Homura and Kyubey return as very ambiguous characters with ambiguous actions, but especiallyHomura, given their very highly-debated actions in the ending of the movie.
Specifically, for Homura: Was she initially a Well-Intentioned Extremist who did what she had to do to save Madoka from A Fate Worse Than Death, whose apparent cruelty arose from trauma or (in the case of the conversation over Sayaka's corpse in Episode 9) an attempt to scare Madoka out of the idea of being a magical girl? Did Homura initially respect Madoka's decision to become the Law of Cycles, believing it made her happy, with her usurpation and kidnapping of Madoka motivated by the Mind Rape she suffered at the hands of Kyubey as well as the misunderstood conversation in the field, which caused her to honestly believe that Madoka regretted her decision? Or was Homura a sociopathicdomestic abuser from the beginning (of the final witches' timeline at least, who dehumanized and sought to control Madoka and believed that, by dint of her quest, she was entitled to do so? Was the conversation in the field manipulated by Homura's selective omissions to elicit the responses she desired to justify her abduction of Madoka? Or was there a pragmatic, unselfish motive for the usurpation and abduction of Madoka: to wit, the sincere belief that Kyubey would ultimately succeed in trapping Madoka, restoring the original witches system and subjecting Madoka to a far less pleasant captivity than Homura's Gilded Cage?
The trailer for Madogatari in November 2015 heavily implies Homura sincerely believed Madoka was suffering. In addition, Word of Saint Paul from Christine Marie Cabanos at a convention in 2015 implies the Incubators torturing Homura to insanity had a hand in her actions. All in all, the second option seems the most plausible.
The movie presents one for Madoka's role in the anime proper, courtesy of the flower field scene: Did Madoka act out of duty and obligation rather than her own desire to help all of those fallen magical girls? Is Ultimate Madoka truly happy to be able to watch over everyone? Or did Homura's words to a Madoka who did not have the same memories and experiences about how she “went to a place far far away from everyone she knew and loved” create a misunderstanding that lead Homura to believe Madoka regretted her wish?
One popular interpretation of Madoka and Sayaka at the end of the film is that they're deliberately playing along with Homura and her perfect world, either out of pity or their own amusement.
Ultimate Madoka and Akuma Homura, perhaps better described as God-Devil Shipping, is about as extreme as one can get.
Sayaka and Akuma Homura, as Sayaka is all but stated to be an angel for Ultimate Madoka. The same also goes for Nagisa.
Ass Pull: The "howdunnit" of the ending—corruption of a soul gem through love—comes off as one to some, and is a common complaint regarding the movie. This is due to the fact that said "howdunnit" comes with little to no foreshadowing and seemingly contradicts previously-established canon rules.
Award Snub: The movie was submitted for the Oscar to Best Animated Feature, and yet The Croods and Despicable Me 2 were selected as finalists instead.note Both were considered inferior choices on the list. Adding insult to injury, most, if not all the judges abstained from voting, with one reason stating that it's for kids and never bothered to watch them, thus leading to the aforementioned inferior choices.
Or because most American audiences had no idea the film existed.
"Holy Quintet"note listed on the official soundtrack as "Holly Quintet"., the absolutely amazing track used in the new transformation sequences, featuring glorious remixes of the TV anime's music that definitely do not disappoint. Mami gets a variation of "Salve, terra magicae", which was downshifted into something even calmer and more solemn, the song kicks up its gears from Kyoko onwards: her epic and fast-paced "Venari strigas", Sayaka's triumphant and rocking "Decretum", Homura's soaring and mysterious "Puella in somnio", and Madoka's incredibly beautiful and powerful "Sagitta luminis".
"misterioso" ("Mysterious"), an insert song by Kalafina, is the song used in the climatic battle with Homulilly, where Mami shoots off her most powerful Tiro Finale attack yet.
"nightmare ballet" is the grandiose and sweeping piece we hear in the beginning of the movie when we are first introduced to a nightmare and the magical girls engage it in battle. It then segues into...
"Mada dame yo"note which translates to "still no good" or "not yet" (which is also the name of a remix in The Stinger) is the sweet, innocent-sounding lullaby that plays when the magical girls defeat the first nightmare seen. Shame it's such a short song, barely clocking in at a minute in length.
"never leave you alone", which plays during Madoka and Homura's talk in the field of flowers is a beautiful piece, sampling heavily from "Sagitta Luminis" and including what has to be one of the most incredible piano solos ever written.
