The cauldron of anticipation for the next "Harry Potter" movie due out this summer got vigorously stirred Saturday in Chicago when unsuspecting moviegoers were treated to the first test screening of Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth installment in the series about the young wizard.
Carlos Amador, who was at the screening, gave it a thumbs up review.
"Great. Incredible. It was the best one yet," he said to ABC News. And he should know -- he's seen all the others in the series and calls himself a "critical fan."
Others who saw the "research screening" -- as Warner Bros. called it -- agreed with Amador. Positive accounts have begun to appear online, and Potter bloggers are salivating, peppering them with questions.
Reviewers were impressed with the special effects, even though some were unfinished. On the Web site Ain't It Cool News, one viewer said, "I loved the parts where [good wizard] Dumbledore's army is in training."
A post on the site Mugglenet called the flight through London "awe-inspiring." And Amador singled out a climactic scene of wizard warfare between Dumbledore and the evil Voldemort as the "most amazing."
Actor Radcliffe Becomes a 'Badass'
Amador says strong performances were what really made this new "Potter" film better than the rest.
"The acting has improved dramatically. The kids are picking up the good habits of the great older English actors who are in these films," he said.
Online reviewers also gave the acting high marks. Of Daniel Radcliffe, who portrays Harry, the Ain't It Cool review gushed, "He seems like he knows what he's doing now. … He is kind of a badass."
No doubt, that fans and others welcomed Monday's announcement by Warner Bros. that Radcliffe had signed on for the final two Potter movies.
But newcomers to the cast also drew praise from those in on the screening. A reviewer on HarryPotterFanzone.com said Helena Bonham Carter played Bellatrix Lestrange "to a tee." Evanna Lynch "was perfectly cast" as the eccentric Luna Lovegood.
As the characters in the series mature, the books and movies have consistently been characterized as darker, and "The Order of the Phoenix" is apparently no exception.
Hogwarts, the school of wizardry Harry attends, becomes a sinister place. And Harry is forced to navigate conflict with his friends and a relationship with love interest Cho Chang that gets intimate in this movie. Their much-anticipated kiss scene -- it is more than a peck on the cheek -- is highlighted in all the online postings about the screening.
While fans -- who are obviously people prone to like these movies -- give most of the feedback, they can be, in the words of one reviewer, "quite rabid and militant" if they are disappointed. So an early, positive reception is particularly important to Warner Bros.
A studio spokesman would not comment on audience reaction to the screening, but said he wished "the summer would come much sooner." That's not surprising considering the fact that the four previous "Potter" films combined have raked in more than $1 billion.
Author J.K. Rowling has found the "Potter" books equally lucrative. Forbes listed her among the world's billionaires in 2004.
The timing of the movie could add to her fortune because her final book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," hits bookstores one week after the movie hits the box office.
A well-received film might add to the legions of fans who will line up for the book, though it would be hard to top book six, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince."
"Half Blood Prince" became the fastest-selling book of all time when 6.9 million copies sold in 24 hours after it arrived in bookstores.
At almost 900 pages,"The Order of the Phoenix" is the longest of all the Potter books. But those who saw the movie say it clocks in at 2 hours and 30 minutes, putting it right in line with the other releases.
The film's length is a concern among fans who worry that the film will shortchange the book. Not to worry, Amador said: "The things excised from the book are not missed. It does justice to the book."