It is strange to see all of this begin with no end in sight until July. It is even more odd to watch these characters alive and operating outside the normal construct of a 'Harry Potter' film. I wondered from the moment they announced the final book would be split into two how they would make this first half interesting and as action-packed as the others. The answer? It isn't as action packed, but may be the most interesting installment yet. Those who know where this is all going will no doubt enjoy the filmmakers ability to more closely adapt the book to the screen (this is one reason I was completely for the films being split). This first half is used to set up everything we will see unfold in the final chapter, it is an actors showcase for its three leads whereas the second I imagine will carry a completely different tone and consist more of more battle sequences than we can imagine. It is good to know we have that to look forward to, but with part 1 we get to know these characters we have loved for so long better than we could have ever imagined and in knowing what they will face next, we do not take this film for granted, in fact, we love it entirely. Director Yates who I'm glad decided to helm the final four films so as to allow not only the actors but everyone to find a groove that would mature through the most important stages of this series. Here, he brings us a beautifully shot film that is large in scale without being overly self-indulged. From the beginning we also realize this will live up to its claims of being the darkest Potter film we've seen. Whether it be Hermoine wiping her parents mind of her existence for their own protection or the meeting of the death eaters to see the dark lord ascending we know how big the stakes are, we know what has to happen, and it is a grand journey to get there. A few things I took note of were the lack of supporting characters, while it was nice to see Bill Weasley for the first time and Mr. Lovegood who is given great screen presence by the wonderful Rhys Ifans, this didn't feature the Hogwarts professors, there is hardly any Snape, no McGonagall and though this is how we knew it was going to be, it is different and more jolting than I imagined it was going to be. It is strange to not see these characters in their natural habitat, but instead as matured adults who are dealing with the greatest challenge of their lives. The film is also odd in that it is only the first half of a longer movie, the format in which we are familiar with watching movies is not followed here. The dramatic questions are posed but there is no resolve, there is no huge climax, there is simply the indications of what is about to go down. Spending much of the film estranged in the woods trying to figure out where these horcruxes might be and how they are going to destroy them. There is tension, there is much mystery, there are what seem to be tons of story lines being re-introduced and all while Yates sustains that feeling of tranquility within the three core characters. It is hard to describe how affecting the film is without building it up to where you will be disappointed because it isn't the typical 'Harry Potter' film, but to look at it as the beginning of the closest adaptation ever to Rowling's masterpieces as well as supporting both the best acting and visual fx of any other films certainly give it something to brag about. It was aching to see Dobby suffer the way he did and heartbreaking to see Harry and Ron disagree once more in the most crucial of times, but both Grint and Radcliffe give some of their most invested performances. Watson is the real gem though as Hermione is the character who has always and still does hold this team together, Watson takes her duties with great pride and gives the best performance of this film. We feel every ounce of pain she does, and in Part 1, that's a lot. Needless to say I can't wait until the part 2 arrives, but this is a more than promising beginning to the end of what will surely shape up to be a master series by the time Harry finally faces Voldemort the way we always knew he would. It will be grand. C'mon July 15...

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