"we're here for you", which plays as Sayaka and Nagisa do away with the masquerade and utterly demolish Kyubey's plans before his eyes.
"her new wings", which sounds angelic at first, before descending in what is a sample of Cubiculum Album.
Badass Decay: Kyoko gets hit with pretty much the opposite of what happens to Sayaka in this movie: while Sayaka retained all her memories from previous timelines and therefore became much smarter and more jaded, Kyoko is missing most of her memories and therefore is considerably less savage and cunning than in the main series, even considering that she's working with the other magical girls from the start. At the very least, she doesn't suffer The Worf Effect because of this, and remains a competent fighter; she's just not as intimidating or overpowering as she was in the series. As a matter of fact, this is Homura's first tip-off that something is wrong.
Homura is the big one here, thanks to her actions. In the original series, she had some sketchy methods but was ultimately a clearly heroic character. Here, she undergoes Sanity Slippage to the point that she usurps the Law of Cycles rather than allowing herself to be taken away in a traditionally Happily Ever After ending, rewriting the universe to her liking and making everything revolve around keeping Madoka safe. It boils down to "did Homura do the right thing or not?", "was she doing this for the right reasons or not?", and "does she truly feel remorse for how she affected others or not?". There's also the fact that she finally makes the Incubators truly subservient to her. Because Kyubey is a major Hate Sink, some people are glad that his race got the retribution that they deserved, while others don't think that it makes up for Homura's morally dubious actions.
In a parallel to Asuka Langley Shikinami, Kyoko in this movie divides fans into camps based on how much they enjoyed her in the original series. Some see her as a disappointment and a waste of screentime compared to her original series self; she plays a more marginal role, her backstory isn't touched upon at all, and she isn't as vicious, dark or unique as she was in the series. Some people even consider her an outright embarrassment, as she fully participates in the Lighter and Softer opening (including the Cake Song) without any problem, a far cry to how she debuted in the series as a dangerous and menacing pseudo-villain. Others enjoy her kinder and less abrasive personality,note of note is the fact that Kyoko was a Nice Girl in the original timeline before her father went berserk, which might explain why she's nicer here as well and especially enjoy how her subtext with Sayaka is taken further in the movie and that the two girls seem to have grown closer than ever before.note The latter is heartwarming considering that they started out as unfriendly rivals in the series.Others just wanted to see Kyoko in a cute school uniform. Notably, unlike how Asuka was adapted, Kyoko wasn't made into an Adaptational Badassnote which clearly happened to Mami and Sayaka, aside from the obvious Homura or given new Character Development to make up for her reduced role.
Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The "Cake Song", where the five magical girls chant a bizarre nursery rhyme guessing game to Bebe, accompanied by equally bizarre and dissonant background music. Even more so in the Italian dub, where not only the voice actresses clearly had trouble lip-sincing the Italian version of the lyrics, the Italian lyrics themselves managed to make less sense than the original ones!
A huge one considering the film's ending. Some fans prefer the new world Homura created to the one Madoka created in the anime, and consider Homura's actions sensible and justified. Other fans denounce the film as completely retconning the events of the TV series, and Homura for acting selfishly and betraying Madoka. There's even more controversy with the ending changing Homura and Madoka's relationship, which some fans consider to be sinking the most popular ship.
There's also whether or not Homura rejecting heaven and possessing Madoka was inconsistent with her anime character or out-of-character, or just a last-minute twist to add drama and pave the way for sequels. And then whether or not it was consistent with Homura's state of mind at the end of the anime — had she accepted it and thus made the movie inconsistent, or had she simply rationalized it and so made the movie consistent?
There's also a split on whether or not Homura did a good thing or a bad thing with the ending. On one hand, she saved everyone and screwed over Kyubey big time, but on the other hand, she's also screwed over a system that was better than the original system, and if Fridge Horror is to be believed, doomed the universe to a much earlier heat death.
Its implied she's using Kyubey to surpass entropy in the new universe. Thus getting rid of the need for Magical girls altogether and putting it all on the Incubator race ironically. There's also an interesting theory about Nihilism and Nietzsche and how Homura may have made a better world than both previous systems and how Nietzsche would view Madoka as a failure but Homura as a success.
