It’s been 9 years. 9 years since we’ve heard that infamous tune highlighting the name “Harry Potter”. 9 years since we learned about Hogwarts School of Wizardry. And now, we come to the end. Well, the first half of the end, that is.

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the first of the two part finale to the Potter series. Since the book is 784 pages and the Potter crew wanted to add as much information from the book as possible, they split the movie into two parts. Part 2 will hit theaters July 15, 2011. But for now, let’s focus on Part 1.

At the end of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledores’ life came to an end by the hands of Professor Snape (Alan Rickman). Since then, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)has gained power over Hogwarts and the Ministry of Magic. Having no choice, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must leave their friends, families and school behind as they search for a way to end Voldemort once and for all. With the help of a few new faces, the magical trio hunting for a long-standing myth: The Deathly Hallows.

The plot here is very basic: Harry is on the run. In fact, Harry is on the run for the entire film. And none of the films’ runtime is spent inside Hogwarts. This is the first Potter film to attempt something incredibly brave for such a successful series. Director David Yates has not just taken away the delightful relief of some characters but also the entire scenery we, as an audience, have grown accustomed to. So what happens when you take away a movies’ scenery and majority of characters? You’re given a difficulty most directors can’t handle. David Yates is not most directors.

See, Yates captures something very rare here. He perfects his ability to develop characters and give them strong emotion. Harry is dealing with the unfortunate fate of wizardry being his fault, Ron is fighting his jealousy between his two best friends and Hermione is discovering that her useful knowledge won’t help her or her friends in their journey. While the story drags on a little for the first 20 minutes, it’s the character development and emotion that keeps this vehicle running. Of course, this is only helped by the kid-turned-adult actors growth in acting since The Sorcerors’ Stone. Watching them grow up has finally paid off in watching them find themselves, and their characters.  A few familiar faces appear here and there to liven the mood and bring a smile to our faces. While supplying said smiles, one character specifically steals the show time and time again: Dobby the elf. Dobby is now free and loyal to Harry while he attempts to defeat Voldemort and the dark arts. Whether he’s fighting or cracking jokes, the audience in my theater ate it all up with clapping, laughing or cheering. He’s especially loved since he is rarely seen in the film series.

On a technical level, there’s some incredibly filmed scenes to be found in HP7. The forest-chase scene is nothing short of mesmerizing. Wide-pan shots, the level of detail, it’s all surreal and gorgeous. The “Undesired” trio find themselves on location to some beautiful landscapes: Forests, snowy brooks, and mountain tops. But, one cannot mention the great filmmaking here without commenting on the breath-taking animation used to present the story of The Three Brothers. The animation is something the Potter-universe won’t be used to and I have great feelings that they will be accepted with ease. Including the animation in the runtime proves that The Deathly Hallows attempts itself as a truly enjoyable film.

As a film, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is stretched into its’ 2 hour and 26 minute runtime, but for good reason. Part 2 is filled with such intensity, information and battling that Part 1 had to be filled with information and drama. While it is stretched, it’s incredibly entertaining and a delight to watch unfold on screen. Not to mention it’s the best filmed movie in the series. Alongside a key for a movie series, Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the first of its’ kind to stand on it’s’ own. Dark and dreary while maintaining humor and magic, this entry in the Potter series isn’t just the best of its’ kind, its’ also a damn great film.