It’s hard to believe 20 years have passed since the theatrical release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The personalities moved on to appearing in more demanding projects, but in the eyes of fans, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint will always be Harry, Hermione and Ron. But there’s more people who made this film franchise what it is today. Also included are the directors–Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell and David Yates–and supporting cast (the list is too huge to present here).
The Return to Hogwarts special shows the reasons they are beloved. It examines the legacy of the films from their perspective. Also included are all the key talents involved in making this version of J. K. Rowling’s books come to life. Evanna Lynch is one such person since she knew every bit of the lore. Although we don’t get to see everyone return to offer their five pence–like Warwick Davis, David Bradley and David Thewlis (actors whom I greatly admire)–I can understand why this work decided to make its focus on specific talents.
Everything about this documentary is about fond memories rather than painful ones. The opening act recalls the charm the first film extolled. As the performers gather at a party at the Hogwarts Entrance Hall, make big smiles, hugs everybody and celebrate the night away; we feel like we’re back to where it all began.
What we see next are separate chats and looks down memory lane. It’s obvious part of this documentary is made for fans rather than being an in-person celebration to peek in on. Some of the pairings are great, like seeing Radcliffe with Oldman again, and others unexpected, like Bonham Carter with Felton. I assume they were filmed in a week; the post-production crafts the reunion into chapters about the growth of the fandom and Harry’s journey to confront He Who Must Not Be Named. To hear about how Ralph Fiennes developed this character is a highlight. There’s one editorial blunder concerning a picture that isn’t Emma Watson, noticed by Twitter user @vee_delmonico99, and if this work releases on home video with added interviews for the rest of fandom to watch, it should get corrected.
What we love about Harry is in his hero’s journey. He’s no different than Luke Skywalker (minus the new trilogy). The series deals with him growing up from an individual whom The Dursleys tried to closet, but he shows bravado against a coming tide of evil.
The best moments are in remembering those who’ve passed. The names are many, but we have to recall Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore, and Alan Rickman as Snape. There’s been much more: On screen, Richard Griffiths was the bane of Harry’s life, but off, Radcliffe has nothing but respect for this talent. Although Helen McCrory’s role was small in the films, the fact she represented a side of the Malfoys rarely seen said a lot.
Just as compelling are the interviews and new revelations. I enjoyed seeing Helena Bonham Carter and Daniel Radcliffe together, talking about an autograph and what he wrote many years ago. It was a cute scene that felt more genuine than the other talkie moments to the camera. Half of what’s said is nothing new.
One amusing bit is in how Tom Felton showed true professionalism with a scene that wasn’t in the theatrical presentation. When Lucius Malfoy dropped his cane on Draco, the weight of that stick with a snake’s head hit hard; the look on the boy’s face can’t be reproduced and authenticity goes a long way.
After seeing Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts, I’m inclined to rewatch the movies again, just because I that’s how nostalgic this look back at the franchise is.