Some fans accuse the ending as a blatant Sequel Hook and are angry that they didn't get more closure, afraid that Madoka Magica will be turned into a Cash Cow Franchise. Others are perfectly fine with it, as they see it as a possibility to see more new content. Others still believe that the movie was indeed made to continue the series as a Cash Cow Franchise, but that the creators did the best they could with that requirement. Then there's those who argue that it isn't meant to be a Sequel Hook at all, but just a morally ambiguous ending the viewer is meant to draw their own conclusion for. Not helping at all is how the creators themselves have given conflicting statements on the matter (Urobuchi saying that there will be more, Shinbo repeatedly claiming that he considers the story concluded).
The Cake Song is either a hilarious and Dada-ishBig-Lipped Alligator Moment, an adorable happy Moe moment between the girls, or a complete embarrassment that has no place in a dark movie, even if the purpose is to mislead the viewer.
The entire opening of the movie is part Subverted Kids Show, part Fanservice.note Not the sexy kind; the girls living a happy life together, along with many Ascended Memes and Fanon elements. There are fans who are happy to see said fanservice (see the Crowning Moment of Heartwarming page). And then there are fans who think the opening only has its intended effect upon the first viewing and see it as Padding, an excuse to pander to the base, and even an embarrassment for the typically darker characters such as Kyoko and Homura (though the latter gets away with it more since she is in her "Moemura" persona). And then there are those who think they're really trolling the fanbase and anyone who thinks it's pandering is misaimed, Evangelion-style.
Some people are quick to blame Executive Meddling for the ending and that they ruined Gen Urobuchi's vision on how it should have ended (despite the fact that the change happened early on in production, and Urobuchi has stated he was not completely satisfied with the original ending he had drafted anyway), while others insist that it was a collaborative effort and that Gen Urobuchi was having Writer's Block and was even unsatisfied with the ending he had in mind by the time the change was suggested.
Whether or not the movie taking place in a setting harkening back to that of the original series pre-Ultimate Madoka was a good idea, or it should've taken place in the wraith world, and thus had wasted potential about what happened post-anime and wasted opportunities to expand on the mechanics of the wraith world and the characters post-anime. Similarily, whether the movie using an illusionary world mechanic was a good idea, even if it did give good insight into Homura's psyche. The mechanic used meant that a lot of character development took place off-screen, and meant that the characters needed their memories initially taken away to gain more development, which a lot of writers will say is a bad and/or lazy move.
As noted in the anime page, the movie trilogy was immediately compared to the Rebuild of Evangelion films—an extension of the anime already having comparisons to Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, the trilogy has a greater similarity to the first twoEvangelion films—Death and Rebirth, a theatrical recap of the anime, and The End of Evangelion, a continuation and conclusion of the anime. With the release of the film, the comparisons to The End of Evangelion have become even more blatant, as the film is eerily similar to it in terms of themes, Nightmare Fuel, and the ending. The main conceptual difference is that while EoE had a relatively positive conclusion, this movie has a closure which could not be more ambiguous and menacing.
There are also comparisons made to Mega Man Zero, between the ending of Rebellion and the story and character arcs of Mega Man Zero, that have eerily similar themes and events.
The Rika and Homura parallels are now even more apparent, especially since Homura has basically become her own Bernkastel.
For believers in the Zero-Approval Gambit theory, there are two comparisons for Homura. The first correlated to Umineko: When They Cry is how she has become like Sayo Yasuda, a person with major self-loathing issues who enacts a similar gambit for the sake of love. Add in a little bit from Eva Ushiromiya in there as well since she like her has to become the enemy of someone they care for dearly in order to protect them. The other is to Itachi Uchiha.
There are also comparisons of Homura to Lelouch, even comparing the ending to the start of "Zero Requiem".
Contested Sequel: While generally well-received, fans are up in arms over how good this movie is compared to the anime. Most of the contention comes from Homura finally defeating Kyubey, but nullifying the series' self-contained ending and becoming a more corrupt character in order to do so, although the very fluffySlow-Paced Beginning also adds to the debate.
Mami/Charlotte was this, but the movie's introduction of Bebe and Nagisa has alleviated this status somewhat. Shipping Mami with Charlotte specifically, however, still counts.
Once again, Sayaka and Homura, due to the two's hostility towards one another, and general inability to get along. Sayaka's aggression towards Akuma Homura furthers this.
