A screenplay is essentially an unfinished product, the blue prints for a movie or a play, but unmistakably not a book. A screenplay is meant to be read by an actor or a director, and then adapted, but by selling it as a book, Cursed Child feels like an incomplete work and a desperate cash grab by the publishing company. My expectations were pretty low coming into it yet I was still disappointed.
Cursed Child has positive reviews as a performance, but numerous subpar reviews as a “book.” It’s understandable that the response to the screenplay would be so negative though, nobody chooses to read the screenplay for Fast and Furious when they can watch the physics defying car stunts. It’s refreshing to read about Harry and the gang, even if it wasn’t a story that lived up to their past adventures, but honestly I think it was the way the book was framed as the next installment by JK Rowling that may have set many fans up for disappointment. The high price certainly didn’t help tamper expectations either.
In the past, desperate for more Harry Potter material, I would satisfy my hunger by reading crude fan fiction, one with Aunt Petunia being an actual good mother and one involving Hermione and Lucious Malfoy having a romantic relationship, those were still more entertaining and faithful to the source material than Cursed Child. Although JK Rowling gave her blessings to Jack Thorne’s screenplay, I doubt she gave him footnotes. It don’t think it was fair for the book to plaster her name all over the cover when she had so little involvement. If I read this as fan fiction rather than actual cannon I can enjoy what it was intended as, a fun story with some callbacks, than an actual next installment.
Outside of their names the characters don’t feel familiar. Granted, it’s hard to create an emotional connection with characters only using poor dialogue and nondescript scene setting narration. Seeing the emotions of an actor would bring more life to a character than simply reading their lines, but alas, we only get the screenplay. The trio felt like shallow outlines of their movie selves, contrast to the proclaimed “8th story nineteen years later” that the story tries to sell itself as, it feels like the 9th direct to TV movie.
Ron is reserved for comic relief with questionable actions like sending Albus a love potion, considering his history with love potions in the 6th book I find this unlikely. He also didn’t notice any red flags when he saw teenager Albus and mid twenties Delphi “hooking up” near the climax of the book. Hermione is Minister of Magic, because of course she would be, even though the books never so much as hinted she had any such ambition. No, perfect Hermione had to be Minister of Magic because anything else would be beneath how she was portrayed in the movie.
Harry is an over protective and at time irrational father, I would think that someone who grew up with Vernon Dursley for a father would be more understanding and caring towards his son. Also he would most likely believe his son about his friend Scorpio because if Harry learned anything growing up it was that adults/the Daily Prophet were right about everything. I’m not sure if Draco ever stopped being a bully or regressed after taking huge strides in the final books, but his only defining character trait the audience can sympathize with is that he’s a father in Cursed Child.
The plot was everything I didn’t want in another installment. Was having Harry become the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher too much to ask? I understand that having a cameo from all the characters I missed wasn’t possible, but Voldemort’s secret child is the main antagonist…really?
Time travel with super time turners was a way to revisit certain plot points during book 4, but it came off as a worse version of Back to the Future. Cedric Diggory should have died with Robert Pattinson. What I’m sure tried to come off as a homage, and may have been effective on stage, came off as a cheap callback to a previous book without bringing any new revelations or meaning or depth to the story.
Albus and Scorpius becoming best friends, and they hugged every other interaction it felt, isn’t a bad idea, but the somehow terrified of not getting into Gryffindor Albus Severus Potter ends up sorted into Slytherin because he’s always been a rebel. Sure. Both characters feel one dimensional in this story.
The magic battles didn’t really do it for me, there’s a big difference between reading spell names and seeing spells, but what I’m sure was the most stunning visual effect were the time turner on stage sequence. Again, another flaw of only providing a screenplay.
Overall the book wasn’t all bad, the cover art is pretty neat. I think JK Rowling had good intentions when she approved the book because Cursed Child the play has such a limited audience and it was unfair to her fans that couldn’t see it. It feels petty of me to criticize a story that influenced a large part of my childhood, but Cursed Child felt like a separate entity. Probably because it was a screenplay. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is coming out soon and let’s be grateful that it’s not in screenplay form.