It should be wise for people to at least watch the first six films in order before watching this one, if they haven't read the books already.
With this film, we are slowly but surely bidding farewell to one of cinema's most successful and imaginative franchises. The franchise, like Harry Potter himself, has grown and matured as the years (and films) progress. Part I of the "Deathly Hallows" is ultimately a strong build- up to what will be a triumphant, bittersweet finale for everybody.
I won't waste time trying to talk about the performances, because they are all great and powerful in their own way. Never mind that many of the cast members are very talented veteran British actors (try getting John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton, Jason Isaacs and Bill Nighy in the same film again) - the three young actors who we have come to love and care for following the first film a decade ago, basically carry the franchise on their shoulders, and this film is no exception. Radcliffe looks handsome, Grint looks gruff, and Watson looks gorgeous. They've grown into fine young people.
Screenwriter Steve Kloves doesn't forget to add the mood and gloom to the story as it slowly unfolds, but then again he adds some light humor to the film when it needs it. Bonus points for making this not only a visual spectacle, but also a character-driven ensemble; there's some complex characterization here. Also there's some action which aren't seen on screen, but mentioned by the characters. It's OK, because it's necessary for the brisk pacing, and it's not really that important anyways. Besides, the human mind can imagine these images far more powerfully.
There are many themes in this film. Sacrifice, determination, (obviously) friendship, and above all - acceptance. As the films progressed the films started to gain an increasingly dark momentum - signaling that all hope may be lost. But in the end, will good triumph over evil? Like the film, real life isn't so sure. Also, the fact that the actors and crew are moving on after a decade of making these films - it's also another way of acceptance - the films have ended, they're moving on for the better of their lives/careers. It's real life, and I wish all these promising young actors brilliant lives and careers ahead of them.
"Hallows: Part I" is many parts thrilling, as there are quite a number of intense action sequences. Many of them, of course, are done with well-rendered visual effects, and in this one they just blend in at a natural level without being too jarring. However, the action sequences are perfectly blended in with the gripping, dramatic moments. They don't feel heavy handed and it's beautiful to look at. The animated sequence about the origins of the Deathly Hallows is an absolute masterclass and jaw-droppingly beautiful to both watch and listen. If separated by itself it can win an Oscar for best animated short.
The crew also get their due here. David Yates has gotten a firm grip on the film's direction since directing the fifth and sixth films years ago. The cinematography is stunning and exquisite, and it gives off a certain moody hue to the film. The editing is also crisp, it's not choppy when it doesn't need to be. Alexandre Desplat's score really makes a difference, it literally puts you into the world with its beautiful, harmonious, and emotional tones.
In short, I would have to say that this film is the best "Harry Potter: film yet in all honesty. I grew up with the series, and as per the actors, it will be an emotional goodbye. But rest assured, the finale will be grand.
One more thing. This interpretation of the novel is the best one yet. The novel is done justice, something not seen since the first three films. It's something for both the fans and novel-readers alike, as there are some pieces only book readers can discover while watching the film. It's definitely a huge improvement over "Half-Blood Prince"'s adaptation, which for me is the worst Potter film.
Harry Potter is a phenomenon. But, like all things, it most come to an end eventually. This is the beginning of the end, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Overall rating: 75/100
P.S.:Eat your hearts out, Twi-hards.