Sayaka and Nagisa, otherwise known as SayaNagi, has gained quite a bit of popularity. Reasons why are due to the two being rather enthusiastic, cheerful characters; having a musical theme (Sayaka's overall theme, and Nagisa has a trumpet weapon); both being heralds of Ultimate Madoka, on a double-mission to protect Madoka and investigate Homura's witch barrier, being able to channel their witch forms in some way and summon hordes of their familiars (and other witch's), and being a cutesy young-girl-and-cool-older-girl kind of couple. It helps that Nagisa is quite similar in many ways to Madoka, who is already prominently shipped with Sayaka.
Creepy Cute: Bebe's round, bulging eyes are a little unsettling, but she's still pretty cute. The Clara Dolls are also extremely creepy, but left to their own devices they partake in childlike antics in a way that's strangely endearing: listening to an organ grinder, playing video games, running around the marching Lottes, and apparently trying to be friends with Kyoko in the ending.
Draco in Leather Pants: Homura easily reached this status upon becoming Akuma Homura, kicking Kyubey's system to the curb and manipulating Ultimate Madoka's, thus creating a new universe and system altogether and ensuring an Everyone Lives ending, despite her imprisoning Madoka and suppressing her powers as Ultimate Madoka, and telling her that if she continues to think selflessly and follow duty above all else, she and Homura will become enemies someday. It helps that she's Ambiguously Evil.
Die for Our Ship: After Homura's drastic measures, the SayaMado base can be heard clamoring for Armageddon, while HomuMado are prepared to fight to the last person to hold the current status quo. Some people Took a Third Option, though.
Evil Is Sexy: Akuma Homura, especially given her very revealing outfit. Just look at some of the official art of her! (Note: The link contains major spoilers!) Shame she's only properly seen for such a small amount of time in the movie.
Fan-Preferred Couple: This movie brought us Homucifer X Godoka, which is even shipped in official artwork, also bringing Kyoko and Sayaka's relationship to light even more, bringing even more fans to the ship.
Tons of scenes from the series, particularly the ending, get a much darker coat of paint after the movie. The part where Homura is smiling and talking with Madoka's family, and then declaring her intent to protect the world because it's what Madoka would have wanted? Yeah, she's barely holding it together though all of that. It hardly took any time before she fell apart, judging by the scenes of The Clara Dolls stalking the others. The part where she (kind of) reconciles with Kyubey and reaffirms that Kyubey has no way of bringing back the Witch system? He finds a way, thanks in no small part to her giving him vital intel. Madoka gladly coming to terms with vanishing from existence so she can help Magical Girls? It broke her heart to leave everyone behind, and depending on your interpretation she did it because she felt she had no other choice. And of course, pretty much anything heartwarming and cute about the relationship between Madoka and Homura in the series in general gets a little harder to watch once we get a good look at just how deep Homura'sobsession actually runs. She's not a cool, stoic Determinator who only wants to protect her friend, she's a dangerously unbalanced individual and she needs professional help.
It seems that Madoka and natural disasters involving water have something in common. The last two episodes of the anime had to be delayed because of the 2011 tsunami. The first two movies had the East United States being hit by Hurricane Sandy. Rebellion comes out, and history repeats, with the Philippines being hit with a typhoon.
Urobuchi has said that the story of Rebellion coincidentally matches the lyrics from "Magia". What he didn't say is that makes their implications even more frightening than before, considering the ending.
Puella Magi Oriko Magica almost seems to have retroactive Foreshadowing for this movie. For example, in one scene, Homura insists on saving Madoka, even when Madoka begs her to save other people instead. Then there's Kirika Kure, who was a YandereEvil Counterpart of Homura that was obsessed with love. Kirika even creates a witch barrier before becoming a witch proper, much like Homura does in Rebellion.
Some people realised the truth of the witch's barrier by then, but to those who have not, Homura's words to Sayaka about her condemnation of the witch who created the barrier, no matter what the reason of the witch was. Especially once they see that Homura still condemns the witch after finding out her identity.
How about the fansubs that translated "majuu" as "demon", for the new enemies at the end of the anime series? Now there's a reason the official translation is "wraith".
As noted on the Trivia page, Rebellion premiered in Japan on the same date as DokiDoki! Precure's Non-Serial Movie. A few months later, Doki Doki aired an episode revealing the show's villain originally made a selfish decision to save their loved one. Sound familiar?
The entire scene where Homura turns into demon and is called by it. This does not make sense in the Japanese version but it does in the English version. The English voice actress Cristina Vee once voiced Nanoha Takamachi who was called a demon by Vita during their fight on top of the building in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's after emerging from the flames. To quote "So I'll be... a demon. (activates Raising Heart) Maybe I am a little demonic. But you're going to listen whether you like it or not!", fast forward to this movie and you get this "You're right. I'm not a magical girl or a witch. Madoka is as sacred as a god and I pulled her from heaven. So if you want to know what I've become, I suppose, if anything, you could call me a demon now.""
