Like many people, I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read the series multiple times, I can basically recited the entirety of the movies, I’ve got some rockin’ HP apparel (I’m pretty sure my mathly hallows shirt is the nerdiest thing I own) and decorations for my room…you get the idea.
I read Harry Potter for the first time when I was 8 years old, and just starting to become the voracious reader that I am now. I carried those tattered library books with me everywhere I went for the few months it took me to finish the series (I was small for my age and had thick glasses with purple plastic frames, so I’m sure I made for an interesting sight wandering around with a 700 page book, LOL). I read a lot before that, but Harry Potter was different. It was my first time really reading fantasy, and I was completely sucked into the world of witches, wizards, Hogwarts, and a small boy with glasses. No one I knew had read it yet, and it made me feel grown up, like I was reading something special and carrying a secret that none of my friends could understand yet.
I got into Harry Potter after The Deathly Hallows was published, so I never got to experience that crazy buzz that came with a new Harry Potter book coming out, but I can tell you that 11 year old me was captivated by the hype surrounding the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Seeing it in Imax is definitely one of of my favourite movie experiences. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that I would be able to return to the wizarding world, both by page with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and by screen with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
I preordered Cursed Child long before it came out, and waited anxiously for its delivery. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of reading a play (sorry Shakespeare, but it’s not my favourite story-telling medium), but I was going in with an open mind. I finished it in about two days, and probably the best way to describe how I felt was disappointed. I know that J.K. Rowling’s name is on the cover, but it didn’t feel like her at all. In fact, it felt like poorly written fan fiction: the story line was crazy and full of holes, the characters I had waited so long to return to were not themselves – overall, it was just not a good time.
On the other hand, I loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It had a pretty straightforward storyline, but I didn’t call the little twist at the ending, which was a nice surprise. The 1920’s America setting was really well done, and Eddie Redmayne as Newt was perfect. It had a nice contained story with no cliffhangers, but left plenty of room for connection to the next four movies.
Fantastic Beasts was just FUN: all the new characters were interesting, the magical creatures were exciting and adorable, it was funny, and the special effects were great (if I hadn’t gone to see Doctor Strange the week before, I might have said it was the best 3D I’ve seen). Probably best of all, it captured the essence of Harry Potter, and made me nostalgic for the first time I read the books and watched the original movies.
I think that a prequel was a smarter idea than a sequel, because it kept the magic that everyone loves without messing with any of the established characters or ideas from the original books. America was also an entirely unexplored aspect of the wizarding world, and expanding to a different continent allowed them to give Fantastic Beasts some distinct differences from the original series (total segregation from “No-Majs,’ etc).
Sometimes it’s best to end something before it overstays it’s welcome, but in my opinion, if the continuation is as good as the original, fans will stick with it. The trouble is reinventing the material so it remains interesting and relevant, and I’d say that’s exactly what they tried to do with the new additions to the Harry Potter universe. Although I didn’t enjoy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, there were tons of positive reviews from people who just seemed happy to be reunited with their favourite story, regardless of the content. Harry Potter is a franchise like no other that has captivated fans of all ages from around the world, and it will continue to do so for years to come. In the words of J.K. Rowling,