Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Melissa Rosenberg
You’ve come to this review with one goal in mind, no matter which camp you fall into. You’re a true believer, an obsessive “Twi-hard,” a name you wear with pride, spoiling for a fight with a critic who dares besmirch the good names of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Or, you’re a devoted boyfriend, husband, or close relative praying for deliverance, a beacon in the dark that will potentially prepare you for the next few hours of your life. Maybe you waited in line for the midnight showing of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 for hours—perhaps you’re so dedicated or with someone so fiercely in love with the series that you sprang for the Twilight marathon at your local multiplex. You want this review to confirm your suspicions that only doofy male critics will have the verbal knives out for this supposed paean to femininity. Or you may want someone to share your view on the strange, befuddling spectacle you’ve just witnessed or are about to view. Fear not, reader: stalwart or skeptic, though the final Twilight movie may let you down, this review will not.
Yes, finally, the self-professed saga about a dour teenage girl who falls in love with a pretty male vampire is at its close with the second part of Breaking Dawn finally being released to theaters after much fervor and fan speculation. It is, of course, dubious to call this series a saga considering how plotless the films are. Frankly, it’s impressive to consider that ten hours of entertainment were created from a meager story, one that could just as easily be adapted as one overall film. For the uninitiated few, a) welcome back to modern civilization and b) here’s your quick primer.
Based on the insanely popular novels written by Stephenie Meyer, the films focus on Bella (Kristen Stewart, who, in this final installment, looks physically constrained by the character she’s playing despite her character being freer than ever). One day, Bella went to her new high school in northern Washington, fell in love with a pale boy named Edward (Robert Pattinson), and found out he was a vampire. After various soap-opera-level complications, they got married, she got pregnant with a human-vampire hybrid, and to save her life, Edward finally turned her into a bloodsucker. As the finale begins, Bella’s immortality begins unceremoniously as she faces off with a powerful clan called the Volturi, who wish to destroy her newborn daughter, Renesmee, fearing that she’s an Immortal Child with vast and terrifying powers that would destroy vampires worldwide.
And that’s about it. Oh, there are plenty of other characters in Breaking Dawn — Part 2, from the moon-faced boy werewolf (Taylor Lautner, and yes, he does take his shirt off early in the film, so calm down) who’s “imprinted” on Renesmee, which is so spectacularly odd that, as presented in the movie, it circles back around to being dull; to the campy and evil Volturi leader (Michael Sheen, one of only a few actors acting like he’s enjoying himself) thirsting for violent vengeance. Nevertheless, in terms of story, the previous paragraph sums up the general synopsis of four lengthy books. Not every film needs to be plot-driven, of course, but director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg don’t offer us any character compelling enough to latch onto. (A separate, series-wide problem is the disturbingly unrealistic CGI; the baby version of Renesmee is a new low.) Bella is the ostensible lead of the entire series, but even here, with literal superpowers at her disposal, she doesn’t feel that active. Bella may have brute strength coursing through her vampiric veins, but she’s still lacking in one of the greatest of all powers: a dynamic personality.
So what pleasures are there for a non-fan in this concluding cinematic chapter? It’s the little things, such as performers who are totally aware of the silliness inherent in these movies. If you can’t have a little fun in playing a vampire who runs fast and only sparkles in the sunlight as opposed to burning up, then you’re working too hard. Sheen and Lee Pace play vampires on different sides of the fight, but manage to imbue the movie with bursts of life, simply by not pondering exactly how to renovate their houses with their incoming paychecks. These two characters are, relative to the series, exceptionally flamboyant as portrayed and thus, lots of fun to watch. (Pace, it’s worth noting, is also quite good in another new release, Lincoln. Just think of the tantalizing possible coincidence had he also appeared in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.) Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, the main trio, are all as inert as they were in the previous entries. At least two of these people are capable of better work, but they’re playing one-note characters with no liveliness.
With this knowledge in hand and a ripped ticket stub in your pocket, you are at the finish line, reader. You’ve exited the midnight showing (or the Friday night showing, and so on), heartbroken at the end of the Twilight saga, but full of joy at its existence. Or, perhaps you’re just giddy that you survived this fifth entry and you’ve earned credit as a decent hubby, squeeze, sibling, or father. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is a film whose defenders will be ardent and legion, just as they fiercely shield criticisms lobbed at the books on which they’re based. Some may find this film cinema’s newest zenith; others will see it as a nadir for the form. The series has never been either, honestly; the entire Twilight saga is enormously silly but swaddled in self-seriousness, hoping to disguise the fact that five two-hour movies and four wordy books were dedicated to a bunch of hot air and goofy fluff. Breaking Dawn – Part 2, despite its action-heavy third act, doesn’t feel wildly different or improved from its predecessors. At least it’s in the rearview mirror.
– Josh Spiegel