I've just returned from a back-to-back (well, half hour break in between) screening of Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2. My immediate gut reactions from memory will be shared below. Feel free to add your own thoughts as you see the film. I'll try not to get too spoilerific, but there will still definitely be spoilers, so if you do not want to know anything at all, don't read any further.
It's good seeing the movie as one big four hour whole. I'm not sure how the second part will hold up just on it's own, as it is very action-heavy. It does have it's own kind of climactic rhythm, and in a way it's own themes, but Deathly Hallows is very much all of a piece. It's likeGone With the Wind or Kill Bill. Actually, it's structure reminded me a lot of Kill Bill, which I always thought was too heavy on one target in the first part, just as the first horcrux takes up all the time in the first movie, then the next two are dispensed with fairly quickly in part 2. These faults are Rowling's.
We open with a brief recap of the final scene of the last movie, then move right into Hogwarts. We haven't seen Hogwarts at all in Part 1, and this movie will take place almost entirely there.
I should mention also the 3D. They gave out special round Harry Potter 3D glasses, which was cute, but also a little annoying because having to wear them over my own glasses made them feel not quite large enough. While there are some shots that look cool in 3D, the movie didn't really need the conversion. I will say though that there is no frenetic action where the 3D makes this hard to make out. It's the best 3D of a Harry Potter I've seen. Still, there were moments that didn't feel dimensional at all, and other times, like when Harry is in his invisibility cloak, where the effect just looks distracting. I'll probably try to see this again in 2D.
The Dementors are still the bad unhooded version that Yates seems to like. In fact, I think this is the worst the dementors have ever looked in a Potter movie.
For those bothered by the lack of Dobby's gravestone in the last movie, it appears in this one.
John Hurt has a nice little scene with Harry, and it was nice to see him return as Ollivander. We didn't get much of him in Part 1. Though we never learn what happens to him AFTER this scene, as we get pretty quickly into the bank robbery.
Helena Bonham Carter does a great job playing Hermione as Bellatrix. It doesn't last very long, but it's memorable. I notice that in these films the non-human characters seem like they've been made a little more human. That may be why Dobby looked weird to me; they softened him and almost made him too human-like in the face. It's the same with the goblins. Their make-up has been toned down a bit, and sometimes feels too much like midget human bankers. Also, the dragon is so almost flesh-colored, and I'm not sure why. But the bank sequence on the whole is pretty good and kicks off pretty early in the film. This movie continues the conceit from the last one that each horcrux has that tea kettle sound. It allows Harry a kind of sixth sense of being able to hear them, which they come right out and say in this movie. To the point where he is hunting them by sound. While quick and easy for the movie, it takes away the logic of looking for something of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The cup is never mentioned to be Hufflepuff's. He only knows about the diadem being Ravenclaw's because of flashes from Voldemort's mind.
We meet Aberforth Dumbledore, who is pretty well played. The biggest problem here is that the backstory is not explored enough. It is alluded to, but little more. Here would be the time to TELL us, but the movie refuses to. Aberforth has a beef against his brother, and we see the portrait of their dead sister, but the circumstances of her death are kept vague. No further mention is made of Grindelwald in this movie either. Thus the whole relationship and story leading up to the taking of the Elder Wand are gone. The movie should have tried harder to explain this somewhere over the course of two movies. Otherwise, there's almost no point in even HAVING the character in the movie.
The mirror thing is finally explained, somewhat. Instead of the story in the book, where it is given to Harry by Sirius and it smashes (maybe because Kloves didn't write the fifth movie), Harry's shard is a missing piece of one mirror. The rest of it is with Aberforth. He claims to have gotten it from Mundungus Fletcher, who took it from the Black house. It's an explanation that mostly works (though leaving that until the second movie is harsh). However, I'm left wondering why there is only one shard broken out and all the rest of the mirror is fine. How did it break and how did Harry come to have that piece? If he had found it while they were in hiding at the Black residence I would have bought it. But he started with it on Privet Drive in Part 1. That's poor scripting to me.
Then we get to Hogwarts and all our old friends are there. Neville, Seamus, Dean, Cho, even Lavender Brown appears, though she doesn't really say anything. I liked that Cho helped with the discussion of the diadem of Ravenclaw, since we barely even saw her in Part 1.
