Getting to the end of a series is both sad and satisfying all at the same time. For Harry Potter, we know we're in for an epic showdown, but also some major losses along the way. I'm just going to say that this entire entry is a spoiler and if you're behind in the series you really shouldn't be reading it.
Now that I've finished the entire book, it's safe to say that it is a strong book and a very fast read in the best way possible. Finishing one chapter, I was immediately ready for the next. While there was some slight meandering in the beginning while they wandered and Harry angsted about Dumbledore, it all pays off in the end and stays an action packed thrill ride. As such, this second movie is also very strong.
It's hard to judge either the book or the film on a stand alone basis, as they are both largely dependent on what you had already seen. There's really no point in watching the movie or reading the book without the preceding installments, and I noticed that Rowling did not bother to recap anywhere in this book like she had in the past.
The best way to describe the latter half of the book is a mixture of heartbreaking and heartwarming moments. We see Percy reunite with his family and show himself as a true Gryffindor with a Weasley sense of humor, we see Neville rise above his painful past and become a true hero, we see Molly take down Bellatrix like a pro, and we see Harry of course get the upper hand over Voldemort. But then we also have to lose George, Remus, Tonks, and Snape. We also see the Malfoys act like themselves, which somehow manages to incite both emotions at once.
In the case of Percy, it's unfortunate that we don't get to see that moment in the film. I can understand why, given that his subplots have been completely left out of the films entirely, but it's such a great moment in the book that I would have liked to seen. It also seems to mean that George has to die off screen, which I don't feel is exactly fair. However that moment when Ron rushes over to his family, seeing George lying there, is a fitting tribute if there ever was one. And Percy can be seen in a few scenes, so it's clear all those moments happened, they were just off camera.
On the other hand, the movie does more for Remus and Tonks than Rowling did. I still have not forgiven her for killing them off. Her excuse that she didn't want to but had to in order to prove that an orphan could have better luck in a better environment is just ridiculous. Teddy gets such a throwaway moment in that epilogue that I really don't see the point. Anyway, giving Remus more lines, and seeing Tonks and he extend their hands toward each other as the battle begins really meant a lot to me, and I appreciate their efforts. By comparison, that sentence in the book where she says it looks like they were sleeping is just a cruel joke to me.
Another thing they added, and this may seem silly, but I liked that the cornish pixies were in the Room of Requirement. The idea that Lockhart would have stashed them there after his foolish attempt to use them in lessons is just perfect, even if it means the poor things had to die in the fiendfyre. Another small but wonderful detail - as Harry, Hermione, and Ron head to the boathouse, they run into a giant, being reminiscent of the troll they fought their first year, then the spiders from the forest, then a werewolf, then dementors. It's something that could very easily be viewed as corny, but I think it runs perfectly and works as a great tribute.
I have to say that Snape's death scene and also the moments in the pensieve are also so much better executed in the film than they are in the book. Perhaps it is because book Snape was enough of a jerk that we have a harder time feeling for him, where as Alan Rickman has always played Snape in a way that you knew he cared about Harry. It's funny how what felt so wrong in The Half Blood Prince film now seems to work so well here. His memories, particularly that moment where he holds Lily in his arms, are just so bittersweet and heartbreaking. His death also made me jump in my seat several times, it's just so wonderfully executed. The sounds say so much more than showing us Nagini attack him ever could.
If there are two reasons I'm glad I went and saw the film on opening day in the theater, Molly and Neville are it. Cheering along with everyone else while Molly screamed "Not my daughter, you bitch!" and seeing Neville both stand up to Voldemort and then kill Nagini was a wonderful moment to be a part of. Even watching it again alone, the scenes held a lot of power. I think Maggie Smith also brought so much strength and fun to Professor McGonagall that she really shines through in so many scenes as well.
Oddly I don't have too much to say in regards to Harry himself. I seem to recall that I figured out that he was a horcrux not too far in to the book, and it seemed almost inevitable that he would have to die. The prophecy kind of suggests as much to me. That said I was very sad to watch Harry walk into the forest the first time I read the book. Hearing him ask Sirius, "Does it hurt?" is also very heartbreaking. There is a part of me that feels a little let down by the fact that Harry speaks to Dumbledore after his "death." It felt like a cheat, I think. The hero is supposed to be making his own decisions without his mentor at that point. However, I suppose you could argue that being all in Harry's head, it wasn't really Dumbledore at all.
I'm just going to come out and say that I hate the epilogue. I know why she did it, as she's clearly very protective of her creations and she doesn't want other people continuing the series in a way contrary to her vision of how things ended up for Harry and friends. However, it all comes out overly hokey and I just don't like it. Not many people really marry their high school sweetheart and live happily ever after, especially not two sets of best friends like that. And as I said earlier, the throwaway comment about Teddy is just stupid and pointless. In the movie it's even sillier, because they didn't want to use other actors and all they really did was give the current ones bad hairstyles. Everyone in my theater was laughing as each character was shown on screen because they looked so ridiculous. I'd much prefer to see the series end with the three of them on the bridge, their whole future ahead of them.
Also, do you think it's fair that Ginny had so little say in what to name their children? "Kid one is named after my father and godfather, kid two is named after two of the professors who helped me, kid three is named after my mother... well okay, I guess we can make her middle name your friend, because she's my friend too..." Bad Harry.