It's the movie adaptation of the second Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha TV series... but even worse!
I'm not really a fan of the TV version, but parts of it are undeniably excellent. It starts with boring battle scenes and underwritten heroines, but gradually builds up emotional weight until eventually the storytelling finds real power. It doesn't last for long, but it's there. The Tragic Villains are strong.
This film, on the other hand, starts with... um, lovely movie-quality animation. That's a plus, at least. Nanoha and Fate are still here, sort of, but I wouldn't expect too much of them if I were you. Nanoha in particular has been almost written out of the film. She still gets her fight scenes, because she's the hero and someone has to do the mindless grunt work, but her already negligible impact has been reduced still further. She has very little significant interaction except in fight scenes. Her family? Don't exist, as far as this film's concerned. Her friends? Well, Suzuka can't be eliminated entirely because the plot needs to befriend Wheelchair Girl, but even so you almost need a freeze-frame to spot her and Alisa. What about her all-important friend, ally and mentor from the original series, Yuuno? Heh. Demoted to extra, as indeed have been Chrono, Arf and Amy.
(Yes, I realise that a movie's shorter than a TV series. They had to cut something. However 150 minutes is long, the equivalent of seven episodes after throwing away credits and recap sequences. That's just over half the length of the TV show, but unfortunately the movie's made some debatable pacing choices. There's still a full hour to go when we reach Fate's dream world from ep.11 of thirteen.)
Has someone realised that Nanoha's boring, perhaps? If so, congratulations! Theoretically I should approve, but unfortunately this has a destabilising effect on the role of the Tragic Villains. Their story is no longer a story. It's just Look At My Tragic Villains. Characters in drama, you see, are given meaning by the stories that shape them and the actions they take to achieve their goals. Here, though:
1. The only victim of the Tragic Villains is fine physically and has only a brief interruption of her magical potential. In other words, what they're doing is victimless. No one's hurt. In that case, it's not clear why the Tragic Villains are going around starting fights with people instead of just asking nicely, especially when Nanoha and Fate are saying "please don't fight, no hard feelings, let's talk about this".
2. No, hang on, apparently that wasn't the only victim. The Tragic Villains also clobbered someone else. It's just that the effects of this are so muted that I didn't realise. Says it all, really.
3. So the Tragic Villains have a goal that they really, really want to attain. They need to harvest something from people and can do this in a way that doesn't hurt and only causes, at worst, mild short-term inconvenience. They could either: (a) ask nicely, or (b) go out of their way to start insanely destructive supervillain fights with nine-year-old counterparts of the Terminator, who are also incidentally agents of the Space Police. Choosing (b) will also provoke the intergalactic authorities into discovering that your ultimate goal could bring about the end of the world.
Of course the Tragic Villains choose (b). Repeatedly. What a bunch of idiots. This film is full of people who are stupid, trigger-happy or both. This can be demonstrated on both large and small scales, incidentally. Look at the first battle. Why do Signum and Fate start fighting each other? They just see each other and let rip. Fate doesn't appear to be trying to protect Nanoha, because she doesn't see her friend until after that exchange of blows. In fairness it's not hard to find a fan theory for justification, but that doesn't change the fact that the film isn't too interested in giving motivation to dramatic actions. That's true whether we're talking about fight scenes or emotional content.
The battles do look great, though. You'd expect that from a feature film compared with a TV series, but they do. The crushingly boring last fight against Reinforce is at least spectacular eye candy. The soundtrack even gives it a song!
Thus the Tragic Villains' story has been reduced to Morons vs. One-Dimensional. This isn't gripping conflict. We don't even have the TV show's scary random factor of the Masked Men, who were clearly judged to be far too interesting. They're gone. Cut from the script. There's no sinister third party involvement. All that's left is a prolonged and rather perplexing battle between people too stupid to win and some cardboard cut-out opposition, i.e. the movie's heroes.
Thus, in effect, nothing meaningful happens. (Fights are not meaningful.) I still like the Tragic Villains, mind you. They still have all the emotion and feelings they had before. They're good. However they're not being supported by the plot. This builds up to ep.9, which was massive in the TV series and here is sort of... there.
After that, though, the story takes a different turn. This is actually okay except that it contains a battle and goes on too long. My heart sank on seeing that I still had another hour to go. There's Reinforce (good when not a rampaging special effect), Fate's dream world (works well) and the tear-jerker stuff from ep.13 (again, good). The big goodbye is effective, although they still haven't thought to make the execution an execution. Fate's reasonably well-served, at least compared with Nanoha. I also liked the framing sequence set two years later, which is only two brief scenes but is still nice anyway.
As far as I can tell, I'm the only person who's not keen on the original A's TV series. That's mostly because I have a problem with how Nanoha's been written that most people don't. This movie, though, is either loved or hated. The latter I can understand. With the former... The film's fans apparently love it for the quality of its visuals (okay), Fate's development (not sure it's that much better than on TV) and the Fate/Nanoha friendship (which probably seems more prominent because so much else has been cut). Personally, though, I think it's an overlong film that deepens the storytelling flaws of its already problematic source material.