Photo: Harry Potter Reunion
‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’ was all about reminding fans old and new why the wizarding world is our favorite place of escape and refuge. With the sole purpose of reminding us of the energetic and magical Harry Potter movie franchise, the special helps us all return to that place of adoring affection and longing, standing in a train terminal and wishing for a 9 ¾ platform portal.
More than recapping the story, like the way Hermoine punches the guts out of Draco Malfoy after an incident or Hagrid’s magical and befuddling arrival at Harry’s childhood home, the special focuses on providing never-before-seen bonus films.
Harry Potter Reunion – Cast Reunites in Tearful and Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane
The HBO Max documentary and special is an hour and 40 minutes long, recapturing a lot of the whimsy fans had missed in the years since the last movie was released. Our only taste of the wizarding world has been the Fantastic Beasts series but we missed the origins crew just as dearly.
The beginning minutes of ‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’ has the most famous stars of the series gasping in delight and nostalgia as they see their reunion invitations. It was styled after the same invitations and movie-style letters that the cast first received when joining the franchise. We see Daniel Radcliffe, who famously plays the protagonist, Harry Potter, endearing Diagon Alley. There he meets the director Chris Columbus and for a moment our tearful gazes realize that the face of our childhood is all grown up.
Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) sit by the Gryffindor fireplace and have a touching moment, reminiscing of their time on set together. Meanwhile, Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), and Alfred Enoch (Dean Thomas), all bond over champagne flutes that suspiciously resemble the ones passed out at Gringotts, the wizarding world’s bank. It is so simple yet sweet and impactful to see all of our favorites, the faces of such an impactful franchise finally all together again.
Design and Production Reminisces of a Snowy Hogwarts Scene
The cast and crew did a great job of using design and production to evoke the same magical feeling that the films originally brought. There aren’t any towering chandeliers and grand dining rooms or even talking paintings but the set design is thought-out and detailed, using logic and tricks of the eye to create the same ambiance.
‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’ tackles the special in chronological order, making it easy for audiences to keep up. The interviewers and cast members sit down and partake in interviews about their time on set. It starts with stories about their first days on each film, their favorite behind-the-scenes moments, bloopers, and clips from the films. It is all presented as a trip down memory lane, not just for us but for the many stars themselves. In fact, a lot of the anecdotes they share are ones fans are already intimately familiar with but love so much they do not mind hearing it again, especially from the lips of the actual actors. One such example is about Rupert Grint when he made a very in-character choice to completely disregard a homework assignment from Alfonso Cuaron, one of the directors.
In the end, it worked out well, proving that grinch truly embodied everything that Ron represented. There is also some light analysis on the themes of each film, the heavy ideas, and motifs they Tackled in order to add a layer of depth and maturity to the continent. There are also segments featuring actors reminiscing about their co-stars with sadly since passed away or even about the enthusiasm engagement that they love to see from their loyal and undying fans.
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Cast Member Gush Over One Another and the Many Special Performances
The special also features lots of praise over the series and what it did to transform society, especially the literary world. Examples included fans and cast members explaining once again how important the series was for their careers and for their lives. They praised one another for their talented performances or expressed their undying love for their co-stars, claiming that they became a sort of family over the eight-film franchise.
The love is mostly platonic but another favorite anecdote is shared by Emma Watson, when she speaks of her childhood crush on Tom Felton. It makes the scene at the Yule Ball that much more memorable and adorable. While there isn’t much deeper analysis or any fresh reveals about the franchise and its history, the use of intense compliments, sincere and thoughtful takes on the evolution of the film, and featuring of our favorite actors and actresses makes the experience overall enjoyable especially for a long time fans
Helena Bonham Carter Sparks the Reunion to Life
A fan-favorite moment of the entire special has to do with Helena Bonham-Carter, one of the brightest and most exciting personalities in the movie industry. Her chaos end contagious energy can be seen in the special as well as she teases Tom Felton about the artificiality of ones and makes Daniel Radcliffe blush by mentioning a sir Tejas and good-natured note that he had left for her years ago:
“I just wish I’d been born 10 years earlier, I might’ve been in with a good chance.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a performance for the actors and actresses, the focus is mostly on them having a good time with one another and proving that despite the many years that have passed, they are all still good friends – family in fact.
‘Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts’ Lacked Deep Analysis
We would have loved to see more of the actors and actresses confessing the difficulties experienced throughout this time, it would’ve made them more relatable and interesting, for instance, the film completely glossed over Emma Watson when she spoke about feeling lonely and thinking of leaving the franchise. Perhaps tackling things that were a bit more dark and difficult would have added the depth of this film needed.
It also should be mentioned that while J. K. Rowling was not included, the reasons were not provided. The special could’ve been a great time to speak on her transphobic comments and a commentary on the importance of authors and creators to perpetuate a healthy, diverse and inclusive environment for all. Clearly, she is not completely void of the Harry Potter franchise as she is one of the screen riders for the upcoming ‘Fantastic Beasts: the Secrets of Dumbledore’ movie.
However it is true that this special was not meant to tackle such heavy or dark subjects, in fact, it was the perfect lighthearted reunion that we all needed, a reminder that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter still stands to be one of the most beautiful and nostalgic. It even reminds you of the binge-worthy quality of all the movies and the familiar feeling of watching Harry Potter destroy Voldemort and his gang of death eaters. So if this weekend you plan to brew a cup of butterbeer and rewatch the films, we won’t blame you!
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.