Idiot Plot: Several reviews have pointed out that a lot of the conflict in the movie is caused by characters dancing around each other cryptically and unnecessarily withholding information until the most dramatic moment arises, even when they have no need to (Nagisa is probably the most obvious example of this), and those reviews have also pointed out that the conflict and perhaps even the ending outcome of the movie could have been averted simply if all the characters had gotten together, sat down, and talked it out.
It Was His Sled: A few of the twists. Nagisa is Charlotte's original form, Kyubey is the Big Bad of the story once again, and Homura in the ending usurps Madoka and becomes the Devil.
Homura and Madoka: The movie has made their relationship somewhat complicated, in comparison to the anime. While Homura's romantic feelings are basically confirmed by the movie, it is unknown if Madoka returns them, especially given the ending of the movie. Also, in the end where Homura hugs Madoka to stop her goddess powers awakening, depending on how you see it, it could look like Homura is grabbing Madoka's breast due the way her hand and Madoka is positioned.
Kyoko and Sayaka: Like in the anime, Kyoko is most definitely implied to have romantic feelings for Sayaka—and these are basically confirmed by their scene together in the movie's climatic battle—and Sayaka says that her one regret was that she wasn't able to spend more time with Kyoko in their previous meetings. However, the movie changes up their relationship to be more friendly, unlike the anime where the two constantly fought over things: in the movie, there is a definite strong, mutual respect and friendship to their relationship now, and the two fight together as a duo team. It should also be noted that the two are living together in the same house now, which depending on how you look at it, may be either romantic subtext or not.
Mami and Nagisa: Though while uncertain if the relationship has any romantic subtext, they are most definitely very good friends. It is worth noting that Mami says at one point that if not for Nagisa's or more precisely, Bebe's friendship, she would have been lost a long time ago. While the memories of their past together are actually fake ones created by Homura, there is the ending of the movie, where they are partners again, to consider. Overall, it's safe to say that while their past together is for the most part fabricated, the two genuinely care for each other. Their relationship also seems to have many similarities to the more minor Mami/Madoka from the anime, with Mami as a mentor and good friend to Madoka/Nagisa, and Nagisa and Madoka being rather similar in personality. It helps that Mami is often paired with Charlotte, Nagisa's witch form even before the movie came out.
Kyoko and Homura get lots of interaction in the movie. There is notably the scene on the bus, where Homura calms Kyoko down from her anger, and the scene during Homura's transformation into Homulilly where Kyoko is seen caressing a Homura◊ with half of her head missing.
Mami seems to have a thing for tying up Homura with ribbons, as the movie marks the third time she's done it (in the series, she did this right before the battle with Charlotte, and again to past Homura in timeline 3 of episode 10). She never does this to anyone else.
And then there's the proceeding scene of Sayaka saving Homura—with a Bridal Carry!—which can help to add fuel for the SayaHomu shippers.
Mami and Sayaka are seen riding in a boat ride together in the OP.
Memetic Loser: Of all people, Akuma Homura gets this treatment. While Homura's in-series incarnation is treated as an insanely badass stalker by the fandom, her movie self, as of the ending, is occasionally portrayed as someone who's trying too hard to come off as evil, while being taunted and bothered by her own familiars at every step. This is despite the fact that she was able to usurp Madoka and finally defeat the incubators. Interestingly enough, this fits in with Homura's own view of herself.
Kyubey for enacting a plan that that not not only fails, but causes himself and his race to be enslaved by Homura, even though there was already a system that fit his goals in an effective way.
Memetic Molester: Again, Akuma Homura. This is due to a number of things, including her various weird facial expressions, her sexy and revealing outfit and poses (and abundance of sexually-charged official art), her becoming a demon out of her selfish love for Madoka, and then there's the scene where she harasses Kyubey with one of her fingers, while declaring he's to be a slave in her new world... yeah. There's also quite a bit of fanart of her "toying" with the other magical girls, usually Sayaka or Kyoko or Ultimate Madoka.
Everything about the Cake Song.Explanation A really sugary, sweet, light and fluffy moment where the magical girls sing a lullaby about a round cake to defeat a nightmare.
