Hogwarts: the Forever Home

Brooke Follrad, Web Content Editor

The “Harry Potter” franchise cast returns for a 20th anniversary reunion. The documentary talked about the moments the audience never saw. (Photo from MCTCampus)

   HBO Max’s “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” was released on January 1, 2022. This documentary highlights the making, behind the scenes and memories of the popular movie series “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling.

   Twenty years ago, the first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, was released. After accumulating many fans from the original book series, the starting film was a hit. Once the snowball had begun to roll, more and more people read the books and watched the movies. “Return to Hogwarts” captured the magic of the wizarding world in a different perspective.

   The documentary is structured to reminisce on the movies in order. It begins with the first two movies and Chris Columbus, the director. Columbus explains how his mind worked when converting the beloved series from paper to the screens. Many of the actors agreed that he made the filming environment very kid-friendly. Being that most of the children were around six in the first film, their attention span was understandably short. Multiple people discussed how it never felt like a job. Columbus was playful and almost encouraged the fun. In order to truly show the magic of Rowling’s world, these young actors had to feel the joy. The directors after Columbus commented on how they transitioned from his style to theirs.

   Throughout the anniversary documentary, the viewers are greeted by many of the actors and their tales of the time they spent on set. Many of the adults were noted to feel almost parental to the younger children. Some of the younger actors looked back on their influences for acting. Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy’s actor, flashed back to his memories of Jason Isaacs, who played Draco’s father Lucius Malfoy. The contrast between the cold, bitter Lucius Malfoy and warm, caring Isaacs was impressive to Felton. He talks about how once a scene ended between him and Isaacs, almost immediately Lucius would almost snap out of existence. Isaacs would ask Felton if he was too rough and make sure the young child was okay.

   Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter’s actor, opened up about his view on the adults’ acting skills. In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, the third movie, Radcliffe was able to see the depth of his fellow actors’ talents. The documentary portrays this memory by showing the behind the scenes of some of the moments in the film that showed the mature acting. The director of the third movie, Alfonso Cuarón, explains his perspective of some of these moments. In the climax of the movie, three of the main actors, Radcliffe included, were visibly hooked by the adult acting.

   The audience is also able to see behind the scenes of how they organized and portrayed the magic. The movies were supposed to feel as though the wizarding world could possibly exist. While the film shows how they set up props and the different things that they tried, the crew shows their gratitude that they were able to work on that set in person. Today, most of the visual effects in this franchise would have most likely been edited in.

   I feel as though this documentary was done very well. Many times, when popular media is revived, the target audience is different or many feel that it just isn’t the same. “Return to Hogwarts” used a mixture of commentary, reminiscing with a variety of characters and crew, and unreleased videos of filming. This allowed for fans of the series to continue their fondness, especially when hearing the stories and bonds that were made on set. I am pleased that this documentary was a reunion, not a continuation of the series, which may have led to many mixed opinions about the execution.