Minor spoilers within so do not proceed until you've watched it
We know that Yoshika is the main heroine who is selfless and probably indestructible, so there is no need to show her risking her life repeatedly saving little puppies, injured shipmen and innocent Gallian villagers. The part where she goes up against and defeats a Neuroi with nothing but a machine gun and a jeep pushes the credulity to the limit.
(Takes a deep breath)
Ok, now that that is done with, this was bloody fantastic. Just what a fan would want a Strike Witches movie to be. They could have gone with any plot as long as it brought our favourite Witches back together, but the idea that the Neuroi would launch a surprise counter-attack and use signal jamming is a reasonable one. Although the timing is a bit off, I think this was meant to be a re-creation of the Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes Counteroffensive). The one thing they did better than the TV series was that they kept it simple with Witches = good, and Neuroi = evil. There was no negotiating with the Neuroi or stupid human generals who think they can win the War without the help of Witches.
The sub-plot involved Yoshika going to Helvetia to study medicine and being escorted by new character Hattori Shizuka (voiced by Uchida Aya, Kiddy Girl-and's Ascouer), a young Witch who looks up to Yoshika as a great Fuso hero. Hattori is a straight-as-an-arrow type who is disappointed that Yoshika is not what she expected and keep lecturing her on how to be an officer. This leads to a funny scene where Yoshika wonders if this is what Erica feels like being lectured by Barkhorn. I didn't find Hattori's story that compelling, though it did lead to a great scene during their brief sojourn to Perrine's estate in Gallia. Besides Yoshika, Perrine is probably the one who got the most back-story in the series and the one who changed the most. It was wonderful to see her (with the help of Lynne) rebuild her home and take care of the orphans of the War. The rest of the 501st got their brief share of the screentime with Sanya and Eila possibly getting the least, but they had a flying while holding hands scene to remind everyone who the loveliest couple in the series are.
AIC did well with the bigger movie budget and the 3DCG were well done. The background art was lovely, depicting Venezia and the Gallian countryside. The sound effects were also good, with cannon fire loud enough that the first scene gave me an unexpected shock. The movie was more action-oriented than the TV series, and there were a couple of good solo fights against Neuroi before the grand finale. My favourite was how Erica one-shot a Neuroi with her Sturm. There were also comedic moments from Yoshika and the bear, and Shirley and Lucchini gondola racing with the 504th Red Pants. The part that made me laugh the loudest though was where Barkhorn went from nonchalance to gung-ho when she found out her "imouto" Yoshika was in danger which leads to Minna and Erica teasing her about it.
Lots of cameos from other Witches in the franchise, but the one who got the most screentime besides Hattori was Heidemarie Schnaufer (voiced by Ueda Kana). I like her as she's badass enough to take down a medium Neuroi by herself and also took part in the final battle. Hope she gets to join the 501st in the future since there are hints that she enjoys being under Minna
She's got the same radar ability as Sanya but the 501st are a woman short with Mio definitely no longer having magic, and Heidemarie is a major too so she can be 2nd in command. With the campaign moving to liberating Karsland, having another Karsland witch in the unit is logical.
Speaking of sequels, Minna herself declares the 501st re-formed at the end of the movie and as she explained, there are 3 Neuroi Hives still in Europe, and the fight is not over. Not sure if the movie did well enough at the box-office to be considered a hit, but the BD/DVD sales look to be good enough. Where is the 3rd season announcement?
Since this started with a negative note, I'll end with one too. The other thing I have to quibble about is the pantyshots. That's what made the show famous, but really they just over-did it during the battle scenes and was distracting. The show is good enough to stand with minimal crotch shots.