Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

New Blood

While Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child share the same weakness for nostalgia, they also share the same strength. The best characters in The Force Awakens and The Cursed Child are not the old-timers being trotted out for another round, they’re the new people. The young blood.

It’s nice to see Han Solo again, but it’s Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron who actually leave a lasting impression. It’s great to catch up with Harry and Ron and Hermione, but Albus Potter and Scorpio Malfoy (especially Scorpio Malfoy) are the actual leads of The Cursed Child and leave a much stronger impression. By now, it’s hard for Harry or Han to do anything too out of the ordinary. They’ve been around long enough to become fully formed. They can delight us, but they cannot surprise us. The best parts in both The Cursed Child and The Force Awakens involve discovering these newbies and learning what they’re all about. Albus and Scorpius are so different from their parents that their new adventures take on a fresh flavor. Their interactions are unique and often inspired and their bromance, brewed in a vat of mutual loneliness, is very different than the Harry/Ron/Hermione dynamic. Finn, Rey, and Poe are a triumph of casting, with John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac bringing a fresh energy to a movie that is otherwise in love with its past.

It’s as if The Force Awakens and The Cursed Child want to hand the torch off to the next generation, but they can’t quite commit. They’re hesitant to let the popularity of their world do the heavy lifting. If we’re going to love to Rey and Scorpius, if we’re going to want to see what happens to Finn and Albus next, they need to be placed in a cast surrounded by older faces and in a story that directly and actively connects them to famous moments from adventures they weren’t alive to see.

And this probably won’t be limited to these two series, either. Just look to the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, which sees Harrison Ford returning as Rick Deckard…while adding Ryan Gosling as the new guy who will probably have far more to do.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening crawl

How to Build a Universe

Go grab your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (I know you have one) and flip it over. Note the logo above the barcode: a “WW” in that distinctive Harry Potter font, circled with the words “J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.” Keep your eyes open. We’re probably going to be seeing a lot of this.

J.K. Rowling didn’t write the actual script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – she shares story credit with the show’s director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne, who actually wrote the show. But this little logo, this simple “WW,” speaks volumes. While Rowling still has final approval over what goes into her meticulously crafted world (she wrote the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), she’s not above farming out the heavy lifting. She’s willing to let other people play in her sandbox. J.K. Rowling isn’t the brand. “J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World” is the brand and there’s a strong chance it will outlive her.

Star Wars will undoubtedly outlive George Lucas, who sold his baby to Disney and went off to retire in a house constructed entirely out of stacks of cash a few years ago. Under the supervision of Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars has become more active than ever, with a new movie arriving every year, Marvel publishing several in-canon ongoing series, Star Wars Rebels winning acclaim on the small screen, and new novels arriving on a regular basis to fill in the blank spots between movies. Lucasfilm infamously wiped out the Star Wars Expanded Universe a few years back, giving them a clean slate, a new foundation. Longtime fans were despondent, but let’s face facts: it’s hard to keep a universe in motion, to keep on making new movies, when you have to take several decades of books and comics and video games into account.

Much like how Rowling oversees her Wizarding World with an iron fist, Star Wars has the Lucasfilm story group, who are tasked with making sure that every new movie, television episode, comic, and book makes sense within the new canon. It’s not just that Star Wars is back and bigger than ever – it’s that the entire saga is now meticulously overseen in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. It was okay to be a casual Star Wars fan before 2012. Now, Lucasfilm is doing everything it can to make sure that each new book and every new show is required. It’s about the big picture now. It’s about the universe. Every nook and cranny of the canon, every spin-off and side story, used to be the realm of the uber-nerd. It was niche territory for fringe fans. The completionists.

Now, canon is carefully controlled as part of a corporate mandate. No one gets that happy ending because that would imply a closed book and a closed book implies a conclusion and a conclusion implies the end of something profitable and popular. This means Star Wars and Harry Potter will continue indefinitely, but it also (hopefully) means a greater attention to quality. If something begins to smell a little too rotten for a little too wrong, this whole system simply breaks down.

Continue Reading The Death of the Happy Ending >>

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