This is it, folks. The final film for my favorite series' (books and films). It would have been so sad if it turned out to be terrible, especially since a lot of people were waiting on Part 2 to form their opinion on the film as a whole (with Part 1). So how did it do? The film picks up right where Part 1 left off. Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has gotten the Elder Wand--the most powerful wand in existence--while Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are still trying to figure out how to find and destroy Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes (items that include bits of Volde's soul that they have to destroy before they can kill him). The search takes them from Gringotts bank to Hogwarts where they will face off for the final battle... but not without other final confrontations, like with Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and Severus Snape (Alan Rickman). At this point, it's a question of who is good, who is evil, who will live, and who will die, (and who ends up together)... all of which, of course, you know if you've read the books.
It's really hard to talk about the film without doing a book-to-film comparison. So to avoid falling into a trap of writing a review that won't satisfy book readers only or movie watchers only, I'm going to split this review (much like the last book) into 2 parts. The first part will get the book comparisons out of that way, and then we'll move on to the straight movie stuff (the more technical aspects, I suppose). So if you don't care to read my thoughts on how it was as an adaptation, you can skip this first part. Otherwise, keep reading!
AS AN ADAPTATION
Part 1 took the majority of the book in its time frame, leaving Part 2 with maybe the last third of the story. The only major sequences left include Shell Cottage, Gringotts, Hogsmeade, Return to Hogwarts, The Diadem Hunt/Room of Requirement, The First Battle, The Prince's Tale, The Forbidden Forest, King's Cross, The Final Battle, The Short Ending, and The Epilogue. I know that actually sounds like a lot, but a bunch of those aren't incredibly long even in the book. And like any other adaptation, there are changes, but I personally don't feel any of them are for the worse (except maybe one). So let's look at the scenes (I'll lump some of the lesser ones together when I talk about them).
1) Shell Cottage/Gringotts. The whole sequence is done very closely to the book. Shell Cottage is a short build to the upcoming action sequence, giving us background on Wand Lore and a bit on Bellatrix's vault. Of course, this builds up to the heist scene which is only really different in that the Death Eater (Travers, I believe) isn't there, but is replaced by another goblin that works at the bank. The other main difference is that the duplicating treasure in the vault doesn't burn them, but it does still duplicate. It's a thrilling sequence that ends in an epic dragon ride.
2) Hogsmeade/Return to Hogwarts. The Hogsmeade bit in the book isn't all that huge--it's just the Trio setting off alarms upon return and getting taken in to safety by Aberforth. They get some more background on Dumbledore before Neville shows up and takes them back to the castle. This essentially stays the same. There were a few minor things cut, but nothing major. Most of Dumbledore's background had been removed from both films anyway. I did like, though, that they at least attempted to give some explanation for Harry's mirror shard that he had in Part 1, just still not how he ended up getting the shard in the first place. Still, at least they gave some sort of explanation and didn't just leave it completely open.
The Return to Hogwarts was mainly getting the Trio back and re-introducing practically every student and teacher that has ever been in the series (and was still alive). They didn't bring everyone back here, and obviously there wasn't the big "Percy redemption" scene since all the Percy stuff has been cut from the films. There was a scene added that was interesting with Harry confronting Snape in front of students (the scene is kinda in the book, just a bit different. It's clever, though.
3) The Diadem Hunt/Room of Requirement. This is pretty much exactly how I remember it in the book, with the exception of I believe Blaise Zabini in the place of Crabbe (since the actor was pulled out of the film after being caught with drugs). We really haven't seen school ghosts in these films for a while (I believe since the fourth film with Moaning Myrtle), so seeing one here (and the effects slightly different) was a fun sight. Not to mention the Room of Requirement scene was just as suspenseful as when I read it for the first time. Also during the Diadem Hunt is a scene with Ron and Hermione going into the Chamber of Secrets to get a Basilisk fang, something that was only mentioned in the book (since we just followed Harry). Purists might have issues with it, but I thought it was fantastic seeing that set again when the kids are all grown up (and of course the great kiss that follows).
4) The First Battle/The Prince's Tale. There's not much to discuss on the First Battle, since it's mainly just running around the school fighting Death Eaters, but it is done very nicely and quite epically. You still don't get to see a lot of the funnier moments from the books, though (like Mandrakes and throwing crystal balls). However, what everybody wants to hear about is The Prince's Tale. It's one of the best moments in the entire series in the books, and I do think it translates very well to the screen. There are, of course, a couple moments that were left out (the complete "Snape's Worst Memory" scene)--but you still fully understand what's happening. I think this scene did just like in the book: It makes you flip emotions on two characters you've been following the whole series. So yes, I believe it continues to be one of the best sequences of the films, as well.
5) The Forbidden Forest/King's Cross. The Walk to the forest was a devastating read the first time I read it. Yes, I cried. There's a good moment between Harry and Ron/Hermione, but the rest of it is slightly rushed, losing a bit of the emotion of that final walk. Though you still get the same emotions from the Resurrection Stone scene, which was done very well... all leading up to the "confrontation" with Voldemort, also done well. For King's Cross, the only real difference was that Harry wasn't totally naked when it starts out. Otherwise, it's almost totally the same as the book (including the final line by Dumbledore).
