Warner Bros held the first test screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I today in Chicago, and /film reader “Kyle” has sent us his early reader reaction. Hit the jump if you’re curious.

Disclaimer: As with any test screening, you should be aware that this version of the film is not final. Filmmakers hold test screenings to see how the movie plays for an audience, with the plan to possibly address issues before the theatrical release. So this is not a review of the final cut of the film, and the cut you see in theaters could be drastically different, or very much the same. Special effects and music were not completely finished. And it should also be noted that the opinions after the jump are not from professional reviewers, but regular audience members who attended the screening. The bottom line is, take this for what it is, an early look at what the film might be.

Here is “Kyle”‘s virtually spoiler-free screening reaction:

I was lucky enough to get invited to a secret test screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I at the AMC River East in Chicago this afternoon. We weren’t told what movie we would be seeing until seconds before it started, but my friends and I suspected that it may be Harry Potter due to the Warner Bros signs and the intense security. When producer David Heyman walked in, I was pretty sure what it would be. Director David Yates was also in attendance, and spent some time talking with fans outside the theatre after the film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I is a great continuation of the series, thematically and visually in line with films 5 and 6. Though it is a fast-paced film, with several nice set pieces and much-improved performances from the young cast, it does suffer from two major problems. First, it faithfully adapts the seventh book, including the book’s own problems. The “camping in the wilderness” scenes become quite repetitive, and the attempts at drama/angst amongst the trio during these scenes comes off as tired. Also, the scenes involving the locket horcrux causing its wearer to be angry/aggressive are far too reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.

All three young stars acquit themselves admirably, however, doing the best they can with the material. Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, in particular, are quite good. The second problem with the film, and this may be fixed by the time the final cut is released, is the editing. Some scenes feel utterly rushed and incoherent (Godric’s Hollow, for example). Others go on for far too long (Ron becomes jealous, etc.). There are several flashes / dream sequences that demonstrate Voldemort’s search for the Elder Wand. These are bizarrely edited and poorly executed. Luckily, they are just a small fraction of the film.

Despite these issues, this was a quality film on par with films 5 and 6, both of which I quite enjoyed. As with those films, the cinematography is beautiful. There are several creative and dramatic shots throughout the film, so that even if one gets bored, you could just stare in awe at the scenery. The beginning of the film is also quite exciting, including some hilarious scenes with multiple “Harry”s, and a series of great action sequences. The visual effects were not completely finished in these sequences, but I imagine it was quite close to what the final version will be. Another effective sequence involves the trio escaping to a small cafe in London, and a resulting fight that involves wands and spells but feels more like a shootout.

The film ends at a very appropriate spot, and though not exactly a “cliffhanger”, left me greatly anticipating Part II.

At the end of the film, we all filled out lengthy questionnaires regarding our opinion of the film overall (I gave it 4/5), as well as our likes/dislikes with the performances, scenes, and other aspects.

Though I will reserve final judgement until after seeing Part II, this is overall an effective and exciting, if not perfect, continuation of the series that struggles with some of the same problems as the final book, but mostly overcomes them through excellent technical aspects and performances.

Here are some additional reviews from Harry Potter fans posting at MuggleNet (beware of spoilers):

Gaby B:

I just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. …And it was beyond excellent. Tweet more deets later when I’m not as overwhelmed. The movie wasn’t completely finished yet. You saw green screen in some parts & the effects aren’t done. The music wasn’t real either. But it was still watchable… and AMAZING!!! Even my brother who’s not a HP fan, LOVED it. One of my fave scenes? Harry cheering up Hermione by dancing with her in the tent. (Was that in the book?) I saw more of Voldemort in this movie than ever. :( When Harry opened the locket horcrux, that was disturbing. Especially for Ron who had to kill it. It was like a Harry/Hermione shipper dream. Dobby’s death? I sobbed like a baby. D’: Every scene Dobby was in, the audience clapped. Never realized how much he was loved. Ron & Harry’s fight was hard to watch. Poor Hermoine was devastated. But you could see how worn out Ron was. You couldn’t blame him.

Jeff Gabriel:

Here’s the review! * Director David Yates, and Producers David Heyman and David Barron were in attendance at the screening. * The current running time for this rough cut was about two and a half hours. * The film contained a temporary soundtrack; the full soundtrack is still being composed and recorded. * A unique and innovative animation tells the story of the Deathly Hallows. * David Barron confirmed that the final split for the film will indeed be when Lord Voldemort takes the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave. * The crew has not yet finalize their choice of composer for the second part of “Deathly Hallows.” * The Seven Potter sequence features Mr. Radcliffe changing, character by character, as the camera pans around the room. He is left in the original clothes of the character, and with their voice. * The film opens on the Minister of Magic speaking to the press, promising the wizarding public safety and protection of their liberties. * This leads into the Dursley’s leaving their home, and Harry being left in the empty Privet Drive house with Hedwig. * Hedwig does die, returning to the chase sequence to defend Harry from Voldemort. * The title card did not contain and “Part One” distinction. * Both Kreacher and Dobby do make an appearance in the film. * The Death Eater meeting is featured, an unshaven Lucius Malfoy shakes below Voldemort’s gaze. * A series of flashbacks and memories are used to tell both the select back story of the Hallows and Horcruxes. Dumbledore, Slughorn, and more were featured in this telling. * The Death Eater chase ranges from highway action with other cars, featuring Hagrid and Harry on the motorbike doing a loop around the ceiling of a tunnel. * Hermione is shown to obliviate her parents, and make out her way out of the house. When she casts the spell, photos on the wall are shown to * Hermione is tortured by Bellatrix at Malfoy Manor, after they are captured by the Snatchers. Quite graphic and jarring. * Umbridge returns. Part of the new Death Eater Ministry which takes over. * Death Eaters crash the wedding. * A new stone statue in the Ministry is created, wizards behind held up by a twisted jumble of muggles. * Madam Maxine is featured at the wedding as well. * Ron’s turn against Harry and Hermione builds throughout the first half, his leaving is very dramatic. * Ministry of Magic is turned into a propaganda factory, with posters, pamphlets, and other anti-Muggle propaganda. * Harry and Hermione dance to Nick Cave’s “The Children.” * Dobby makes a fun, funny, and heartwarming return. Humorous interaction with Kreacher. * The Trio are found by the Death Eaters when Xeno says “Voldemort,” a tabooed word. * When Ron is destroying the Horcrux, Harry and Hermione appear as silver porcelain figures, taunting Ron. The engage in a very sensual kiss, which ignites Ron into destroying the Horcrux.

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