By Yong Shu Hoong
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (PG)
AFTER watching almost a decade worth of Harry Potter movies, I'm accustomed to not having a sense of finality by the time the credits roll - there's always the next film in the series to look forward to.
The trick to ensuring a satisfying Harry Potter experience for the audience is to unleash a climactic good-versus-evil battle to round up a film, while leaving loose ends to be resolved in sequels.
For me, the cliffhanger in the previous film, The Half-Blood Prince, was a little too much to bear.
I mean, the viewers (at least those who haven't read the books by J. K. Rowling) had to witness the death of Professor Dumbledore, beloved headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and then wait another 16 months to find out what happens next.
And now that the time has come for The Deathly Hallows to be unveiled, I have to brace myself for unsettled business yet again, as this is only Part 1 of the final instalment.
With the increasingly dark and brooding atmosphere of the film series, I'd no longer treat this latest film as family entertainment (parents be warned: there are a couple of scary bits and a scene that alludes to a nude embrace between two of the film's lead characters). The question is, would the adult fans be charmed?
There is some action in the beginning, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) flees from evil forces with the help of his Hogwarts friends like Ron (Rupert Grint), Hermione (Emma Watson), Lupin (David Thewlis) and Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane).
In the face of evil Lord Voldemort's (Ralph Fiennes) mounting power, Harry, Ron and Hermione drop out of school and embark on a perilous search for Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes - receptacles containing fragments of his soul that need to be destroyed before he can be mortally wounded and killed.
By infiltrating the Ministry of Magic, which has been taken over by Voldemort and his henchmen, the trio recover one of the Horcruxes, which comes in the form of a locket.
Much like the coveted ring in The Lord Of The Rings, the locket has the magical power of bringing out the dark moods and thoughts of its wearer.
This sets the scene for some intense emotional scenes between the three lead characters, with the issue of their love triangle brought bluntly to the fore.
So, before the locket can be destroyed, you'll witness Ron, in a fit of jealousy, falling out with Harry and taking off in a puff.
And there are other mysteries to be uncovered, including the origin of the three sacred objects that make up the mythical Deathly Hallows.
Reviewing this film is a bit problematic, as it feels like I've been made to sit through just one half of a single film before someone turned off the projector, and then forced me to conclude if what I've seen is good or bad.
This film is all about buildup, with the final clash between Harry and Voldemort withheld till Part 2 comes your way next year.
Production values are of the high quality consistent with predecessors in the series, with David Yates once again directing after first taking the helm on The Order Of The Phoenix (2007).
Most viewers would, however, complain that the proceeding is long and slow, after the chase sequences at the start.
Radcliffe, Grint and Watson continue maturing as actors, and perhaps the best is saved for last (Part 2). But if you're looking for action and magic, this particular instalment falls short.