When Pottermore announced that the Cursed Child script would be published, I breathed a sigh of relief. I want to go back to London to see it, but I don’t know whether that’s possible right now. I would imagine that there are several Harry Potter fans who are in the same situation: they want to know what happens “19 years later”, but they can’t necessarily travel to London to see the play. Publishing the Cursed Child script, for this reason, totally makes sense.
But when Pottermore announced that the Fantastic Beasts screenplay would be published, I thought, “What? Why?” It makes sense to publish the script of a play that only a small percent of the fandom will get to see. Everyone who is a Harry Potter fan (and probably several who are not) will have the opportunity to see Fantastic Beasts in theaters everywhere.
I’m not saying that movies are my preferred medium. They’re not. Anyone who asks me whether I liked a book or a film adaptation better, I will answer “book” 99% of the time. Why? Because screenwriters have to pair down a novel in order to write the screenplay. Novels will always reveal more about the characters. Novels will always include more detail. Novels will always be more immersive and leave so much more to the imagination. Movies are the tip of the iceberg. So what’s the point of publishing a screenplay? All you’re going to get is exactly what you see and hear on the screen—unless it’s annotated by JKR (in which case, what’s the difference between annotations in a book and the special features on a DVD)?
Sure, the printed word leaves so much more to the imagination, so that is one benefit to reading the book first. Once upon a time ago, I got into a debate with a few students about whether a movie spoils a book or a book spoils a movie. Obviously, I am firmly in the “movie spoils book” camp. I always try to read books before I see film adaptations. Once I see a movie, my imagination is diminished when I reread the book later. I can’t un-see the characters faces. I can’t un-see locations. Granted, what I see on the screen tends to be either the same or better than what I see in my head, but that’s beside the point.
What’s my point? The Fantastic Beasts screenplay is going to hit bookstores the day after the film hits theaters. Who in this rabid Harry Potter fandom is going to skip out on a midnight movie release to read the book first? We live in a world of instant gratification—I want to know what happens to Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts now, now a few days from now, after I’ve had a chance to read the screenplay. I suppose that means I’m going to allow myself to spoil the book.
Personally, I don’t see the point of a published screenplay. However, I also didn’t see the point of splitting Deathly Hallows into two movies at first, but I love it now. But when The Hobbit was split into three movies? Too much. Too much milking the fans for every penny, because they (in the case of Fantastic Beasts, the publishers) know the fans will pay. I’m sure that’s how the Fantastic Beasts movies were pitched as an idea in the first place: “How can we get more money?”
Only time will tell the advantages of having a published screenplay in my hands (because, let’s face it, I’m buying it). Fantastic Beasts (the screenplay) will be released on November 19th, the day after the movie premieres on November 18th. Cursed Child (the script) will be released on July 31st (Harry Potters’s birthday!), the day after opening night on July 30th. Both scripts will be published in hardcover (by Little, Brown in the UK and by Scholastic in US) and in ebook format (by Pottermore). What about you? Are you going to buy Fantastic Beasts? Cursed Child? Share below!