After seven books, three companion pieces, eight films, and a virtual extension of the literary creation, J.K. Rowling is still not ready to move on. Rowling recently announced that she will be screenwriting a new trilogy from the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which she published in 2001 as a supplement to the Harry Potter series. Warner Bros. is planning three megamovies, which Rowling has emphasized will be only an extension of the wizarding world, and neither a prequel nor a sequel to the original Potterseries. While diehard fans are sure to rejoice for the opportunity to pull out their robes and wands again for opening night, I can’t help but wonder: when will it end?
I’m not a Harry Potter hater by any means. I’ve read all the books, watched the films, read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and geeked out after visiting Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. I don’t mean this as a personal attack on Rowling herself-after all, plenty of authors create extensions and spin-offs from their original series, although sometimes to an excessive degree. Stephenie Meyer published The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner to give a glimpse into the life of one of the newborn vampires featured in the third novel of the Twilight series, and she even intended to publish Midnight Sun as a retelling of Twilight from Edward Cullen’s perspective. It’s almost a blessing that the chapters got leaked online, resulting in her abandoning the project altogether. If Midnight Sun had been published, how long before the next three books in theTwilightsaga would be rewritten from the eyes of the brooding hero? Although it’s fun to speculate how a story would sound from another’s perspective, I think that’s all it should be-speculation. As an author, you should respect the narrative decisions you make in writing a book and leave at least some aspects to the imagination of your readers. Once you start giving everything away, it becomes increasingly difficult for readers to have their own personal vision of a character, which is something that shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of publicity.
I think the magic (pun intended) of the Harry Potter series is starting to diminish as well with the addition of three more films to the franchise. Three really must be a magic number-similar to the questionable division of The Hobbit into three films, I’m skeptical that the 64-page Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is deserving of three whole movies to get the point across. Unless the film series ends with a map and personal guide for finding these supposed beasts, I think it’s safe to say that Rowling and Warner Bros. should just do less.
It would be unfair not to give authors such as Meyers and Rowling credit for their philanthropic efforts in publishing companion pieces-for every copy of Bree Tanner sold, one dollar was donated to the American Red Cross, and the sales of Fantastic Beasts benefitted the Comic Relief charity for those living in poverty. I’m all about using books to make the world a better place, as cheesy as that sounds. Beneath these charitable intentions, however, there may exist a reluctance and fear of severing ties with the series that made these authors so acclaimed. In a recent interview, Rowling admitted that Harry really should have married Hermione, and that the Hermione/Ron relationship was only a form of “wish fulfillment” and had “more to do with [her] clinging to the plot as [she] first imagined it.” She’s clinging, for sure. After publishing an entire seven-book series, she thinks she got the ending wrong and decided to announce her mistake years later? I have a hard time understanding why Rowling chose to force her story in a certain direction rather than allow the characters to develop as they were meant to be. It seems to be a bit of a cop-out, and by giving away too much information, Rowling shattered the illusion for readers, just as Meyer did with Midnight Sun. The over-commercialization of film adaptations is not even the issue at the crux of the matter-rather, it’s the way in which we have come to expect authors to create branches and build off their original work, as if a series can no longer just be a series as it was originally intended. Whether it’s Star Wars, Twilight, or Harry Potter, readers and viewers are never satisfied with what writers have to offer, and the authors can’t seem to take a stand against the trend to keep expanding a story until there are no secrets left.
My guess is that The Hunger Games will be next to fall victim. I wouldn’t be surprised if Collins wrote a companion piece describing Haymitch’s own Hunger Games, for example. Or maybe she’ll surprise us all and leave the series alone after the final Mockingjay film. Someone has to break the trend, right? Perhaps Collins will volunteer as tribute.