School's out for Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) in the dark and diabolic penultimate episode of the wizard saga. Leaving the safety of Hogwarts behind, the intrepid trio head off into the unknown as Voldemort fine tunes his evil plans for world domination. Classroom high jinks and the jokiness of the previous instalments are left behind as director David Yates paints a dark and brutal tone.
The end is well and truly near for Harry Potter.
And while the portents point to a truly climatic finale, fans will no doubt be left wondering if its predecessor, the meandering Half-Blood Prince (more concerned with kisses than curses), managed to suck the magic out of the series before it had a chance to fulfil its cinematic destiny.
While the tone is far darker than your average children's movie, and there's a noticeable dirth of the fluffy family humour fans have come to know and love, Deathly Hallows #1 thrillingly puts the series back on track for the epic conclusion it truly deserves.
Dumbledore's sacrifice in the Half-Blood Prince has left Voldemort on the cusp of totalitarian power. With moles throughout the Ministry of Magic and within Harry's closest circle, it's only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.
When the Ministry is overthrown, Harry, Hermione and Ron are forced to leave all they know behind and traverse the country on the hunt to destroy the remaining Horcruxes in the hope of turning the tide.
Along the way the strain of their quest forces them into places and responsibilities they never expected, creates internal personal fights as heart-wrenching as their magical ones, and with Voldemort's grip tightening every day, forces them into battles they know they may never walk away from.
Deathly Hallows: Part 1 begins in eerie, chilling darkness and things don't let up from there, as director Yates crafts a truly terrifying spell over the Potter-verse.
Popular supporting characters are brutally murdered or maimed, the takeover of the Ministry provokes some not-so-subtle political and historical allegories (the rounding up of Muggles for interrogation and exterimination by a leather clad mini-army), and the numerous set-pieces are as genuinely tense and frightening as they come (a jumpy, chilling sequence with Voldemort's giant snake Nagini capable of provoking a girly squeal from even the most hardened of adults).
Admittedly, plot contrivances are resolved quicker than you can say 'Deux Ex Machin-us', the pacing plods along in the middle stretch, and some of the performances are still more wooden than The Forbidden Forest. But these are minor niggles in a series that finally seems to have found its feet.
The bond between Harry, Ron and Hermione finally feels genuine, with Watson and Grint's on-screen relationship sparkling in suitably snipey style, and there's a real sense that all bets are off, and that they really are gearing up for the defining, world-ending battle that the series has spent seven years promising.
"These are dark times indeed," intones Bill Nighy's Rufus Scrimgeour at the movie's opening. But hell if they aren't exciting.