Max’s new Harry Potter series: Flop-to-be or exciting new chapter?

Harry Potter, Hogwarts, The Boy Who Lived. These, and countless others, are most likely, especially for our generation, terms that we grew up with. And despite the common criticisms of cringe or overuse, Harry Potter and Oxford’s association with the films was one of the reasons that I applied to Oxford. Of course, recently, the Harry Potter franchise, and especially its author, J. K. Rowling, has been in public attention for another reason: the latter’s outspoken, and, to many, simply outrageous comments towards transgender people and the wider LGBTQ+ community. With such a recurring, prominent presence in our society and generation, it is hardly a surprise that only a few days into the announcement, the new series has already established itself in the conversations of Potter fans and critics alike. The question now is, can the new series grow beyond the shadow cast by its enormously successful film-series older sibling and the disadvantages set by Rowling?

The new series, simply titled Harry Potter (and retaining its iconic lightning bolt shaped font), has been ordered by the streaming service Max (up to now known as HBO Max) and will, reports say, be released in the US sometime in 2025 or 2026. To the excitement of many (and the disappointment of some), the series is set to be a decade long with promises to be “a faithful adaptation of the iconic books.” As of yet, details are few and far between: we will have to wait for the announcement of the cast and other key elements. However, one thing is for certain: despite her recent controversies and criticisms, J.K. Rowling will be an executive producer on the series. Even with so few details and only a few social media posts that barely qualify as a teaser, the series has already generated intense conversation amongst both ardent fans and dedicated critics of the franchise.

Iconic is perhaps a fitting adjective to describe the Harry Potter franchise, particularly its film and cinema aspect. With the Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson’s Golden Trio so permanently tattooed into the mind of fans, many have called into question the survival chances of this presumably new cast. However, more polarising perhaps is not so much the visual aspects of the series, but the auditory. “Hedwig’s Theme,” the theme song of the Harry Potter films, is, to say the least, similarly iconic. For many, it would take mere seconds of listening to “Hedwig’s Theme” to know that they’re listening to something Harry Potter related. And by Harry Potter related, it means films starring an unforgettable cast which consisted of some of the biggest and most respected names in cinema. Thus, when the announcement of the new series was accompanied by an almost exact replica of the Harry Potter openings of old, complete, especially, with John Williams’ iconic soundtrack, many fans took to social media to express their displeasure.

“So this ‘new,’ ‘original,’ and ‘faithful’ adaptation is going to use the same John Williams Harry Potter theme and Hogwarts designs of 20 years ago? Huh,” was one fan’s remark on Twitter, an apt summary of the general issue raised by Potterheads: surely the producers realise the irony present in a “new” series with old designs, logos, and music? The criticism didn’t just come from fans, however. Mashable’s Bob Al-Greene similarly expressed outrage at the blatant ripping off of the classic Harry Potter films, calling the move “truly wild.”

However, the criticism didn’t just arise from the reuse of old material in a supposedly new series. As expected, many were immediately sceptical of Rowling’s prominent position in the production due to her recent controversy. While Rowling herself seemingly avoided any comment on her divisive position in a statement issued where she declares her excitement at “being part of this new adaptation,” the head of HBO, Casey Bloys, declined a journalist’s question regarding Rowling’s controversial position, stating “No, I don’t think this is the forum.” In another statement, Bloys gave a delicately crafted remark, stating “Our priority is what’s on the screen… Obviously, the Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance. That’s our priority, what’s on screen.”

Barely half a week into its announcement, Max’s Harry Potter series has already weathered significant obstruction, criticism, and scepticism. While I hope that the series will live up to the legacy of its incredibly successful film predecessor, the series’ marketing probably hasn’t hit the ground running. And to the generations that grew up immersed in an environment of Radcliffe’s Potter, Rickman’s Snape, Felton’s Malfoy and Williams’ soundtrack, the new series might never be hope to catch up to the film franchise, but only time will tell what image is conjured up to future generations when asked about the magic of Harry Potter.

Image credit: Suzelfe via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Image description: A double page of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in French with a replica of the Elder Wand laying on top.