When producers announced that the last instalment of the Harry Potter series was to be split into two halves, the news was met with mixed reactions. On one hand, fans believed that this would allow enough time to capture the scope of the book more thoroughly, giving fans the literal adaptation that they have longed for. On the other hand, this meant that the first half had to turn the drudgery of the first exposition-heavy half into something more interesting.

As a stand-alone film, the first part of The Deathly Hallows is a confusing film that never comes to fruition: it’s a two-and-a-half hour-long set-up to a forthcoming conclusion. Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint), and Hermione (Watson) spend most of their time wandering through the woods, trying to unlock clues left for them by the late Dumbledore, while carrying on convoluted exchanges peppered with complicated names and references to events in the previous five instalments. Even fans will be challenged and slightly confused about the film, unless– of course– they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Harry Potter universe.

But then again, The Deathly Hallows was never intended as a stand-alone film; not even as a sequel. It’s part of an ongoing story that serves a bigger picture. Reportedly, once the film is viewed back-to-back with Part Two, it will offer a more complete experience. And to the film’s credit, it economically jams in five riveting action sequences to create an enjoyable film of its own.

Director Yates deviates slightly from the source material when he deals with the romantic subplot. He alludes to a love triangle between Harry, Ron and Hermione, which uncomfortably borders on Twilight territory, and is even set against the same backdrop of cascading snow. The director doesn’t completely succeed in making this weakest link of the Harry Potter universe more interesting, but it helps ground the characters in a more recognisable reality. Say what you want about the Nick Cave dance scene between Harry and Hermione; at least they took bold chances.

The Deathly Hallows is a serviceable adaptation that will please all fans of the series. And as it’s always the case with the franchise, the rich and highly detailed visuals bring the magical world to life imaginatively. It’s going to be a long wait until we get the ultimate instalment next July, but after watching The Deathly Hallows, it’s going to feel even longer.