Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Is Mostly Fantastic

So say the critics anyway! Well, the critics who have joy and whimsy in their hearts and aren't soul-dead monsters whose chest cavities are full of nothing but discarded tin. Heh, sorry. Let's look at both sides of the debate!

In the zealously pro camp, we have Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, who raves in an A- review:

I don't know which had the greater effect: my real melancholy at the thought of looming finality, or the elegance of this necessarily dark and serious penultimate film, in which characters/actors we have watched since childhood are now resourceful young adults. But I do know I felt a swell of love and awe wash over me from the very first wickedly creepy scene until the profoundly moving last one.

Profoundly moving! A.O. Scott at the New York Times is less sweeping in his praise, but does laud some production specifics:

The production design is dense with visual allusions to 20th-century totalitarianism, while the battered and dispersed good guys carry some of the romance of guerilla resistance, taking to the countryside and living rough as they search for weak spots in their enemy's strategy. They also pop into nonmagical neighborhoods of London, visits that add a jolt of realism to this fantasy. The brilliant composer Alexandre Desplat has constructed a haunting, spooky sonic atmosphere with only an occasional splash of youthful whimsy.

Scott gave the film the Critics Pick seal of approval, as did Washington Post reviewer Ann Hornaday, who praises the emergence of a strong female character in Hermione:

Over and over again throughout "Deathly Hallows - Part 1," she saves the day, most often by digging into a fabulously beaded bag of tricks, where she roots around to acquire the necessary accouterments to beam herself and her friends out of danger. Lean, solemn and supremely self-possessed, Watson's Hermione has become a literal spellbinder - who, like all women, understands the power of a really good purse.

On the negative side, fusty crank David Edelstein, of New York Magazine, found the movie boring, basically:

Hallows's first hour is deadly, all right. [Director David] Yates gums up a CGI-heavy aerial attack in which, to confuse Voldemort's hordes, all the good guys have been transformed into Harry look-alikes, missing the obvious sight gag: the villains bewildered by a plethora of bespectacled young men of small stature. Harry and company's daring raid on the Ministry of Magic to purloin another horcrux is hobbled by a) bloat, b) poor staging, and c) a failure to remind us what a horcrux is. I've read all the damn books and seen all the movies, and I still need the occasional refresher.

Bah! While no Potter director will ever top Alfonso Cuarón's work in Prisoner of Akzaban, David Yates has proven himself quite capable on the last two films, certainly more so than the series's first director, Chris Columbus, who made the whole proceedings obnoxiously gooey and cutesy. So have some perspective here, Edelstein! Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times was equally underwhelmed, mostly because there's too much drama:

For the sour way these three friends respond to the stresses of Harry being labeled "Undesirable No. 1" is not a treat. That, added to the pressure of his being "the chosen one," turn him sullen and hot-tempered, and Ron Weasley responds by going into "what am I chopped liver?" mode. As in the book, it's more teenage psychodrama than we'd ideally have to deal with. Dragging the story out to what likely will be five hours in length after the second part comes out next summer only adds to the problem.

Though, it should be noted that both Turan and Edelstein aren't scathing, really. Their criticisms are pretty mild, where the praise for the movie is mostly soaring and enthusiastic. Obviously no one really cares what the critics say about this movie, it's going to be huge and likely beloved no matter what, but it's nice to know sometimes that all the populist fun can also function a bit like art.

So, ZOMG!!!!, basically.