From the ending, among many things, we have HAIL HOMUCIFER.Explanation Homura becomes a devil figure by the end of the movie. Her canonical name is Akuma Homura, but her fan nickname is Homucifer.
AI YOExplanation Something Homura said after her rise to demonhood. It translates to "love".
Homura's weird expression at the end of the movie, mainly due to her lips. Homura gets a lot of weird expressions in general after her rise to demonhood. Some of them come off as sexy—especially when coupled with her new, rather revealing outfit—but others... not so much.
Oriko was right.Explanation Referring to how much Oriko Magica foreshadowed this movie — see Harsher in Hindsight above.
The movie is a metaphor for Homura's coming out as gay.Explanation There are quite a few rainbows around the witch barrier, aka a world created by Homura that acts as a reflection of her mental state; this becomes even more obvious when Homura becomes Homulilly, as the sky becomes one big rainbow. Then, at the end of the movie, Homura says that she became a Devil and usurped Madoka out of love for her. Finally, the Blu-ray DVD edits the movie and adds even more rainbows in places where there weren't any before.
Homura did nothing wrong.Explaination Said ironically by her detractors and honestly by her supporters in regards to her morally ambiguous actions at the end, also being a parody of the "Hitler did nothing wrong" meme.
Moral Event Horizon: The suggestions from the end of the anime that Incubators and humans can somewhat coexist are completely annihilated by the end of the movie: Kyubey's actions, his willingness to screw over the Law of Cycles (which was giving him exactly what he wanted, just not quite as efficiently) and bring back the witch system is a sobering reminder that he is ultimately humanity's enemy, and is fully willing to destroy the peaceful relationship the instant he benefits from doing so, simply for the sake of being able to acquire more energy more efficiently.
Homura crossed it for more than a couple of fans in her betrayal of Madoka and establishing herself as a devil figure, particularly the part where she erases everyone's memories. Counts in-universe, as Sayaka declares that she'll always remember Homura is a demon for it.
The infamous "Tomatomura" scene with Homura in the post-climax sequence. She's in full cliche'd "Evil Overlord" mode, relaxing in a chair and drinking a fruity beverage like a villain from a Bond movie as she casually gloats with this lopsided, smug grin on her face. Then she gets beaned with a tomato, with said tomato being thrown by her own familiars. Not that Homura really seems to mind it.
In another post-climax scene, during a wistful and emotional montage, we get a shot of a panicked Mami rushing to save a distracted Nagisa from a collapsing pile of packages of cheese, in slow motion to boot.
As mentioned above under Memetic Mutation, some of Homura's new expressions fall under this. Most of them are likely supposed to make her look insane, given her Sanity Slippage, but some of them just end up looking really weird.
Homura's hair gets very dramatic in the movie, even more so than in the anime, to the point where one wonders if it's actually sentient. However, sometimes it just makes her look silly, and other times it looks weird or out of place. The speculation that her hair is so dramatic because it's inside of her witch barrier, aka her mental world might just make it even funnier.
The opening theme has a scene of Mami, Sayaka, Madoka, and Kyoko dancing around gleefully while Homura sits on her knees in the middle, seemingly wallowing in angst. It's probably supposed to show how disconnected Homura is from everyone else, but... the random shot of her anguished face, tilted sideways in all its dramatic glory, only makes it funnier.
Shipping Nagisa with any of the other magical girls can fall into this trope, due to Nagisa being an elementary-aged student, but especially with Mami, who is approximately a year older than the rest of the girls.
For some people, Homura/Madoka has become this, given the events of the movie shining light on how their relationship is really anything but healthy.
On the flip side, some people have joined in shipping Kyoko/Sayaka, due to the more friendlier, healthier and mutual relationship they have in the movie.
Padding: Despite the excellent in-universe explanation, many fans who enjoyed Madoka Magica for the darker elements view the Lighter and SofterHomulilly witch barrier opening as this, as Madoka is anything but a conventional Magical Girl show.
Nagisa can seem like an unnecessary addition that basically boils down to this, being thrown in simply because of Charlotte's enormous popularity.
The opening essentially depicts what quite a few fans have been wanting to see: all five girls living a happy life together, Kyoko going to school and being best buds with Sayaka (complete with tons of Ship Tease), Mami and Charlotte together, etc.
The new relationship between Sayaka and Kyoko could be seen as this to some people, especially their scene together during the climax battle, mainly due to the lack of explicit build-up and the lack of actual depiction of them as friends/comrades minus external meddling beforehand.
