Finally! A Harry Potter adaptation that is one hundred percent faithful to the source material! Very little was changed for this first of two releases covering the last book in the series which tells of harry's quest to destroy six objects containing pieces of Lord Voldemort's soul in order to better kill him.
The trio do a fantastic job, finally showing real acting skills, which I guess the bounds of Hogwarts were holding in check (too bad there's not a theatre class there, ha ha). Rupert is finally able to shed the comic sidekick role the movies have relegated Ron to and show real strength and emotion and loyalty -- the qualities that really make up Ron. Emma is given some incredibly difficult scenes to work through which if she were less of an actress could have seemed corny but thanks in part to the relationship these three have built over the years (onscreen and off) worked magnificently. As for Dan, he is strong, determined, tough, willing to sacrifice himself, and really makes you feel everything Harry's going through. Even the backup actors (those we don't see regularly) do fantastic, with the Weasley family showing magnificent chemistry and love, especially in a scene early on where one of them gets gravely injured (just for one example).
The script is almost word for word from the book, and what was changed actually seems better (changes include the kiss between harry and Ginny being moved to the kitchen where they can be observed by a smiling and earless George who has managed to stick a toothbrush in his hole -- hilarious). As for new scenes that weren't in the book (the first scene involving Hermione erasing herself from her parents lives and memories, a scene on the Hogwarts Express between Neville Longbottom and some death eaters) are pretty much inspired by things mentioned briefly in the book, so even those are okay. And as for Ron.....well, they may have given up on the comedic sidekick bit, which I'm grateful for, but he is still Ron and so he does still get a lot of funny moments, and they are good ones.
In the effects department, it's fairly obvious that they really wanted to make this a 3D release. There are multiple points (most involving Voldemort's pet snake, Nagini [say it "Nuh-ghee-nee"]) that look like they were shot to take advantage of a 3D release, and while it matters little that they didn't use them for their intended purpose, it does make you wonder at the reasoning behind making the second half 3D but not the first half (which IS their current plan, I'm told). Otherwise, the usual display of wand pyrotechnics is on display, with explosions and light beams flying every which way but....no, they're flying that way too, actually. The shifting inherent in the use of the transformative potion has finally been perfected from previous movies (Chamber of Secrets, where it was passable, and Goblet of Fire, where it was good), although the fact that it didn't change anyone's voice unlike in GoF was a bit of a snag for me (and really, that would have made the scene of seven harry's so much better if they all sounded like Dan Radcliffe, including the two who are transformed women). The high point of FX, though, is the locket-destroying scene, where a fifty foot column of black smoke (anyone here a Lost fan?) constituting one part of Voldemort's soul erupts from a four inch tall locket, disgorging a mega sized Dan Radcliffe and Emma Watson, who then proceed to get ethereal Adam and Eve style as the real Dan Radcliffe lies nearby.....need I say more?
Deathly hallows is without a doubt the best entry in the series. The characters grow up, the stakes get real, loved ones die, innocent people get hurt, relationships are bound and broken, and the series comes to it's exciting conclusion. Given where part one leaves us -- with Voldemort finding an ultimate weapon and a distraught Harry burying an old friend and clueless as to what to do -- part two can not arrive soon enough for this Potterphile. There is no question in my mind that it will be at least as good as part one was, and if it's not, well.......