Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Concept: J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
Script by: Jack Thorne
First off, no. I wasn't just lazy getting this review up. In truth, I read Cursed Child through in a few hours last weekend, and haven't really finished it since. I couldn't bring myself to go on to a new book, instead pulling this out and re-reading my favorite bits over and over again. Now that I've finally been able to start something new, I think I can write up a decent review.
And yes. I still re-read my favorite scenes every day.
I have mixed feelings about this story, but let me premise it by saying this: I don't regret buying this. I like it enough that I will read it again. There are things in this story -scenes, characters, moments, emotions- that I love, that I adore, that I wouldn't part with for the life of me. I readily -even greedily- accept these as canon.
The plot, on the other hand, is basically terrible. There are so many issues with it, I am forced to file it under 'fanfiction' in my brain because there's no way. No. Way.
I read this through in one night, banging my head on many, many occasions. By the end, I was pretty exasperated by the cliches. It's not a great story. It's fun and exciting, and I admit it completely enthralled me -but the major components really frustrated me. So much so, I had almost written it off.
Then I went to work. And for hours, I couldn't stop thinking about it.
About then I had to admit that Cursed Child did some things right.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CURSED CHILD
Merlin's beard, Scorpius.
I ADORE HIM.
Unabashedly, completely, ardently, earnestly adore him.
Almost from the moment he opened his mouth, he stole my fangirl heart. His personality and his entirety is definitely accepted as canon. He is, quite possibly, now my favorite character in the entire Wizarding World.
I KNOW, RIGHT?!
More than that, I love the friendship between Albus and Scorpius, because they're so much fun together! I loved them in this story, even if the story itself has issues. They have great chemistry, they're fantastic characters, they'd be terrific co-leads because they play off each other so well, and their unlikely friendship absolutely rules this story. But there's substance to it too. Not to mention the depth it gains from and the ripples it causes with their parents.
I love them so much, in fact, that I'm crossing my fingers Rowling will give them their own series. Something focused on them and their adventures but isn't shy to remember who their families are. There is definitely something solid here that could be built into something incredible.
I liked Albus, too. At least, I liked the Albus I could see when he wasn't angry at or hating his father. I could grow to love this character. In another story.
Ron and Hermione are unbelievably adorable. AND I love how the story winds up yanking their chains, even if it falls under that cliche, fanfiction heading. Because it's adorable. Incidentally, it's also more of a running joke than crucial to the plot, so...
There are other moments I love [spoilers], even some of the super fanfiction-y ones. And so many of the emotions generated even by the worst parts of the plot are powerful but, because they are tainted for any number of reasons, they become unsatisfactory and bitter. There's a lot going on here, good and bad.
But what really takes the cake is Draco. I love Draco in this. The story managed to satiate some of my fan cravings as far as Draco Malfoy that never saw the light in the original series, so yeah. I loved that. He is freaking awesome in this story, and I would love to see a little more of adult Draco in anything.
More than that, I feel that Draco of all the original characters had the best and most believable development within those nineteen years since Deathly Hallows. There is a story here, a fantastic story, and I would love to see Scorpius and Albus learn more about it.
Draco has a moment or two that I'll admit scream wish-fulfillment, but he still feels the most in keeping with his character. He's changed, but we can see that change; we have a believable and realistic chain of events for that change and it feels real and vibrant, where so much of what we get from Harry, Ron, Hermione, and even Ginny comes out forced. Draco Malfoy is the only recurring character I could see clearly, could really feel throughout Cursed Child, and so much of this impacts not only Scorpius, but Scorpius' relationship with Albus, and even Harry Potter.
A lot of this is due to the fact that so much of Draco's story wasn't concretely resolved at the end of Deathly Hallows. His story wasn't concluded like Harry's, which makes it much more organic in Cursed Child. It's also an amazing story and I honestly haven't stopped fangirling over it. I love the entire Draco Malfoy family so much. Give me more, please!
