role three years prior to the controversy and reaffirmed his support for the trans community. Rowling was not involved with the development of the game and the marketing distanced itself from her, but she did earn from the sales of the game. Croft had the benefit of joining the game prior to Rowling’s tweets that made her a controversial figure, as he mentioned, but these kids will be signing onto a project with that knowledge already readily available and chances are high those kids and their families will be targeted for joining a production with Rowling serving as an executive producer.
Of course, my knee-jerk reaction of disappointment doesn’t carry much weight in the grand scheme of things. There’ll be a whole new generation who will grow up with this cast as their versions of the characters from the books and the studio’s promise of a more faithful adaptation means we’ll have a ton of new content not seen in the films. It’s not all doom and gloom. Just from a creative point of view, it does seem easy. And to quote Dumbledore, sometimes you have to choose between what is right and what is easy. I can’t say for certain if a reboot was the right choice, but it sure was the easy choice.