So we’ve come to it: the end of days. Well, the end of days where we live in fear of another installment in the Twilight series. Some of you might remember I had some minor nitpicks *ahem*…with the first part of the epic *ahem* … finale of Breaking Dawn in my review last year. Somehow, I managed to pull my emotionally scarred brain back together for one last round with the release of Breaking Dawn Part 2 in order to get closure on this abusive relationship (not Bella and Edward… myself and the film series… I think…) and to my surprise… um, I actually kinda had some fun with it… no, wait! Put the torches and pitchforks down, and hear me out.
Part of it might have been the material, and part of it might have been the “last day of school” mentality the cast probably had with the end of filming, but everything about Breaking Dawn Part 2 had an element of playfulness the series has lacked from frame one. The story starts with Bella’s first days as a newly turned vampire, and immediately Kristen Stewart was more tolerable (note: “more tolerable” does not mean “tolerable”), and managed to even make me laugh a few times in her earliest scenes. It was weird and it made me uncomfortable. The rest of film deals with The Cullen family and Jacob figuring out how to protect Edward and Bella’s newborn (but rapidly aging and horribly named) daughter Renesmee from falling into the clutches of the evil Volturi.
What makes this installment arguably the most watchable of the franchise for non Twi-Hards is that the worst elements of the series – the angst, the lack of humor, the wooden acting, the long scenes of pillow talk – all take a backseat to introducing new characters and preparing for the final showdown. By far the most interesting element was the introduction of the different vampire tribes that come to The Cullen’s aid, many of whom have their own super-power beyond their normal vampire abilities, including control of the elements, shooting electric bolts, and being a good actor! [Editor’s Note: Haha, awesome.] A tip of the hat to a scene-stealing supporting role for Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) as the rockstar-style vamp Garrett.
As fun as these characters are, it wouldn’t be a Twilight film without some unintentionally awkward and creepy additions, and this time around it goes to young Renesmee Cullen. As previously mentioned, the just-born baby is aging rapidly and rather than just using different actresses, director Bill Condon decided to make the infant stage child a soulless CG baby that is all kinds of freaky. Then, as Renesmee gets older they CG-paste actress Mackenzie Foy’s face on a toddler, with similar shudder-inducing results, but the worst instance is the horrible Frankenstein monster created in the film’s epilogue, when you see a 20-ish aged Renesmee with her beloved imprinted Jacob… and yep you guessed it: Mackenzie Foy’s 12 year old face CG-pasted on some far-too-skinny young lady’s body, creating a look only Tim Burton would love.
The cast this time around is notably huge, which added to the scope of the finale. The actors seem to be playing to their strengths to close out their character’s respective stories, and everyone is given nice moments. Martin Sheen’s portrayal of the Volturi Aro chews so much scenery its hard not be tickled by how fun and goofy his performance comes across, and for the first time you feel like the director finally gets it. Another enjoyable element is the beautiful cinematography throughout, especially during the scenes where the far-more-interesting new vampires are introduced in their respective homes throughout the world.
All these positives aside, let’s be clear: this is still a bad Twilight film, and there is one incredibly HUGE, unforgivable, insulting twist in the film’s climax that will justifiably infuriate many, many audience members that have not read the books. I found myself watching the massive fight sequence at the end and thinking “Wow, I’m going to have to write a really positive Twilight review. Crazy.” The fight itself is a long and impressive X-men style throwdown, complete with large displays of super-powers, massive numbers of beheadings, major character deaths and consequences for everyone. When the dust settles the main nucleus of the cast survives, but with heavy losses.
[Editor’s Note: Stop reading if you want to save the twist for yourself.]
It all felt important and satisfying yet…. oh wait! that un-Twilight like awesomeness you just saw? IT WAS ALL A DREEEEAM!!! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is an actual movie that exists! One where they spend millions of dollars, a huge chunk of screen time and a whole movie building up to a fight that they IMMEDIATELY negate! The explanation is that head baddie Aro is given a vision by psychic Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) of what will happen should he choose to fight her family, causing him to balk at the sight of his own death and leave with his tail between his undead legs. So, your big final conflict in the last film of your massively successful movie series boils down to a conversation in a field with hundreds of vampires at odds with each other, and it’s resolved with nary a punch thrown. *sigh*
Breaking Dawn Part 2 is an utterly ridiculous film, but manages to actually inject some fun back into the franchise after the horrid and painful-to-watch Part 1. At times, the movie seems to be in on the joke, but at other times takes itself too seriously, and ultimately always finds a way to sucker-punch you in the stomach for letting yourself believe there’s a chance it could rise above its B-movie roots. In other words, it’s a completely fitting conclusion to the series.