It’s finally here. Part one of the final Harry Potter movie. It has been almost ten years since I first saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, after reading the first few books and waiting impatiently for it to be released. Since then there have been many book and movie releases. After nearly a decade, the beginning of the end is here.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, like its book counterpart, is far different from the rest of the series. Instead of spending their time at Hogwarts puzzling out Voldemort’s latest plot, Harry, Ron and Hermione spend the duration of the film on the run. The Death Eaters have taken over the Ministry of Magic and have imposed a regime reminiscent of Nazi Germany. The overall atmosphere is bleak, with the sense that danger is just over the horizon.

The three’s mission is to find and destroy the horcruxes keeping Lord Voldemort alive, and eventually defeat him. Of course, Voldemort has his own magical artifact to find, one of the mysterious Deathly Hallows.

Overall I liked the film. They did a good job at streamlining the somewhat unwieldy story that Rowling penned. The infamous camping scenes were pruned and tweaked to make their viewing bearable, and some details that were largely unimportant to the plot (such as Dumbledore’s history) were glossed over. I feel that the changes that were made were for the better, though they might disappoint some of the book purists.

That said, I am even more glad in retrospect that Warner Brothers decided to split the story into two movies. It would have been impossible to do the book justice in one.

One of my favorite scenes was the part where Harry and company sneak into the Ministry undercover to find a horcrux that they suspect is there. I won’t spoil the pure awesomeness of it for you, but I think the movie (and book) would have even better with more along those lines. (Harry conducting covert raids on the corrupted Ministry.) But that would have made for an even longer, less movie-suited story.

Long-time Harry Potter fans like myself will see this movie no matter what, so my opinion probably isn’t too important to you. Casual observers (those who didn’t read the books) will enjoy the movie too, though.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will be released on July 15, 2011.