I liked this movie a lot, and thought it was much better than the generally tepid reviews would indicate.
The movie does have some structural problems. As the “Part I” title indicates, there is no true ending. And there’s really no beginning either — the movie startswith a lot of people in flight from a poorly described danger. What’s more, an awful lot of stuff seems to have happened since the end of Movie 6 — when did Hermione get the ability to teleport? If, like me, you haven’t read the books, you just have to roll with it.
The movie spends a lot of time with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and their preparations for the final battle with Voldemort. It’s a good decision — the villains were getting old and tired anyway. We’ve followed the story of these three young people since they were children, when the actors playing Harry and Ron were both the same size — now Ron has about 6 inches and 50 pounds on Harry. After 7 movies, we’ve achieved a level of identification with these three characters that is extremely rare in cinema, (although it sometimes happens with high-quality, long-running TV shows). We are now prepared, I think, to see them struggle with the responsibilities of adult life — not s*x, primarily, but the old-fashioned adult virtues of duty, loyalty and honor — done with emotional honesty, and a lack of condescension.
The cinematography is fantastic — is Scotland really this beautiful? The Temple of Magic scenes are fun. But I most enjoyed the story of the three brothers, told with images based on Indonesian shadow puppets. This wonderful conception proves that even in the age of CG, when you can create almost anything, imagination counts for a lot.
I eagerly await the final installment, which is scheduled to be released next spring.
[Parenting note: This movie is appropriate for anyone over the age of about 8 — it’s probably too confusing for younger children. Some sensitive children might be disturbed by something that happens to Hermione — offscreen — towards the end, but the movie doesn’t dwell on it.]