As soon as the movie started, I regretted not having watched part 1 recently. It must be at least a year since I saw it, and I had forgotten some plot points.
I should say from the beginning that I am not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I didn't like the first 4 movies much at all, nor the books now that I come to think of it.
But they did get better as they went along. Books 5-7 were better, and the movies were slightly more watchable.
This last HP movie was definitely the one I liked best. Of course it does have some advantages over the last one - setting up a story is never as exciting as the climax, after all.
The young actors have also improved with age. Emma Watson (Hermione) is not nearly as annoying as a teenager, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) seems much more at ease. I liked how Neville Longbottom's character had grown into something a bit more substantial, and Matthew Lewis carried it quite well.
The action scenes were very good, if not a little dark (why does all the good action happen at night?), with some excellent special effects creating a fairly exciting battle. I also loved the Gringott's Bank scenes (I won't spoil for you but there are some fantastic effects and creatures...). There was enough death and destruction to keep everyone happy, with the more gruesome scenes artfully managed, but not to their detriment I think.
This movie also made me feel something. Unlike Transformers, I had cause to get involved in the story, and I must admit to shedding a tear at certain key points. Very surprising given my previous ambivalence to the story, but in my defense I am a bit flu-ey!
There was never enough for me to call it a classic - Maggie Smith was a little detached (although I enjoyed her scenes) and Alan Rickman, one of my all-time favourites, was almost too understated. He did have some good opportunities to show more of his character though.There were some important scenes that were glossed over, and a couple that either weren't necessary, or were too long.
Nevertheless, it was a good finish to the series, and a nice way to spend the afternoon.
I'd give it 3.5 out of 5.