The new relationship between Akuma Homura and Madoka/Ultimate Madoka is definitely this for certain people.
The entire movie and plot can be seen as taking advantage of Homura's status as the series' breakout Deuteragonistnote surpassing Madoka in popularity in some circles; she is the main character of the movie, and then is the one to defeat Kyubey, becoming the Big Bad and an equally powerful Evil Counterpart to Ultimate Madoka in the process.
One of Sayaka's abilities can be considered this. Namely her ability to summon her witch form, Oktavia. As Oktavia's very existence is rooted in symbolism of Sayaka and her tragic story from the anime, having this form return in the movie, where Sayaka's story of despair is no longer relevant, can be seen as unnecessary fanservice, while on the other hand, it could symbolize the fact that she has grown as a character and is now in control of her emotions, instead of letting them control her.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Sayaka's and Kyoko's overall better and healthier portrayals in the movie have salvaged them from some fans who didn't like their portrayals in the anime, which also extends to their relationship.
It's easy to root for Homura after she finally overturns Kyubey and his fellow incubators and ensures an Everybody Lives ending. Whether we're supposed to like what she did is unclear; the creators have basically said it's supposed to be ambiguous.
Despite her being the one to really let Homura have it, Sayaka gets in on it a little when she realizes how happy she is to see Hitomi and Kyosuke again.
"Shaggy Dog" Story: The characters start the movie trapped inside an idealized version of the world created by Homura with implanted memories, then they spend most of the movie resolving then, then end up trapped inside an idealized version of the world created by Homura with implanted memories anyways. Other stuff happens too, but that's basically what happens. Not that it isn't appropriate since ostensibly the whole thing reflects Homura's inability to deal with her guilt over failing to save Madoka (in her eyes). It's never resolved, so it makes sense they end up back at square one.
The movie takes place in Homura's ideal world. In said ideal world, Kyoko is stated to be living with Sayaka, and the two are incredibly friendly with each other, complete with mass amounts of Ship Tease. Do the math.
There's also Mami and Bebe, to the point where Mami states that if it weren't for Bebe, she would have fallen into despair a long time ago, and wouldn't be as strong as she is today.
Shocking Swerve: ThisAnime News Network review docked the movie's rating, stating that Homura's Face–Heel Turn was gracelessly executed, mean-spirited, a dirty trick worthy of Kyubey, and ludicrously out-of-character. To quote reviewer Hope Chapman: "the film prioritizes a "gotcha" reveal glorifying the twist and resulting spectacle over any character verisimilitude. One minute Homura is pleading with Madoka to abandon her, determined to sacrifice herself to protect the ones she loves, and the next, she has stepped out of the 'evil box' and molded a world where she is happy to be in a position of power above Madoka, who is finally hers and hers alone."
Doing a good thing for a bad reason is still a bad thing. Homura made it so technically all the magical girls would get their happy ending, but she didn't do it for their sakes; she did it to keep Madoka from escaping her disguised cage of a "perfect world". Not to mention that, she knows that eventually she and Madoka will have to fight over it and nothing she can do will ultimately stop Madoka from regaining her powers.
Superlative Dubbing: As controversial and polarizing as this movie is, one thing that is agreed upon is that the English dub was very good, being considered one of the best English dubs of 2015 and even being nominated for several awards.
Rife in the opening sequences. For one thing, the girls' soul gems are cleansed by sparkles. Sparkles that are created after a nightmare is defeated in a non-violent manner. And then there's the whole of the Cake Song business.
Bebe gets a ton of these, as one might expect from the team's cute little mascot. This scene of her digging into a cheesecake is considered one of her more "d'awww"-inducing moments.
Some of the changes in the Blu-ray version were not well received. For example, Homura's white blanket from her witch transformation being changed into a glowing rainbow one.
The first take—as mentioned below in Uncanny Valley—has Homura humming "not yet" in the stinger, whereas in the final product, said humming is replaced with the song proper. While the first take's differences mostly consisted of creepiness from Homura that many were glad was replaced, some do not like the fact that the humming was replaced, as they viewed it as better fitting to the scene than the actual song, and/or more fitting to Homura's new character from the movie and as a demon.
In the Spanish dub, the change of the voice actresses of Mami, Kyoko and Kyubey has been ill received by the fans, especially Mami, whose actress was changed from Violeta Bibiloni (who was very well received in her work in Madoka) to the massively impopular Eva Bau.