6) The Final Battle. This is where things change up from the book quite a bit. After Harry reveals himself in the book, he hops under the Invisibility Cloak with Neville, they're caught on fire, and Neville jumps out and kills Nagini. The fight moves into the Great Hall, where Harry and Voldemort chat (mostly Harry taunting Voldemort and Harry explaining why Voldemort can no longer hurt them--the power of love and sacrifice, just like Harry's mother did with him). And Mrs. Weasley fights Bellatrix. Only a couple of these are in the actual film. The battle rages on, Mrs. Weasley does do her epic line and battle, and Harry and Voldemort continue on, even flying and merging throughout the sky at one point. Ron, Hermione, and Neville all attempt to attack Nagini. All of this culminates in yet another Priori Incantatem-esque sequence ending with Neville killing Nagini and Voldemort being destroyed almost simultaneously.
These changes are both good and bad. I do love how they juxtaposed attempting to kill Nagini with Harry and Voldemort's fight. That was a brilliant concept that was pulled off very well. However, what was lacking was the explanation of how Voldemort couldn't harm them, as well as Harry's taunting and calling him Tom, showing he was no longer afraid. Granted, the book's version of how Voldemort dies always felt a bit anticlimactic to me, and the film at least attempts to remedy that, which I applaud.
7) The Short Ending/The Epilogue. After this, the book just kind of... ends. And then we get the much-discussed (in both book and film) epilogue. The film is similar to the book, where they just kind of go off, say a few lines, and it ends. The epilogue is just as cheesy as in the book, and almost word-for-word (but without the sidenote that Neville is a professor at Hogwarts). And the epic swell of the original Hedwig's Theme to end it all is very emotional and fantastically done. But speaking of Neville, there's a bit of a fan-service bit that's hugely different from the book. Most fans really wanted Neville and Luna to end up together in the books, but JK Rowling admitted that Luna was a bit too weird for him. Instead, we get a great moment where Neville declares his love for Luna, followed by an awkwardly cute after-battle moment where they sit next to each other. It's so cute and fun and damn what purists say--I liked it!
AS A FILM
First and foremost, this is definitely a Part 2. The first film is 2/3s of the book, and this film is the last third. Because of this, many might feel--like with Part 1--that it's incomplete (the first film has no ending, this film has no beginning). But I think the main issue is that people are looking at this as 2 separate movies (or possibly comparing it to something like Kill Bill). However, these films should be seen as one long film, possibly with an intermission. If you do it like that, then--to me--you lose those problems. There's a definitely beginning, middle, and end. And depending on how you like the Deathly Hallows story to begin with, this can still make or break it for you.
That being said, though, I will review this as the one part it is, as if it were a standalone--even though it goes against how I feel. The biggest issue I've read is that many feel it to be a rushed film. I can understand that at times (and it definitely feels the swiftest of all the movies), but as a whole, I think the pacing works just fine. There's not a whole lot of deep story or introspection in this part of the book as there was in the first half (that's what all that slow build-up was for in the Part 1, where people complained it didn't move fast enough... now people are saying it's going too fast! But I digress).
Anyway, because of the fast-paced nature of this film, the long, beautiful shots of scenery are gone from the cinematography, but it's still a very nice looking film. The best shots come in during the final battle sequences, which is at least half the film. It has a very epic feel to everything, with something different going on everywhere you look on screen (and all of it looks amazing). And the music score fits in just as well, giving it its grand scale.
Acting-wise, everybody is pretty top notch, but there are two standouts that definitely need to be mentioned and/or focused on. First is Maggie Smith as McGonagall. The woman finally gets her due after all these films of being slighted. The woman is a total badass in this film, with a mix of seriousness, dramatics, and humor. And Maggie Smith looks like she's having a blast doing it. The second, and most important, is Alan Rickman as Severus Snape. He hasn't been given much to do since the first film, though he's played the character to absolute perfection. And he's been harboring a secret told to him by JK Rowling herself about the character allowing him to do such. Now he's finally able to relish this tidbit of information and act it out brilliantly. The pain and emotion he shows is palpable and heartbreaking. And The Prince's Tale sequence (and/or the flashback sequence that reveals the truth, to all you non-readers) is--as I stated earlier--one of the best moments in not only this film, but in the entire series.
Overall, the film has some changes, but it's still a pretty damn good adaptation of the last third of the book. Some people will say both films should have been shortened and merged together, but then there would have been complaints anyway from fans for cutting too much out. Then there would have been complaints from non-readers for things feeling rushed in order to keep in all the important things. In cutting it into 2 parts and keeping very close to the source material, some thought Part 1 was too slow and Part 2 was too fast. It's an incredibly difficult book to adapt as a film, but I personally feel they made the right choice. I loved both films separately, and I know as soon as Part 2 hits Blu-Ray, I'll be watching both back-to-back... which is how I think the film(s) need to be seen.