While Scorpius is undeniably my favorite thing about this story, Draco is a close second. Together, they make such a huge and powerful impact on the story, on Albus, even on Harry, that -despite a terrible plot- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is still a worthwhile read.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH CURSED CHILD
As I see it, Cursed Child suffered three major blows, each of which would have easily been fatal to the story, but all three became a Devil's Trifecta against which it never stood a chance of being taken seriously by the brunt of Harry Potter fans.
The story was rife with them. You couldn't get through an act without tripping over them and the entire plot basically nests in them. Thus, predictable story, few surprises, a faint sense of 'deja vu', an even bigger sense of 'oh no you didn't.' (But yes. Yes they did.)
This is especially disappointing coming from Rowling. Having just come off Harry Potter for the first time, I happily admit she threw stuff at me from all directions that I never saw coming. Even most of the predictions I made didn't come to pass and she constantly sent me farther down a twist than I expected. Big moments I anticipated were replaced by small moments that were even more powerful. The entire series is a beautifully told masterpiece.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn't. It's good, for what it is, but nowhere near on par with the series.
The cliches are also a HUGE reason so many people -me included- are calling this a glorified fanfiction. The thing about fanfiction is that it's often written for the writer themselves, not for readers. It's more wish fulfillment, than actual good story. This is a generalization. There are excellent stories within fanfiction, and fanfiction that combines both aspects, but the overall purpose of fanfiction is for a fan to get what they want out of a fandom. This often has very little to do with writing a good story.
Fanfiction also tends not to move on from the original. Most fan stories are bogged down in the canon, like a broken-hearted ex refusing to move on from a beau. Exactly like that, really, because in truth, isn't that what fanfiction writers are? We write these because we can't or aren't ready to move on. We continue to explore our favorite worlds any way we can.
This leads to a lot of very specific cliches that I won't elaborate on because [spoilers].
The reason it makes the story weak is because it's not original. Instead of giving us something new, we're simply reliving the same events and emotions through different characters and it leads to familiar characters forced to deal with the exact same issues all over again.
This works great for fanfiction! Not so much for an 'eighth' Harry Potter story.
Will the Main Character please raise your hand. ...anyone? ...Bueller?
I'm exaggerating. Slightly.
Going into this, I fully expected Albus to be the main character. Pretty quick, I realized the prominence with which Harry kept popping up -and since it IS called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I figured he was still in the role and/or sharing it with Albus. That works. It's a story revolving around the pair of them, after all, once you get into it.
But then Scorpius winds up dominating a good segment of Act Three -no argument from me, I swear! I had no problem with that entire section nor how it changes both Scorpius and the story. For me, it was one of the better parts -especially story-wise- in the entire play. It just muddied the waters up a bit, because suddenly Scorpius isn't a supporting character anymore, but aside from this short-lived stint, he isn't exactly the main character, either.
The role of Main Character winds up shared -sometimes even torn- between all three of these characters. Sharing the lead is a tact they might have pulled off if they'd narrowed it down to two characters -either Scorpius and Albus, or Albus and Harry- but there just wasn't enough time to satisfactorily use all three in these leading roles -as evidenced by the sudden absence of Scorpius during the big finale and his and Draco's awkward hanging-back in the last big emotional moment, where there was literally nothing for them to contribute.
Focusing in more clearly on a pair, instead of the trio, would have better focused the story itself.
There is just as much clarity around who exactly the 'Cursed Child' is. I'm still not sure, so it feels like an epic click-bait of a title. Good thing there was still so much to love about this, eh?
And the Final Death Blow? The most fatal of all?
Harry the Eighth I am, I am
The more I think about what's wrong with Cursed Child, the more convinced I become that the flaw lies in what made it such a big deal in the first place.
The Eighth Story.
In truth, we didn't need an eighth Harry Potter story. After reading this, I think I'm safe to say most of us didn't want an eighth Harry Potter story. Harry Potter is concluded, and what a spectacularly beautiful conclusion it was. I wouldn't change that for the world.
