Latest Harry Potter film whets appetite for saga's finale
Critics mostly applauded the latest "dark and despairing" Harry Potter film on Friday just hours after its young stars were contemplating their future at its world premiere in London.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One" is the first of two movies based on the seventh and final book by J. K. Rowling, and its premiere was an emotional event for its stars who have literally grown up on set.
Although early reviews praise the film's shift to the dark side, most are left feeling that it is merely an appetiser for the series finale next July.
Hollywood entertainment magazine Variety judged the film "dark and despairing" and "lumbering and gripping by turns, suffused with a profound sense of solitude and loss."
Britain's Independent newspaper celebrated "some beguiling scenes" before calling it "an entrée before the main course next summer."
Filming on both Part One -- which hits the screens in most of the world on November 19 -- and Part Two ended earlier this year.
Thousands of fans gathered in Leicester Square Thursday to catch a glimpse of Daniel Radcliffe, 21, Emma Watson, 20, and Rupert Grint, 22, who play Harry and his best friends Hermione and Ron in all eight films in the series.
The central trio of actors are now multi-millionaires though facing an uncertain future as they throw off their on-screen characters and face the world as adults.
"It has been a huge part of my life and I think I am always going to look back on it with fantastic memories," Radcliffe told Sky News on the red carpet.
"But 10 years as one character is a long time and I am ready to move on as well."
He added: "The fans would have been livid had we tried to make this into one film, we would not have been able to honour the book at all."
Watson, sporting a short haircut she was never allowed to have as Hermione, said: "It's really emotional, I cried the first time I watched the film.
"It has so many memories for me, we made this over a space of two years and I grew up on that set and it's just very strange that it's coming to an end."
Despite the driving rain, fans had gathered in Leicester Square, the traditional home of movie premieres in Britain, several hours before the screening.
One fan's placard paid tribute to Rowling, saying: "You made our childhoods magic, Jo."
"We've read all the books and seen all the movies, I've lost count of how many times, around three or four times, I guess," said Sheba Sahir, 23.
The first Harry Potter film was released in 2001, four years after Rowling published her first book, and the six movies made so far have earned 5.4 billion dollars (3.9 billion euros) globally.
Each instalment follows Harry and his friends as they progress through Hogwarts school of wizardry and battle the rising forces of the evil Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents and seems intent on destroying him too.
In "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One", Voldemort and his evil henchmen control huge swathes of the wizarding world and Harry is constantly in danger.
Harry, Hermione and Ron leave behind the safety of school and their families and set out alone to seek out horcruxes, items in which Voldemort has hidden pieces of his soul, so they can destroy them and ultimately bring him down.
Much of the film revolves around a road trip, as the trio travel around Britain to try to stay safe, and focuses on the close friendship between the main characters, in particular the budding romance between Hermione and Ron.
It ends on a cliffhanger, however, with the resolution of the whole series in Part Two. That will cover a final, explosive battle between Potter and his allies and Voldemort's dark forces.
Other members of the all-star cast appeared at the premiere, including the Oscar-nominated British actors Helena Bonham-Carter and Ralph Fiennes, who plays Voldemort.
Rowling made clear she was not currently writing any more Potter books.
"I think it's unlikely but I'll never say never," she said. "At the moment I've got no plans to do that.
"If I did another one I think it would be highly unlikely Harry would be the central character. I think that story is done."
More than 400 million copies of the Potter books have been sold and they have been translated into 69 languages.
© 2010 AFP