It’d be easy to say that by now you know what to expect from a TWILIGHT movie. Edward stares longingly at Bella. Bella stares back at Edward, complete with deep breathing and lip biting. Jacob takes his shirt off, and the melodrama goes on and on and on in some sort of mopey melancholy about two characters – one a human, one a sparkly vampire – who desperately want nothing more than to be together in an unhealthy co-dependent relationship for eternity. The dialogue has been laughable, the effects cheap, and anyone not blinded by Taylor Lautner’s pecs or Robert Pattinson’s… well, I still don’t fully understand the attraction there… can accept that THE TWILIGHT SAGA really isn’t made up of good stories at all, nor very interesting characters. But there have been worse, much worse to come down the pike in both literature and cinema than THE TWILIGHT SAGA that to treat it as some sort of plague on humanity, or at least the female gender, is a bit of an exaggeration. There is an audience that gravitates to these tales, that sees something they can identify with in this romance… however, just because I don’t necessarily get it doesn’t mean I don’t respect the level of devotion they have for their series. Let’s remember… it wasn’t always “cool” to be a fan of STAR TREK, but that didn’t stop those people from embracing what they loved, judgment be damned, anyway.
I gave up long ago criticizing TWILIGHT for what it wasn’t, and once you do that, I think you turn a pretty important corner in accepting it for what it is. That still doesn’t make them the phenomenal stories that their most die-hard fans would have you believe they are, but at least they become a bit more palatable. Some of THE TWILIGHT SAGA films have been better than others – with NEW MOON and its lack of boring Pattinson being the best of the bunch for me so far – and, of course, there has been the downright awful, with the first film being an unbearable watch as you try to reconcile that vampires have been reduced to this. The last film was ridiculously stupid, with Bill Condon bearing a great deal of responsibility for the jumbled mess it was, unable to convey some of BREAKING DAWN PART 1’s ideas and concepts to anyone who hadn’t read the books, making for some aspects that didn’t quite make sense. Having sat next to Jon Doe during a screening for it, he was absolutely convinced the film set things up one way as a result of how it was portrayed on screen, which couldn’t have been further from what was really happening upon further research. So how could THE TWILIGHT SAGA properly wrap up the series with a PART 2 adaptation of that same book, which, to my knowledge, wound up with even less happening this time around than in the previous films where seemingly a lot of nothing already had taken place? By really going against those rather predictable elements THE TWILIGHT SAGA has been built upon to this point. This isn’t a sappy romance about trying to join two forbidden fruits as one anymore. This isn’t about whiny Bella bitching and moaning up a storm about how she needs to be with Edward, needs to be a vampire. It’s about family and friends gathering together to fight for what they believe is right, and to fight for a certain way of life. I really wish THE TWILIGHT SAGA would have began at this very point, because its campy, over the top fun finally instills the series with some entertainment value. If you’re a fan, you’re already on board, but if you’re not… well, you might be surprised by how much you might actually enjoy what transpires on-screen for this final installment.
For BREAKING DAWN PART 2, we’ve moved past the never-ending courtship between Edward Cullen (Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). They’re married and now have a child, and she’s fully transformed into a vampire, which also transforms her performance, taking her from the awkwardly dull center of a love triangle to a confident and personable woman. Stewart displays more personality in the first five minutes of BREAKING DAWN PART 2 than in the previous four films combined, and she actually smiles, which is something to behold in and of itself. It’s as if Stewart has finally embraced the enormity of the role and the franchise, and, in this being the last of it, she’s going to go out on a high note.
However, to close out the series, Edward and Bella can’t possibly ride off into the sunset having achieved the happiness they’ve long desired. An elite and powerful group of vampires, the Volturi (led by a delightfully evil Michael Sheen and the demure Dakota Fanning), have received accusations that the new Cullen offspring Renesmee is an immortal child. It’s against vampire law to bite a kid and turn them undead, and, while they don’t have the whole truth, they’re ready to dish out some level of vampire justice on the Cullen clan for this atrocity against their kind. On the other hand, the Cullens spread out to bring in their family and friends to bear witness to the fact that their daughter was born, not bitten – she’s half-human, half-vampire but all-creepy CGI – and that really it’s no harm, no foul, all building to an eventual showdown between the Cullens’ coalition of talented vampires and the Volturi.
Throughout this process, we’re exposed to vampires of all sorts that seem to have more in common with the mutants of the X-MEN franchise than any bloodsuckers I’ve ever seen. They can control the elements. They have electrical current running through them. They can read thoughts. They can show the future. And as we go, we’re able to barely scratch the surface of the wide assortment of vampires that exist in the TWILIGHT world. This concept alone is more intriguing than the boring love story that managed to stretch beyond the breaking point over the previous films, and, for a stretch BREAKING DAWN PART 2 hardly feels like a TWILIGHT film, if not for the characters we’ve come to associate with the brand. They may say they’re not preparing for a fight, but the battle lines are clearly being drawn.
And that leads to BREAKING DAWN PART 2’s third act which is easily the best overall sequence of events these TWILIGHT films have ever known, elevating the film to the position of hands-down being the most entertaining of the saga. For the blame I’ve gave Condon for the last film, he deserves a world of credit for the batshit crazy, over the top direction he takes with this one. There is an air of freshness breathed into these characters by unburdening them from this slog of a love story and thrusting them head on into some vampire-on-vampire action with some werewolves mixed in. Even early on, I questioned whether BREAKING DAWN PART 2 would be more of the same, since after four films, they still couldn’t get the vampires to run quickly through the forest without it looking like it was done by amateurs… but later I got some pretty clear answers, as a pretty hefty portion of the budget easily went to the effects necessary to make the end of the film that much better.
If you’ve been against TWILIGHT from the beginning, it’s going to be hard to convince you to enter the fray at this point, but in its finale, Condon finally seems to have gotten the saga right, presenting a film that fans are sure to love and non-fans can be entertained by in the event they’re dragged along. If you go in with an open mind, I think you’ll walk away from THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 with a much different perspective than you may have had from the previous installments, which is, “Hmmm… that wasn’t bad at all… and actually kind of fun.” Farewell, TWILIGHT… Just when you seem to have made something above average, we must part ways.
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