Having just witnessed the long awaited "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1" it's fair to say director David Yates has continued his fine work of bringing a more sophisticated, stylish and modern view of the fantastical world of everyone's favorite young wizard to the big screen.  Yates' experiences on "Order of the Phoenix" and "Half-Blood Prince" have served him well as it's clear his handle on the franchise is growing just in time for its final chapter.  Overall, "Deathly Hallows" should be judged as the best "Potter" since Alfonso Cuaron's "Prisoner of Azkaban," but we'll know more when "Part 2" hits theaters in July, 2011.

Fans of the book won't be disappointed as they will find more detail in this adaptation than any of the previous installments (or at least since the inaugural "Philosopher's Stone" almost a decade ago).  Of course, critics noted that author J.K. Rowling had fashioned the literary version of "Deathly Hallows" more along the lines of a traditional screenplay than her previous books.  And even with the film broken into two parts, that helps keep fans who haven't read the books (such as this writer) glued to the screen.

There has been talk about the "Potter" franchise being rewarded by the Academy and industry for a decade of quality films (and not to mention blockbusters), but a best picture nod won't happy for "Part 1."  What this half of the "Deathly Hallows" story does, however, is set the stakes for the emotional final chapter which could easily find its way into the 2011 nomination field.  Especially  with Yates' increasingly confident visual style generating a slew of new iconic images for the series. 

As for this year, Alexander Desplat's score has only one brief tinge of John William's famous "Potter" theme, but his pulsing and epic work could clearly find its way into the best original score race.  Yates uses a new cinematographer this time around, Eduardo Serra, and the two-time Oscar nominee delivers a slew of gorgeous images and especially knows when to bring the sunlight in for what could have been be a completely dark picture.  Legendary production designer Stuart Craig, a three-time winner, hasn't been nominated since "Goblet of Fire" in 2006, but with literally no scenes taking place at the familiar Hogwarts school his impressive work across numerous English countrysides may find him in the audience of the Kodak Theater  once again.  Make-up, costumes and visual effects will also be serious players.  The effects are especially strong with the best motion capture work so far for Dobby a new elf, and Kreacher as well as a spectacular air show at the beginning of the film.

It's also a huge relief the entire crew's visual marvel wasn't maligned by a 3-D conversion process.  The thrills and drama is powerful enough.  The picture clear doesn't need it. And of course, the best thing about "Part 1" is that it leaves you hanging wanting to see "Part 2" as soon as possible.

Look for a more in-depth review from HitFix's Drew McWeeny sometime next week.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1" opens nationwide and on IMAX on Nov. 19.
 

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