If you've reveled in all seven of the increasingly complex Harry Potter books, and the six earlier films, you're likely be sad and discomfited that grand ride is soon over. So perhaps that's why I was fine with the occasionally broody, do-nothing nature of this outing, part one of David Yates' adaptation of the seventh book. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), too, is sad and discomfited, but because he knows a one-on-one showdown with evil wizard Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) is not only inevitable, but necessary. Like Harry, his pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) have dropped out of Hogwarts; coming of age no longer means fretting over stolen kisses and tricky exams, but saving the world and risking death.
The trio spends a good deal of the film holed up in various forests and isolated beaches, essentially steeling themselves for the battle to come. While the plot goes a bit dormant here, I enjoyed these scenes for the chance to admire these three young actors, now wholly believable young adults, and watching them interact with meatier emotions.
But fear not: Yates has two and half hours, and ably supplies everything else fans want: several battles and chases (including one in mid-air); a bit of nail-biting fun as the three infiltrate the Ministry of Magic; a too-short scene in which Fiennes plays every inch of the malevolent hissing Voldemort; the usual enormous roster of British thespians; a death that'll have the muggles reaching for their hankies; and the final bit of the puzzle – told in shadow-puppet-like animation -- that sets up Part 2.