Snape stands before the school and asks anyone who knows Harry's whereabouts to step forward. No one does, until Harry himself comes forth in a great moment, followed by the Order of the Phoenix. Snape and McGonagall have a minor fight, brought on by the knowledge that he killed Dumbledore. Snape flees out the window.
McGonnagall's take-charge of Hogwarts is good. Once Snape is gone, she brings lights back up. It's still dark, but adds a bit of warmth. Yates still likes his movie to look all grey, but it's not so dark as Phoenix was. And we get cameo appearances from many of the school staff going back several films. Trelawny, Slughorn, even Sprout make appearances. Filch appears, though he's once again played a bit too hard for comedy. Minerva even calls him a "blithering idiot". Though his idiocy is still more in character than it was in some of the other films (especially Goblet of Fire). There's a point when Voldemort's voice calls for Harry Potter to be brought forth. Pansy Parkinson calls for someone to grab him. At that, McGonagall has Filch take all the Slytherins to the dungeon. I like that this is the first reference to the dungeon since the Columbus days. However, I had a real problem with this action, as it reinforces the idea that all Slytherins are evil. How is her rounding up all the Slytherin students any better than the Ministry rounding up all the mudbloods?
The battle on Hogwarts is epic, and hard to describe her. Events which are only talked about after the fact in the book are put onscreen. Still, we don't get everything. Giants do storm the castle, though I at first thought they were meant to be trolls. There is no fake-out Hagrid death. Actually, Hagrid feels a bit off to me in these two movies for some reason.
Neville and Seamus are told to blow up the bridge, and there's a great call back to how Seamus is always blowing stuff up.
Though he gets less to say or do, Dean Thomas also has a couple nice moments onscreen.
I thought the Gray Lady stuff was handled well. The actress was good, and there was a moment where she was scary. However, the ghost effect looks nothing like the ghost effect seen in the previous movies. I know those effects looked cheesy most of the time, so it's hard to say which is better. She's more in color and more spectral and animated. It's a better effect, but not consistent with the other films.
What IS consistent with the other films is the Chamber of Secrets. I'm so glad it's the same sets. Hermione and Ron have a nice kiss here, but it's missing something for me. This is the one casualty of the SPEW storyline being excised. In the book the moment is so perfect when Hermione finally pounces on Ron. Here, it's meant to come as a moment after they both thought they were going to die but it's too sudden for me. At a point a scene or two later, Ron says something that proves he had actually retained something Hermione had said last year. I think that might have been a more book-like impetus for her to kiss him. Though in the film it seems to be a mutual decision. I'll let you folks decide how you like it.
The Room of Requirement and the fire is a great scene. There's even cameos from the pixies from Chamber of Secrets. Since the actor who played Crabbe was arrested on drug charges before filming, he doesn't appear. Instead, joining Draco and Goyle is Blaise, which I kinda liked. It also allowed another black character to have some screen time.
Alan Rickman finally gets something to play beyond brooding and hitting people on the head. The moment when he dies matches what I pictured reading the book. I was always afraid they wouldn't be able to capture the sense at the end when Snape looks at Harry and sees Lily. It's subtle in the book, but I think it says the last thing he saw was Harry's eyes. Anyway, in the film they get the point by having his dying words be that he has his mother's eyes. And it doesn't play like that broken record it's been in previous movies. Harry collects Snape's memories from his tears. I don't remember it being that way in the book, but I liked it.
The Snape's memory stuff is very good. It's better than the brief bit we saw in Order of the Phoenix. While still not all that's in the book, and missing some key conversations with Lily, you get the emotion and the sense of plot as there is a lot of retcon exposition to give. Unlike in Half Blood Prince, the pensieve images are not all smoky and inky. They only get that way when transitioning in and out of scenes. This is nice because it allows the first meeting of Lily and Severus to be brightly lit and pretty. I also very much appreciated the way footage from all the previous Potter movies was worked in, especially the death of Lily. I'm sure it was hard to match up with a scene shot ten years ago (and so little of it), but it looks almost seamless. Too bad Chris Columbus will not get the credit he deserves for the stuff in this movie that he is responsible for shooting, and for designs he okayed for his films. Why does producer David Heyman get all this credit now? Anyway, these scenes are some of the best in the movie.
