Three previous "Harry Potter" films have opened during the third weekend in November. "The Sorcerer's Stone" debuted to $90.3 million in 2001, followed a year later by "The Chamber of Secrets" with $88.4 million and then 2005's "The Goblet of Fire" with $102 million. Where will the first part of "The Deathly Hallows" land when it arrives Friday? Showings are already selling out at a rapid pace, according to MovieTickets.com, accounting for 92 percent of all sales. But if the penultimate boy wizard flick is going to top "The Goblet Fire," it'll have to do so without the added benefit of premium 3-D ticket prices, as Warner Bros. canceled the postproduction conversion last month.

"The Deathly Hallows, Part 1" will have to rely instead on the seemingly limitless enthusiasm of its fan community and the positive buzz from critics. We know the fans will come out in droves. And thus far, reviews have been largely positive (81 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of press time). Here's what some of those early critics are saying.

The Story

"Professor Dumbledore is no more and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) and his growing army of Death Eaters have gone on a rampage to destroy the Order of the Phoenix as well as rid the world of 'Muggles' (i.e., non-wizards). Part of that plan involves taking over the Ministry of Magic, forcing Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his best friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Emma Watson, Rupert Grint) to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes containing Voldemort's soul in order to defeat the evil wizard and his Death Eaters." — Edward Douglas, ComingSoon.net

The Performances

"[W]hen 'Deathly Hallows' settles in for real, character development, it absolutely soars. In the film's more intimate moments it becomes about three kids whom you've seen grow up on screen stepping into their own as adults. Those scenes anchor this movie and ask more of its actors than any Harry Potter movie ever has before. For the first time, they're old enough and adult enough to handle it. All three, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson have grown into full-fledged actors perfectly capable of carrying even the most emotional scene." — Josh Tyler, Cinema Blend

The Direction

"[David] Yates achieves his most resonant effects not with wizards' duels or Harry's painful visions (of which there are plenty to go around), but with lingering silences and moments of privileged intimacy; one standout passage, in which the titular Deathly Hallows are explained, makes extended use of animation that's quite unlike anything else in the films so far. Yates is destined to be the filmmaker most associated with the franchise by virtue of having helmed more installments than anyone else, and if his work has never quite reclaimed the poetic heights of Alfonso Cuarón's 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,' he has guided at least three of four films with a gravely elegant hand." — Justin Chang, Variety

The Dissenters

"The final book has been split into two films, the last part due next year from the same director, whose previous two 'Potter' films have been outstanding. The problems here are largely dramatic — the film has no satisfying arc of story, no sense of light and dark. It's necessarily a bridging film, but it never solves the technical problems of pace and exposition. It substitutes action for drama: Never has it been necessary to have a car chase, but this one does. At 146 minutes, it is a long time to sit through something so gloomy, as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and pals watch their world collapsing." — Paul Byrnes, The Sydney Morning Herald

The Question of Splitting the Book

"Perhaps the most pertinent question surrounding the way in which J.K. Rowling's exceptionally intricate epic is being concluded onscreen is whether dividing the final book into two films was justified artistically or only financially. ... More than even the most faithful of the earlier episodes, this film feels devoted above all to reproducing the novel onscreen as closely as possible, an impulse that drags it toward ponderousness at times and rather sorely tests the abilities of the young actors to hold the screen entirely on their own, without being propped up by the ever-fabulous array of character actors the series offers. ... [But] it seems reasonable enough to say why not do it all, shoot the works, show every scene millions of readers want to see, give every character his or her proper curtain call, be expansive rather than constrained? In this case, probably better a bit too much — even a dull scene here and there — than not enough." — Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Check out everything we've got on "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1."

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