Like most HP movies, I had to watch Deathly Hallows at least twice before coming up with my initial thoughts. The first time around, I'm usually distracted by what's been left out or by the changes that have been made to truly appreciate the film. The second (and sometimes third) viewing is when I allow myself to enjoy the movie without picking it apart.
Speaking of pacing, I was also pleasantly surprised how effective the slower tempo was, and how it added to the overall tone. The scenes with the Trio on the run could have brought the momentum to a screeching halt, especially after so much happened at the start of the film, but Yates was able to slow things down without sacrificing interest. All I can say is I was never bored, and that's a compliment to the everyone involved. That being said, I can also understand why people would have been underwhelmed with DH 1 because it's so different than the first six films.
Tonally, Hallows was probably the darkest yet since we started off with the wizarding world in disarray and a very brutal scene involving Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It didn't help that the only real light moments also took place very early on in the plot (the wedding for example), which meant the rest of the film was bound to be brooding and gloomy. Even though danger has always been a part of the Harry Potter's life, these stories also took place in a whimsical world with colorful characters and awe. These elements were absent from DH, as they should be. Sometimes we forget that these truly are dark and dangerous times for our heroes, and the films should appropriately reflect them.
What the movies have been able to do successfully is stay true to the darker elements while still maintaining a sense of humor. It seems like each installment has gotten more and more woeful but funnier as well. Rupert Grint was able to bring some well needed laughs throughout the film which broke up the dreariness of it all. The lighter moments weren't limited to just jokes, as we also got some sweet scenes between Harry and Hermione which reminded the viewer what they were fighting for: love and friendship.
While I was impressed by the pacing, tone, and performances, the film as a whole wasn't perfect and was missing key elements. Form a narrative standpoint, Yates and Kloves had to tell a massively complex story with a minimal amount of time, and it was clear after watching DH 1 that two films may not be enough to encapsulate the book. I'm not even saying the two movies have to incorporate everything from the novel, but I was unhappy with some of the moments that were sacrificed to the adaptation gods. I was OK with the omission of Dudley's farewell, but the lack of time spent on Kreacher's tale and the locket was a misstep in my opinion. It was even more frustrating after seeing what plot lines made the cut, especially those that had little to no build up prior to this movie. That was to be expected I suppose since they had so much material and so little time.
I wasn't expecting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 to be the best of the series since it was only a placeholder, but I was glad that my expectations were exceeded. Overall, the movie has its share of flaws, but there were enough strengths on-screen that made it entertaining. While, I'm expecting Part 2 to overshadow Part 1, this installment has its own merits and could be one of the better entries of the series.