I really hate that Harry's invisibility cloak is never revealed to be one of the Deathly Hallows. It made bad sense in the first part when he went to places like Godric's Hollow without it when in the book he had it, knowing that everyone was after him. But I figured that maybe they were saving it so the audience wouldn't immediately grasp that his cloak was THE cloak. But then what? He uses it in the bank and then it's never seen again. Also, the "cloak-vision" is not the same as it always was before. Yates uses the same sort of "magical wall" effect he used with Hermione's enchantments in part 1. He spends a lot of time these two movies flying through windows and barriers and such, actually.
Harry's little reunion in the woods with his dead friends is nice. Good to see Sirius again. The one problem here is the acknowledgement about Lupin's kid. Harry says, "What about your son?" First, only Lupin is there, not Tonks even though we know from earlier that they were both dead. Second, there was only a passing reference in the first movie about her being pregnant. Yes, she must have had the baby in the months Harry was in the woods, but the movie doesn't tell us that. In fact, there's no point at all where Harry would even know that Lupin had a son. I suspect there was a moment shot and then cut out for pacing. Still, it makes me wonder if it was even worth putting the baby bit into this movie. Reminds me of Lost, and how Sun and Jin were killed off leaving an orphan. Actually, the King's Cross scene reminded me of the ending of Lost too.
Hagrid is being held by the Death Eaters in the woods, but with no explanation as to how or why. Harry's "death" is a good moment. The King's Cross scene is nice and I like the whiteness of it all. Though it being a train station also calls to mind the opening of The Matrix Revolutions.
Sissy Malfoy has this odd moment when she checks Harry's body, sees he's not dead and tells Voldemort he is. That's fine, but she says "Tell me he's alive Draco." and Draco's not even there.
Neville has a great little speech about how the fight doesn't end just because Harry's dead. He sums up much of the movie's theme by saying that people we love live on with us in our memory. It also seems like an invention of Kloves' to get Neville to in some way call back to his parents since he doesn't get to personally avenge them.
The slaying of Nagini is cool. It's all intercut with this long fight between Harry and Voldemort. The death of Bellatrix is not as good as it should be. It feels like there's not enough build-up to it. The "Not my daughter, you bitch" feels like it comes right out of Aliens, and yet the delivery doesn't feel like it comes from an emotional place. At least not to me. In the end, Mrs. Weasly fights Bellatrix quickly, nearly strangles her by tightening her corset magically, then BLOWS HER UP.
The end of the movie also plays out differently. Draco never quite redeems himself in the same way he does in the books (which I don't remember well). Sissy definitely turns good, and Draco does have moments where he doesn't want to kill Harry. During the final battles, the Malfoy family just sneaks off and runs away. Lucius, Narcissa and Draco just head off into the woods and that's the end of them. Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort is almost all physical. None of that standing around explaining wandlore like in the book. He just disarms Voldemort and kills him. It was so abrupt to me (it comes almost immediately after Nagini's death) that I was confused. Only later when Ron and Hermione ask does Harry explain his theory about Draco being the true master of the wand. In a way this less dramatic rendering helps iron over the severe illogic of this story point that I've never been happy with. I don't get how Harry is master of the wand for disarming a completely different wand from Draco. That just makes no sense to me. I understand allegiance wand to wand, but some wand shifting allegiance based on ANY wand being taken? It makes sense that the wand wants Draco and thus doesn't work for Voldemort and that is enough for me. It doesn't NEED to be Harry's ability to wield it that does him in, does it?
After this, the movie follows the epilogue and jumps ahead 19 years. This scene is mostly successful. However, it is here that I really fault Yates' direction and muted color palette. It made sense when Voldemort was in power, but this is a happier time that is supposed to recall the glory and wonder of the first movie. So I think it should have been shot with much brighter golden hues reminiscent of those days. If there was ever a time to get back to the Columbus look, it's here. Also, the passage to platform 9 3/4 is now on the other side of the screen, which bothers me. The aging looks good on Dan and Rupert. Emma looks almost the same. The scene is nice, I just wish it were brighter, to give more of a happy ending feeling.
Finally, I think it was nice for there to be music cues from previous films in this score, and in the credits it mentions John Williams' score from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". I was impressed they used the real title there in the credits.
Anyway, that's all I can think of right now. I'm sure there are other points that I've forgotten or glossed over. On the whole, it's a good movie despite the missing exposition. Better than some Potter films. Is it the best? That's a tough call. I'm not even sure how to grade it by itself as Part 2, but as a whole Deathly Hallows is a good ride. It's really more a unified film than other similar projects.