It starts where the previous ended: with Voldemort leaning towards Dumbledore's tomb, reaching for the Elder Wand. There's a feeling of continuity, as if we never left the theatre. And yet many things have profoundly changed. The Harry we behold, talking to Ollivander, talking to Griphook... it's not the Harry we knew, it's not even the same Harry from Part I. As he addresses both of them, his voice is serious, but calm, and his words and gestures are carefully chosen. He has lost his teenage anxiety and urgency, and replaced it with the composure of a mature man, and the determination of a soldier. He's pale, bruised, exhausted. But he is not defeated. The straightforwardness of his remarks and the harshness in his eyes suggest a man who won't let anything stand between him and his ultimate goal. You won't hear him say things like I won't let you get hurt because of me, anymore. Not to say that he grew cold - he just suppressed that part of himself. He mourns the death and pain of those around him, but he does not loose control. That boy is gone, and all he left behind was his contagious laugh, and even that, scarce.
But Harry's burdened soul is not the only thing that has changed. Peaceful landscapes and blueish nostalgia are replaced with epic battlefields and fiery reds. Bloody reds. The amount of horror in Part II is vastly superior, so forget bloodless deaths, and prepare to face some disturbing moments. I'd think twice before bringing the younger brother this time. Most of the film is set in Hogwarts, where Harry, Ron and Hermione try to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, while the rest of the students and teachers are engaged in an battle against hundreds of Death Eaters. The school is literally falling apart, but nothing seems to distract Harry from his mission. Meanwhile, Voldemort gets weaker and weaker, as pieces of his torn soul are destroyed one by one. Here, we finally see this villain scared with the kind of fear that enhances madness and triggers rage. For the first time since Goblet of Fire, Voldemort gets a nice part of the film all for himself, and Ralph Fiennes fully embodies this 3-D villain, giving it a different kind of depth.
As the finale approaches, every character gets the much needed closure, and the much deserved chance to shine. Well, all except one, according to my strictly personal opinion. That character would be Draco - an already unjust ending in the books, that is re-shaped for the worse in the film. Apart from him, we get the pleasure to see a fully-grown Neville who dares to take the lead, with the bravery we all knew he had inside; Professor McGonagall delivers a jaw-dropping moment, showing a kind of fierceness never seen before; Luna stirs Harry in the right direction, and even Filch gets to make one final grand entrance in the Great Hall. Also, Dumbledore shares some of his old wisdom and humor through Harry's mind, and Fred, Remus and Nymphadora have, sadly, a different kind of moment. The same thing happens to Snape, the grand final twist, that shatters all previous perceptions of his character, and replaces them with a devastating better version of the man Harry says was the bravest of them all. On screen, we marvel as Alan Rickman shifts from villain to hero, mastering both of them with equal talent and intensity. Forget page-three-hundred-and-ninety-four - the speech of Severus Snape, headmaster of Hogwarts, is said with such careful malice in every single word, that you'll start to wonder who's the real villain of the story. And when he finally shows his true self, when all is revealed, there's a kind of emotional impact that, perhaps, you never expected from this saga. A feeling that crushes you even more when the camera turns to Harry.
Overall, Deathly Hallows Part II is a powerful piece of entertainment, (and I'd dare to say that in terms of suspense is as big as Inception) embellished with stunning special effects, and supported by a large group of terrific actors. And it is, as promised, a fine ending and tribute to a wonderful story.