Arts and Entertainment

In Remembrance of The Boy Who Lived

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Issue 9, Volume 112

By Sayantan Saha 

JK Rowling’s beloved book series, “Harry Potter,” has had a long legacy to date, spawning eight well-received movies. What’s more, its memory is carried in the hearts of a massive fandom that continues to expand its story even today.

“Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone,” the very first book in the series, recently passed its 20th anniversary. In honor of this momentous occasion, HBO released a special, "Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts," in which much of the original cast reunited to revel in the glory days and tell stories about the behind-the-scenes of the movies. Altogether an enjoyable experience to watch, this special certainly returned some light into the eyes of Potterheads in spite of the franchise’s darkened image in recent years.

It doesn’t take a particularly careful viewer to notice that when watching the HBO special, the very creator of this universe, J. K. Rowling, is missing for its entire duration. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons: her views on the movies, given that she built the magical universe, would have been interesting after all. However, it also points to an almost active decision to dissociate Rowling with the Harry Potter franchise.

Rowling released a controversial essay about her views on gender identity in 2020 and was quickly canceled for her overtly transphobic beliefs. And this is hardly where this story began. Rowling has long been notorious for outrageous claims on platforms such as Twitter, and her recent transphobia is merely what set Harry Potter fans over the edge. Thankfully, the brilliant works she wrote haven’t been critiqued excessively for their association with the author. However, in an attempt to avoid any question of this in the future, there have been clear attempts to keep the two entities distinct from one another.

Aside from the more controversial notes that this special avoids, the content is a clever mix of behind-the-scenes highlights, anecdotal interviews, and a general camaraderie between the actors. Their chemistry is especially integral to the overall enjoyable result, as these individuals who essentially grew up together on the big screen share a truly unique relationship.

These sentiments are conveyed even more easily due to the decision to split the special into four chapters. Each chapter narrows its focus to certain films within the franchise and any content that is based on them. Every short anecdote was notable, whether it was simply a wholesome story of old times or an insightful look into an actor’s mind. For example, a fan-favorite story retold was when the main trio was asked to write an essay on their particular casting. True to the nature of their characters, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) wrote a serviceable one-page paper, Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) wrote a perfect 16 pages, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) wrote absolutely nothing, arguably the best representation of his character. While not adding any substantial information, how can one not chuckle at such a tale?

Looking at the more introspective moments, the special’s ending also serves as a tribute to the actors who have passed away since the movies were made. In particular, it sheds insight on Alan Rickman’s (Severus Snape) nuanced acting choices throughout the films, as he was the only one aware of his character’s ending from the beginning, since the books were still being released during filming. It just makes the final line of the anniversary film, Snape’s iconic “always,” that much more nostalgic and meaningful. Of course, there are more of these moments present in the special, but little can describe the shared chemistry between these friends like the genuine tears that Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe shed when nearing the film’s end did.

In its entirety, this 20th-anniversary reunion hit the mark for Potterheads everywhere. It serves to provide audiences with content that, though from an immediate glance may not seem special, is undeniably genuine and completely captures the scope of the bond between these brilliant actors. This special is truly a recommendable watch for any fan of the universe and really reignites life into the franchise.