HBO Max’s “Return to Hogwarts” is everything you’ve been waiting for


Courtesy of HBO Max

Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe sitting in the Gryffindor common room twenty years after the first movie was released.

Marcela Ferrufino, Senior Arts Contributor

To kick off the new year, HBO Max released the very special 20th Harry Potter Anniversary Reunion called “Return to Hogwarts,” featuring the entire cast alongside director Chris Columbus and producer David Heyman. For any die-hard Harry Potter fan like myself, this reunion is everything and more. From the fuzzy feelings aroused in the opening montage of our childhood stars all receiving their “Return to Hogwarts letter” to the nostalgic and prevalent chemistry of them reuniting once more makes this almost two-hour-long special a must-watch.

I really enjoyed the major role Columbus had in the special, considering he only directed the first two films. Hearing how the main cast talked about him and how he always treated them so kindly by letting them have as much fun as they wanted on set made me think of how the first two Harry Potter movies are portrayed. They are not as dark or complicated as the rest, and the cast is always seen having fun behind the scenes as they are quite young and inexperienced in acting. As they mature, their acting excels, and the movies get more serious. I could not help but think that that could secretly represent a metaphor to as we transition in life, things always seem to get more challenging, but you always get stronger in some way because of it.

I particularly loved and did not expect each cast member’s insight into their character, discussing why they may act the way they do. Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy, explained how he believes Draco Malfoy acts so cold-heartedly because of his sadistic father Lucius. Or Helena Boham Carter, who plays legendary and evil Bellatrix Lestrange, revealed her theory that Bellatrix likes to do bad things because they make her feel powerful. Though small and short, the cast’s thoughts about their character were very entertaining to watch and learn as it truly added an extra flavor to their discussions on the films. 

Die-hard Harry Potter fans know most of the stories the cast shared, like how Emma Watson had the biggest crush on Tom Felton and director Alfonso Cuarón made the main three actors write essays on their characters, which Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley, did not end up doing. Regardless, it was still fun to listen to, especially the information that perhaps most didn’t know. Twins James and Oliver Phelps shared how they quickly bought matching outfits when they went to audition for twins Fred and Weasly George as they were the only ones in the casting line who were not matching. David Hayman explained how Harry Potter’s actor was hard to find until they met Daniel Radcliffe and convinced his father to let him audition, as he had declined several times. 

Something I appreciate from this special is that it is not just about the good times the cast had or fun little facts; Emma Watson and Rupert Grint also talk about the pressure and loneliness they felt, especially Emma Watson. As the movies continued to be planned and made, Emma would feel extremely pressured at times and alone as Rupert had Daniel with him, and she felt like she had no one. But we learn that Rupert also felt similarly; however, it is not discussed further beyond that as back then, nobody knew nor seriously talked about it. 

The strong chemistry the cast has with one another is truly astonishing. Even after all this time, they can all effortlessly talk and reminisce as if they see each other every day. As a Harry Potter fan, it is nice to know that even if the cast might not see each other regularly, they all still hold that deep connection with one another that makes creating this anniversary reunion even more special for them and us. 

The ‘Return to Hogwarts’ anniversary reunion special has just about everything any Harry Potter fan would need all piled together into what could be called a super-long bonus episode. It is absolutely one of the best gifts you could receive to start off the new year. Though it is almost two hours long, that shouldn’t be a problem to any Harry Potter fan ready to see their favorite characters come alive again and recount the tale of the incredible and iconic Harry Potter series.