Photo By: Noah Nickel via HBO Max

Two decades after the release of the first movie, the cast of the Harry Potter film franchise returns to the place where the magic began in this new reunion special on HBO Max. 

This nostalgic trip down memory lane tugs on viewers’ heartstrings. Not only does it bring back the iconic trio of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), but a large number of the additional characters that viewers grew to love throughout the series, including Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter), Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane), Sirius (Gary Oldman), Draco (Tom Felton), and he who must not be named (Ralph Fiennes), among many others. 

The nostalgia trip doesn’t stop there however. The anniversary special also visits memorable locations from the movies such as Gringotts bank where there are still some goblins left behind, the Burrow where the Weasleys reside, and of course, Hogwarts.

The special also includes interviews with the different directors who took the helm of some of the films in the franchise. It takes the time to show how crucial each was for the movies in different ways. It highlights the work of Christopher Columbus, who directed the first two films and how he was able to work with the cast of children so effectively. The way Alfonso Cuarón, who directed the third, helped them grow up and depicted the teenage years, as well as Mike Newell, who directed the fourth film. Finally, it was David Yates who took over to finish the last four movies, giving them a darker tone and pulling off the grand two part franchise finale. Yates has gone on to direct all of the films in the Fantastic Beasts prequel series up to this point as well.

Through a series of interviews, the special shows how grateful the actors are to each director. The audience gets to see intimate moments and jokes shared between the directors and actors, and the energy they had to bring to work with children. Audition tapes and first screenings show how young Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson were when their journey started. The directors certainly created the environment that allowed them to continue being kids while getting the job done.

It’s great to hear how positive the environment was for the actors and everyone involved. They seem very close with each other and it’s bizarre that the actors that portrayed Voldemort, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix, and Draco Malfoy, who were hated on screen, were actually all sweethearts in real life.

Another thing that needs to be noted is J.K. Rowling’s controversy. Fans have expressed their relief and content with the lack of J.K. Rowling-related footage throughout the special. The author of the books has received a lot of backlash due to her comments about the transgender community. She only appeared a couple of times on screen and, when she did, it was made very clear that it was archive footage.

The special also had a very moving segment for the actors and people involved in the franchise that have passed away. Among those are Alan Rickman who played Severus Snape, Helen McCrory who played Narcissa Malfoy, and Richard Griffiths who played Vernon Dursley. 

This TV special is a must-watch for Harry Potter fans. Many of us grew up with them, and seeing them as adults is really a full-circle moment. Harry Potter has impacted the lives of so many, and this special does a great job in capturing and expressing that.