A television special that brings together members of the Harry Potter cast has received mixed reviews from critics, with many pointing to the absence of author JK Rowling.
It has been speculated that the writer was excluded from the show after her earlier comments about trans people divided public opinion.
Rowling does not appear with the cast members on the special and she is only seen in archival video clips.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary – Return To Hogwarts launches on January 1.
The special sees former child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint reunite with other cast members, including Robbie Coltrane, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, and Ralph Fiennes.
However, while some actors like Coltrane refer to Rowling during interviews with her, Rowling herself only appears through video clips recorded in 2019.
The Times described it as “a lovely, if sometimes cloying, reunion” with “a key ingredient missing” in Rowling.
“Where is JK Rowling when we need her most?” The Telegraph asked in their two-star review.
The reason for Rowling’s absence has not been officially confirmed by the author, the Warner Bros film studio or the HBO broadcaster.
“If you haven’t had enough sugar this Christmas, an overdose on this Harry Potter reunion extravaganza should correct that,” Carol Midgley wrote in The Times.
“Return to Hogwarts is a long, sparkling, nostalgic festival of love, with its top stars lining up to share memories of the making of the movies and naturally to say how much they ‘love’ each other (there’s a lot of that)” .
However, in the positive four-star review of her, Midgley said that Rowling’s absence of new content was conspicuous.
“The fact that Rowling is not sitting there in the Gryffindor common room or walking down Diagon Alley, with the actors who were children at the time acknowledging what their careers owe her, seems like a strange and key omission,” she said. .
“It’s as if the younger royal family had a Buckingham Palace celebration on their knees and didn’t invite the Queen.”
Ed Power of The Telegraph noted that Rowling “appears in a handful of short clips from 2019,” but otherwise lamented the “prominent absence of her” from her.
“The importance of her is downplayed,” he noted. “Even a Muggle will have come to the conclusion that Rowling’s lack of time on this documentary has something to do with the public reprimand from the series stars in response to their views on trans people.” .
He said the special as a whole was “pretty cloying, with the saccharine, vaseline vibe in the lens of a John Lewis Christmas ad.”
“What’s ultimately missing is a genuine insight into Harry and what was in him that paralyzed so many readers. And, to be honest, only JK Rowling could have offered that kind of information.”
There was a more enthusiastic review from Metro’s Sabrina Barr, who said the show features “eye-opening revelations and a lot of heart.”
“While there are some notable faces missing from the show, it’s encouraging to see so many of the actors come together for what could be the first time in years,” she said.
“Gary Oldman and Daniel mirror Sirius Black and Harry with their heartwarming bond, while watching the Weasleys reunite at the Burrow is truly a pleasure.”
She added: “Harry Potter fans, Accio better get some tissues, because the reunion special is going to have them in buckets of tears.”
(In the books, Accio is a magical summoning spell that causes a distant object to fly into the caster’s arms.)
However, the meeting did not win over John Anderson of The Wall Street Journal.
“What’s wrong is the tone of relentless complacency that ran through the nearly two hours of the show, the actors’ caress of each other’s ego, and the inflated sense of importance that everyone gives to the movies,” he said.
“There are fake and intimate interviews with its directors and actors; a salute to the remarkable number of cast members who have died since the first film was released in 2001; and memories of the children … that still seem to exist in a bubble. “
Several Harry Potter actors have died since their appearance in the films, including Alan Rickman (who played Severus Snape), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley)
Anderson concluded: “Among the people who did not make it to the meeting were Maggie Smith and Julie Walters (Minerva McGonagall and Molly Weasley). But you can’t imagine any of those esteemed actresses putting up with so much trash.”
Rowling initially sparked controversy in June 2020 for posting tweets that disagreed with the phrase “menstruating”; she objected to avoiding the use of the word “women”.
She has repeatedly affirmed the scientific reality of sex, tweeting: “If sex is not real, there is no same-sex attraction. If sex is not real, the reality experienced by women around the world is erased. I know and I love trans people, “but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability for many to discuss their lives in a meaningful way.”
In an extensive follow-up blog, she wrote that her interest in trans issues stemmed from being a survivor of abuse and having concerns about single-sex spaces.
Rowling has continued speaking. Earlier this month, she shared an article about a parliamentarian who had called the idea of police saying they would record rapes by male genital offenders as female if the attacker “identifies as female as” absurd. ” “.
Some Harry Potter stars, including the three leads, have publicly distanced themselves from her comments.
Radcliffe released a statement through the LGBT suicide prevention charity, Project Trevor, saying that while Rowling was “unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken,” she felt “compelled” to address the issue.
She added: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional healthcare associations that have much more experience on this issue than Jo or me”.
When Rowling’s absence was first reported from the meeting, many speculated that it was related to her earlier comments.
Adrienne Tyler of Screen Rant said: “Given the sensitivity and complexity of this issue, it would not be surprising if Warner and HBO Max actively avoid further backlash and the risk that their Harry Potter reunion is overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Rowling. by doing something “. as simple as not inviting her. “
Radcliffe, now 32, was only 11 years old when he was cast as the orphan boy with magical powers.
The first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in November 2001.
The eight-film franchise based on Rowling’s stories took $ 7.8 billion (£ 5.8 billion) at the worldwide box office.
In a teaser for the reunion posted last week, Watson said she was feeling “quite overwhelmed” before meeting with members of Harry’s original cast.
“Some of us haven’t seen each other in years,” she said. “It has been a joy, an unexpected joy. I really didn’t know how it would feel … It feels like no time has passed and a lot of time has passed.”
Reflecting on the years he spent filming the series, Radcliffe said: “I think people hope I don’t want to talk about it, but it’s like someone never talks about their childhood or adolescence. Every part of my life is connected to Potter and Leavesden. [studies] “.
The long-awaited special will launch in the UK on Sky and its streaming service now on January 1, 2022.