Caution: Massive spoiler alert!
So, what did we think? I liked it. Despite the reviewer of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning saying that we shouldn't see it in 3D, I actually liked it that way. I didn't find the 3D intrusive at all, and enjoyed some of the effects such as the fiend fyre in the Room of Requirement "coming to get me", not to mention what happened to Voldemort when Harry finally sorted him out. Some key plot points in the book were missed in the interest of making the story flow better (most notably Dumbledore's backstory, particularly his links with Grindelwald and the story of what happened to his sister Ariana) but somehow I didn't mind too much. It did leave the Dumbledore of the movies rather more of a teflon character, and a lot less complex and interesting, than the Dumbledore of the books - not to mention his relationship with Harry being far more straightforward because Harry was never given a reason not to trust him.
They also skipped a lot of Harry's obsession/hunt/quest for the Deathly Hallows - they included it but it was much less of an element than in the book. The focus was on Harry and Voldemort, the final showdown, and the Battle for Hogwarts. And the battle scenes were epic.
It was almost exactly as I had imagined it, but seeing Hogwarts getting completely trashed by acromantula, giants, Death Eaters, and anything and everything else nasty was still pretty shocking - piles of rubble everywhere reminded me uncomfortably of Christchurch. I thought they used the special effects departments quite well during the battle scenes, and there were some nice changes of pace with the trio down at the dock with Snape (location changed from the Shrieking Shack, but it worked well), Ron and Hermione in the Chamber of Secrets (this was only referred to in the book and they made a great fist of it in the movie - also nice to have an on-screen kiss between these two!), and Harry in the Forbidden Forest.
I loved the way they did the Forbidden Forest scene - much my favourite part of the book. Seeing Harry talking to his dead parents, Sirius, and Remus Lupin, after using the Resurrection Stone was really poignant, especially thinking that it was the first time that Harry had seen his parents since he was a year old.
I also think that the legendary Alan Rickman did a truly wonderful job as Professor Snape: this was his finest hour in that role, and he carried it off with his usual aplomb. I found the scene with Harry down by the docks well-balanced and beautifully acted by both Dan Radcliffe and Rickman (quite incredible seeing Harry there trying to save the teacher he hated most of all, with Snape's blood all over his hands), and the scenes in the Pensieve with the adult Snape were really well done. I also liked the addition of Snape arriving at Godric's Hollow just following the death of James and Lily a good one - it worked well in terms of conveying the depth of Snape's love for Lily and how much he felt her loss.
They also handled the Malfoys' shifting alliances well, and it was the first time that I actually felt that Narcissa Malfoy (Draco's mum) was a proper character rather than just a cipher. Some nice cameos from Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall) and John Hurt (Ollivander) too. Matthew Lewis did a great job as Neville Longbottom, and was finally given a chance to come out of his shell a bit. I loved the bit when he was facing off the Death Eaters and blew the bridge, but did think that the hanging off the end of the bridge and got back on was a really dreary seen-it-a-million-times-before cliche coming out to play, but I loved the speech they gave him in front of Voldemort. Nice touch, given Neville's family history with You Know Who!
Where I think it was weaker was around some of the emotions - the death of Fred Weasley was downplayed, and I almost felt that Ron wasn't that worried about it later on when he was talking to Harry - the emotional connection there seemed to be quite weak. Hagrid only popped up in the Forbidden Forest with no explanation of how he got there and didn't seem to be at all bothered that he was carrying "dead" Harry back to the castle. I also thought they stretched out the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort a bit much. I know they were trying to make it a really epic event but having them fall off the castle wall and live - seriously? Voldemort can fly, but Harry can't! He should have been smashed all over the courtyard! Come on, already... Jo never suspended the laws of physics in the books!
I also got frustrated at how many times the snake popped up: in the book, Nagini was wrapped in a magic shield, and then she was hunting with the Death Eaters before Neville killed her, before Harry and Voldemort started their fireworks. They made it part of the battle. The problem was that the explosion of the snake with all the souls of people she'd killed coming out (hey, I thought she was just a snake, a reptile, nothing more?) was so dramatic and visual that the final death of Voldemort was anticlimatical.
However, these are fairly minor criticisms. I think that, of all the Potter movies, this one was the best. And best by a long long way. I really want to see it back to back with Part 1. They will dovetail beautifully - they were planned as one movie and filmed together (Peter Jackson has a lot to answer for there!) and it shows. The story arc is consistent, the acting is great, and the storytelling is the best it's ever been for a Potter movie. The books are still better, but for the first time this actually works as a movie rather than as a pale, weaker echo of the book. Took them long enough!