Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT an unber fan. Yes, I have read the whole series and yes I loved every damned word of it but I don’t have the memory for the minor characters and plot points that tend to drive people crazy in the transition from page to screen so I can’t comment on that.
Knowing that, it will probably not surprise anyone to know that I thought it was pretty damned loyal to the way things played out in the book. From what I remember, there were only a couple of small changes and they weren’t significant enough to make me think “that’s not how it happened!” or anything like that.
It picks up right where the last movie left off, showing you Voldemort obtaining the elder wand via grave robbery just in case you forgot. And then it dives right into setting the scene at Hogwarts where everything looks appropriately bleak and terrifying in comparison to the cheer the place used to represent.
Willow (or, you know- the actor who played Willow) makes a spot-on Griphook and leads them into the first trap as underhandedly as you would hope for. The ride through the vaults is one of the few moments where you really notice the 3d effects and I personally like it whis way- to have every other moment pop up with a 3d gimmick would pretty much ruin the seriousness of the movie and make you have no desire to watch it again unless you had 3d tv at home which I personally don’t feel the need to purchase.
Other notable performances by supporting characters include Aberforth and Neville who are pitch perfect to their characters from the book. So far as Harry goes, and I assume that everyone was as eager to see his performace as I was, I think he carried it as well as could be hoped for. With that sort of material at hand there is a severe danger of overacting (say, like Michael Gambon did when he took over for Richard Harris) and I’m incredinbly grateful to say that Mr. Radcliff does not try to oversell that whole ‘i’m about to die' thing. If anything, he underplays it which leaves you thinking about the greater repurcussions of how it feels to be, as Snape put it, a pig being raised to slaughter.
And Mr. Rickman does a decent job of the biggest character turnaround of the whole series. His speech patterns- the emphasis he puts on his dictation- do seem a bit out of place when talking about how destroyed he feels regarding the death of the unrequited love of his life. But at the same time I can see how, after making that part of the character, he couldn't exactly mumble when giving those lines either. All in all it's enough to make you love Snape as he is meant to be loved.
My one big complaint was how fast the attack on Hogwarts went. I know it is, despite more characters being killed off left and right than a lot of war movies, at heart still a children’s or at least young adult series. I get why they wouldn’t want to focus too much on the deaths of characters we grew attached to back in books 1, 3 and 5. But to get no more than a five second screen shot of “oh yeah- Fred, Remus and Tonks are dead” seemed… I don’t know, too quick.
Another more minor thing was the little screen time Malfoy got. That whole relationship of Malfoy and Harry was such a huge thing throughout the books and him being torn between trying to save his parents by being a good little death eater and not actually being, you know, evil, was really fascinating. I don’t think you get any sense of it in the movie. Granted, I’m not really sure how you could given the important action sequences and overall plot (plus the fact that most of the motivations and stuggles are thoughts that can’t be explained via any another method but a voiceover which would not have worked at all) but I felt disappointed to see the Malfoy family just run off before the final showdown without another word. (Again, that is what happened action wise and I don't see how they could have done it any other way. It just... left me wanting something more.)
Overall it was a good moive. With so much pressure built up by such an unimaginably large fan base and a movie franchise that started ten years ago there was a whole lot of pressure on these guys to finish up the series with a bang. And I personally think they did. Though, and I know this is silly, but I am sad that, as all the posters warned “It all ends”. I will miss these movies coming out every summer. But, at least I have the books to re-read many times over- which I intend to.