If you look closely, all the non-named characters in the witch barrier have dot eyes and burned faces. Homura's familiars, who repopulate her new universe at the end of the movie, also have strange facial features that make them look very creepy compared to the other characters.
With the release of the Blu-Ray was revealed a video of a first take of the final parts of the movie (from Homulilly's defeat and onwards to the end), which were changed when the movie was released. While the changes are only to audio, said first take consists mostly of Homura speaking in a creepy, high-pitched tone and baby-talking to Kyubey, Sayaka and Madoka after becoming Akuma Homura, and some of her lines in this way come off even as slightly sexual, which makes it all the more creepier; especially since Homura usually talks in a stoic, flat and non-sexual voice prior. It also has Homura humming in the stinger instead of "not yet" playing, although some people don't see this one as creepy as other parts of the first take—see They Changed It, Now It Sucks above. In short, there is a good reason this first take was replaced for the final product. The first take can be viewed here in all its uncanny glory, along with a side-by-side comparision to the final product.
People started guessing that Nagisa was Charlotte by The Stinger of the second movie. When it was revealed that she wears pink and polka dots, her magical girl outfit is brown with a cape and big sleeves, she's unusually close to Mami, and her specialty item at the concession promotions was cheese-flavored popcorn... yeah. It's a pretty minor twist, though, and the whole thing is really just a case of Trailers Always Spoil anyway.
Kyubey being behind everything once again. Given his track record in previous installments, it's not really all that surprising.
Villain Decay: People have varying opinions about Kyubey, but all agree that he is much less intelligent than he was in the previous series. His plans are much more transparent in the film then they were in the series and he isn't able to manipulate the girls against each other like he did previously. Then, of course, is the fact that his plans backfire so badly that he looks like an utter idiot for even trying them.
Nagisa's character is considered by many fans to be a waste of potential, given her lack of screen-time and mostly just serving as a plot device,note These points be justified a little by the fact that this is only a two-hour movie, after all, with far less time to develop characters than the anime's twelve episodes and some consider her existence as mere fan pandering.note Especially given that she's the magical girl form of Charlotte, and that now—with Nagisa being added to the magical girl group, rounding it off to a nice, even six—Mami has a "go-to" magical girl to be shipped with, that won't interfere with the other "main" ships. See also Pandering to the Base above.
Kyoko is also affected. She has the unfortunate combination of being sucked into Homura's witch barrier unwillingly,note as opposed to going there willingly like Madoka, Sayaka and Nagisaand being defined by her darker personality traits in the anime, and therefore loses most of her character depth as a result (one of the reasons why she was praised in the original series), due to her mind being altered to fit into the happy, sparkly, fluffy atmosphere. Also unlike the comparably adapted Asuka Langley Shikinami, Kyoko doesn't undergo significant Character Development to make up for her reduced role and downplayed backstory. Although Kyoko does revert to her more sour, lone-wolf personality later on in the movie, she basically sits in the background during the major events of the movie and accomplishes nothing anyway, at least until the start of the Homulilly battle— and by the end of the film it's unclear whether she stays that way, as she's a schoolgirl again but doesn't get any more dialogue. But like most things about the ending, it's ambiguous in nature, especially with how long it will last.
Homura, despite being the most savvy of the girls, told Manipulative Bastard Kyubey all about Madoka and the previous magical girl/witch system. Realizing how much more efficient this system would be, the Incubators set out to take control of Ultimate Madoka and restore the old system.
Homura, upon learning that someone or something has trapped them all into a witch's barrier, goes after Bebe, a witch, despite the fact that even in the anime, witches never did anything special other than kill people; and never suspects Kyubey even once, despite the fact that she should know full well, from her years of time looping in the anime, that he is a devious, highly-intelligent rat, who has more-or-less been constantly scheming against Homura and the others for years of time loops. Justified somewhat by the fact that Bebe is a witch, and they are in a witch's barrier, but the fact that Homura doesn't even consider Kyubey until after her confrontation with Sayaka is rather jarring considering her experience and his track record.
What Do You Mean, It's Not for Little Girls?: Even more so than the series; the movie starts off as if it were a show for little girls, in order to deliberately mislead the viewer, and ends with Homura becoming the devil. Furthermore, it premiered during the same weekend as the (non-serial) movie of DokiDoki! Precure. Can you tell which one is actually for little girls? Dokidoki is.
Woobie Species: The Incubators, of all races, become Homura's slave species.