I saw Part 1 of the final two Harry Potter movies at midnight yesterday. I'm seeing it again with Julie on Sunday, and we'll have a full review for you then, but thought I'd pitch in now with my initial impressions of the movie.
It's great. Definitely the darkest and most mature of the seven films so far. The first hour is amazing, and features the first real action sequence in a Harry Potter movie when Harry boards Hagrid's motorcycle to escape the Death Eaters. Everything clicks in this section of the film - the heroes' escape to the Weasley ranch, Bill and Fleur's wedding, the break-in to the Ministry of Magic. Exciting stuff, and the score by Alexandre Desplat is an invaluable accompaniment.
The middle section kind of drags. Though it's faithful to the book, the long stretch when Harry and Hermione are hiding out in the woods, trying to destroy one of the horcruxes, doesn't quite make for compelling visual storytelling. All of the scenes in this section are very quiet and melancholy. There are some nice moments, however. I particuarly liked an impromptu dance between Harry and Hermione to a faintly heard song on the radio.
The movie picks up steam in the last act, with the re-introduction of Dobby and escape from Bellatrix Lestrange. Who would have guessed that Dobby, the annoying CGI elf from Chamber of Secrets, would later become such a big hero? And finally! Director David Yates handles a character's death with the appropriate amount of emotional loss. Part 1 ends on a climactic note and you'll leave the theater wanting to see Part 2 right away.
I'm already looking forward to seeing this again on Sunday. My rating could change I guess, but for now, I'm giving it **** stars. It's the third best Potter film after Azkaban and Goblet.