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Look, I know what you’re thinking. That this is going to be some grand statement about how Max (the forthcoming rebirth of HBO Max) is green-lighting a new Harry Potter series despite objections from those who find Potter creator J.K. Rowling’s views to be transphobic. It’s not. My colleague Jaina Grey already addressed the challenges of adapting Rowling’s work much more eloquently than I can in her Hogwarts Legacy review. No, this column asks a different question: Who needs this?
For those who don’t know, the new Harry Potter project that Warner Bros. Discovery announced Wednesday will turn Rowling’s seven Potter novels into a series that will run for a decade. All the main characters will be recast, and the series, in theory, will allow Max to adapt the books in more detail than the Warner Bros. feature films did.
OK, sure. But why? As a Star Wars fan, I get the desire to return to your favorite world time and time again. But this isn’t Max making a new series based on previously unexplored characters; it’s Disney+ turning A New Hope into a season of television. The eight Potter movies that already exist run nearly 20 hours as it is. Sure, some things were glossed over or left out, but fans dying for more content also have a Broadway show, a theme park, a video game, and the entire Fantastic Beasts film series to visit if they really need more Wizarding World.
Truly, that should be enough. Yes, as someone who just last week wrote that The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a ploy to hook a new generation of players on Mario games, I get why Warner Bros. Discovery is doing this. But at least that movie tried to create a new story. Spending 10 years retelling a story that’s already been told ad nauseam is just lazy.
It also might prove difficult. Many of the actors in the original Potter movies have since condemned Rowling’s comments about trans people. Any person—actor, director, scriptwriter—who signs on to this new series will, and should, be asked about Rowling’s views and their involvement in a show she’s an executive producer of.
So maybe this is about Rowling after all. Because although this forthcoming series feels like a retread of material that already exists, it’s also one that comes from someone who has made comments many people find hurtful. When Casey Bloys, content CEO for HBO and Max CEO, was asked at yesterday’s press event whether he thought Rowling’s views would make it hard to hire talent for the series, he declined to comment, saying it wasn’t the forum to do so. “Obviously, the Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance,” he told reporters. “That’s our priority—what’s on screen.”
So, will what’s on the screen reflect Rowling’s views? Or not? The press release announcing the show promised that it would be “faithful,” which, Kathryn VanArendonk pointed out on Vulture, all but dooms it to be a dull work “that makes no choices of its own.” If that’s the case, this new series will just be a recitation of what’s already been said. And Max will be the forum for that.