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'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1' beautifully shot setup for sendoff

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and Hedwig the Owl in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.” 

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter and Hedwig the Owl in Warner Bros. Pictures’ fantasy adventure “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.” 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 (PG-13)

3 stars out of 4

“The Deathly Hallows — Part 1” marks the beginning of the end of the most successful franchise in film history and one that was greeted by movie fans with wildly differing perspectives.

Those who ravenously gobbled up J.K. Rowling’s seven “Harry Potter” novels embraced the films as mere extensions of the books and they adore each and every one of them unconditionally. Those of us not enamored by the books about an adolescent magician and his battles with evil viewed the arrival of the movies with huge indifference and consider the almost identical stories as interchangeable and instantly forgettable.

While still hampered by a similar feeling of static sameness, “DH1” separates itself from its six predecessors on more than a few occasions and makes for more than an adequate stopgap until the release of “DH2” next July.

The most noticeable and welcome change is the absence of the Hogwarts school — a place that metaphorically and literally anchored and restricted the narrative. It is there where Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson) and their fellow students engaged in not typical teen but certainly predictable behavior. It was “High School Musical” without the music or dancing but all of the inherit melodrama and a revolving door of colorful school administrators.

After the death of a beloved character at the hands of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in the previous installment, Harry, Ron and Hermione quit Hogwarts and have now plotted their revenge.

In addition to not having to deal with the shackles of Hogwarts, returning director David Yates is also able to expunge most of the dark, dreary and depressing black and blue color palate that has permeated every previous production. Yates not only starts favoring warmer earth tones, but keeps the CGI augmentation and ADD editing down to a minimum while including quite a few panoramic long distance shots. However, this welcomed aesthetic change does come at a price.

While beautiful to look at, not a whole lot happens during this long mid-stretch. The trio spends most of their time here standing around, bickering with each other and trying not to get captured by Voldemort’s Death Eaters and a band of menacing human thugs.

The final 30 minutes begins with a brilliant animated sequence that explains the origins of the “deathly hallows” in plain English and brings to the fore two CGI elves that show more spunk and personality than the rest of the human actors combined.

The studio, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves picked an appropriate point in the story to conclude “DH1,” and from all indications the finale will be a doozy; especially for the few of us that don’t already know how it all ends.

(Warner Bros.)