(In theaters, December 2010) For years, I’ve been watching Harry Potter films and commenting that the films are essentially critic-proof. Fans of J.,K. Rowling’s series will see the films no matter what the reviewers say, and the films have been produced with such a consistent level of quality that one review says everything about most of the series. This, however, doesn’t turn out to be true in this self-indulgent first half of a seventh instalment. It’s probably the worst Potter yet, in part because it has been split in half with a final instalment still eight months in the future. The problem isn’t as much the cliff-hanger as the lackadaisical nature of the film’s middle third, while cries out for aggressive editing as the lead trio goes gallivanting across England in search of… something or another. (I didn’t care.) There are, to be sure, a few things worth noticing about this seventh-and-a-half instalment: The tone is as dark and adult as the series can become, the action never makes it to Hogwart’s, the totality of the budding Voldemort regime is nightmarish and the film dares to present a brief stylish animated segment. Alas, much of the film is spent waiting for the next thing to happen, with brief squabbles to break up interminable moments in the wilderness as the lead trio figures out the clues handed to them. There is, as you would expect from the first half of a broken-up film, not much of a climax: most of the action has been deferred to the second film… which everyone will see anyway. So, in a sense, the film is critic-proof: final judgement on Deathly Hallows Part 1 will have to wait until we see Part 2.