The problem with Cursed Child is that it does change that conclusion. Taints it, even. In order to make this truly an eighth story for Harry Potter, Cursed Child regurgitates a lot of things he's already suffered, but the way these issues return makes them feel they were never truly resolved in the first place -which, according to the series, they were.
This irked me. It more than irked me. It made me mad. Harry made peace with so many things -lies, betrayals, loss, misunderstandings, and his role in it all. But in Cursed Child, it doesn't feel like Harry ever made peace with it. He feels damaged. And I understand that what Harry went through will always be with him, like his lightning bolt scar, but in Cursed Child I don't see scars: I see still-gaping and -seeping wounds that are continuing to harm him and those around him long after the death of Voldemort.
That hurts. It's a terrible thing to do to Harry, to think that he has lived like that for nineteen years, but it's worse because by the end of Deathly Hallows we were led to believe that he had healed.
Cursed Child took that away. It changed the ending of the series, it changed how we see Harry's next nineteen years, and I don't love this version.
In this respect, Cursed Child most resembles a fanfiction, for slitting open what we thought were healed scars to squeeze in one last story before the wound closes over again.
So if Cursed Child shouldn't have been an eighth Potter story, what should have it been?
An Albus and Scorpius story, of course.
Like I said, we didn't need an eighth Harry Potter story. What we want -I should perhaps say, what I want- is a new story in the Wizarding World that happens to involve the beloved Harry Potter characters just enough for them to remain a part of our lives as we watch them move on in theirs, while still getting a new adventure without feeling guilty about putting those same beloved characters at the forefront of an entire such adventure all over again.
The more I think back on and re-read scenes, the more I am convinced that having Harry take such a leading role really hurt the story. That is the source of most of the cliches that crop up throughout Cursed Child. Letting Albus and Scorpius take the lead could have saved the entirety of it. I honestly feel like the only times this plot trips over itself is when it attempts to contort itself into the touted Eighth story; almost like the story itself is fighting what it becomes. I think if that focus had been shifted just enough, it would have taken the story in a different, better direction.
Now. This is the part where I point out that this last Death Blow also happens to be the basis of the first two.
#1: If Cursed Child wasn't the eighth Harry Potter story, it wouldn't have leaned so heavily on so many of these cliches -especially the really fatal ones; they would have probably given way to a more original plot befitting a new set of characters.
#2: If Cursed Child wasn't the eighth Harry Potter story, Albus and Scorpius could have slipped very comfortably into a co-lead for the story and solved the awkward Main Character triangle, providing better focus for the entirety.
Also, The Villain
Believe it or not, there were even more flaws than this. They were just less detrimental.
- Friction between Harry and Albus. Considering this was a driving force of the plot for both characters, it was both forced and not well-founded. It doesn't have a clear point of origin or progression until it suddenly explodes, setting off the entire story. It wasn't terribly believable; Harry acts completely out of character; it doesn't seem to fit Albus much better.
- Ginny. Ginny has good moments. I love Ginny. But if Ginny had been fully in-character, there's no way things would have gotten so bad between Harry and Albus.
- Ron. Ron has fun moments and great lines -but not much else. His role seemed mostly degraded to comic relief. Ignoble, really.
- Amos. I hate, hate, hate how he is portrayed in this. It's beyond uncharacteristic. It's darn near despicable.
For all its bad, there is so much I love in Cursed Child that I can't regret reading it or even buying it. I hope we're rewarded down the line with more stories of Scorpius and Albus because this is just too short for such amazing characters! Given the chance, I would see the play in a heartbeat.
Also, I have to stress -for as terrible as the story feels for a canon story, as incredibly cliche and fanfiction as it gets- it's as exciting as it is weird and unbelievable. It really is fun to read.
It's even more fun to talk about.
What did YOU think of it?