A Review of Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts

Some background Preamble (Aka, it’s all about me, me, me)

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My memories and love of the Harry Potter universe are unashamedly deep and precious. For that I make no apologies. If my memory serves me correctly (which it often doesn’t) it was only in the build up to the third (and best) book, Prisoner of Azkaban, that I was becoming aware of the increasing impact that J.K Rowling’s stories we’re having on the public consciousness. That’s right, folks – even back then my finger invariably failed to locate the general Pop Culture pulse. However, it was thanks to my young daughter who got hold of the first two books which quickly became her obsession and naturally, not wanting to feel left out I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Title Treatment

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And so it began. The reading, then re-reading. The discussions and theories. The anticipation of each new release. The queuing outside a book store in the late evening with my daughter for the chance to grab the first released copies at midnight. I know there were some who ridiculed that last part, but seriously folks, the memories of queuing with hundreds of other good-natured and like-minded individuals in a shopping mall into the early hours are ones that I will cherish forever. My girl and I sharing the experience together……then arguing who would read it it first, until we heard the family in front of us having the same discussion and who decided on the spot that the four of them would buy their own copy ……. None of that patiently waiting for someone to finish it so they could their turn. And the memories of some of the more impatient readers walking past us, having bought their copy and already frantically going to end to see who was dying this time.

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So of course there was a fair degree of anticipation for the movies, such had been the media furore during the whole casting and filming process – in fact I’m pretty sure that I may have been the only person left in the UK that didn’t answer the roll call for auditions……..though to this day I’ll sure I would have nailed the role of Snape…..so take that Rickman! I’m not going to go into the age old debate about books vs films in general, or even too much in terms of this specific topic. On a personal level the Potter films didn’t disappoint in the slightest, I can still remember seeing for the first time the opening Diagon Alley scene and being blown away by the stunning visuals that perfectly represented what I had imagined from the books.
Yes, much has been said about the quality of acting from the younger members of the cast in those first films – but they were exactly that, kids. It cannot be denied that the level increased markedly as the films progressed which their career longevity would testify to. And as for the ‘adult’ casting; well Richard Harris was the perfect Dumbledore and Alan Rickman was the perfect representation of Snape as a result of my non-appearance. Oh and while I talk about the casting can we just take a moment to think about Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix? Hmmm, I’ll catch up you with you guys in a moment or two…..I’m still still thinking.

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The Review Bit…

I must admit to a degree of trepidation when I first heard about the proposed 20th anniversary reunion TV special, for me they rarely work and often fall into troughs of uncomfortable reconciliations at best and syrupy schmaltz at worst.
I thought I was ready for the rush of nostalgia as soon as the opening music score began and Emma Watson et al began wandering into the Gryffindor common room, Hogwarts dining hall and other assorted film sets; but I will readily admit to being caught completely off-guard within a millisecond or two as a wave of emotions and recollections hit me like a Quaffle and Bludger simultaneously hitting me in the balls. Yes of course there are moments when the programme wanders precariously into the realms of schmalz as the cast shared stories and experiences – but take those moments away and you have some genuinely beautiful moments together with assorted cast members conversing in a way that clearly shows a level of affection and love for each other. After all, they all grew up together, and with them, so did we.

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For many, the conversation among the three main stars, Daniel Radcliffe , Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in the Gryffindor common room will naturally be the highlight as they shared some well known, and quite a few little-known anecdotes with a genuine warmth that was lovely to see. Some of the sequences were a complete delight, notably Gary Oldman’s amused reaction to Daniel Radcliffe’s story about Rickman being one of the few actors who had managed to get the ongoing super-secret narrative from J.K. Rowling and never telling anyone. And yes, the scenes with Helena Bonham-Carter entering the events with as the fabulous force of nature that she is – again with a genuine sense of warmth and affection for the whole experience.
Other notable nuggets of information that I was never aware of were wonderful; Ralph Fiennes admitting to being slightly in awe of Alan Rickman and feeling an element of intimidation in his scenes with him; the fondness between Tom Felton & Emma Watson as well as Daniel Radcliffe’s crush on Helena Bonham-Carter……… we’ll join the bloody queue, Daniel. Join the queue.

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Thanks to The Sky Editorial Asset Centre for the use of the images in this article

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An Image including Helena Bonham-Carter…..just because.

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