At this point, the Twilight series of films, as well as the Stephanie Meyers novels that inspired them, are about as polarizing as American politics. There is no middle ground: either you love them with a passion that concerns and alarms your non-Twihard friends and family, or you avoid them the way you might avoid toxic waste products or sandwiches from vending machines.
If you count yourself among the multitude that comprises the first group (those that have been counting the months, days, and minutes until The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 arrived in theaters pretty much from the moment Bella (Kristen Stewart) opened her newborn vampire eyes at the end of Part 1 last year) it’s time to rejoice. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is the emotional roller-coaster conclusion you’ve prayed for and easily the best film in the series. It provides one last opportunity to spend quality time with your favorite vampire clan, the Cullens, utilizing the long-established chemistry of the cast to maximum effect in order to give you a proper chance to say ‘goodbye.’ You will find yourself grinning, sniffling, and gasping in shock and horror. And for those who haven’t read the books, you really don’t know what’s coming.
However, if you’re a part of the second group, the “I just don’t get Twilight” crowd, and you find yourself dragged to see this film for some reason, get ready for a shock yourself, because by the end of the film you might just find that you’re enjoying it! It’s well paced, beautifully shot, and steadily builds tension towards the stunning battle sequence that makes up its climax. Even the most Twilight-disinterested movie goer can, and will, find themselves emotionally invested in the drama, whether they wish to be or not.
For those who might have missed it, 2011’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 chronicled the long-awaited wedding of Bella to Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), their honeymoon, and Bella’s VERY unexpected and traumatic pregnancy. It ended with the birth of Bella and Edward’s daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) and Bella’s death and rebirth as a vampire. Part 2 picks up at that precise moment, when Bella sees and experiences the world as a vampire for the first time. As a “newborn”, Bella is temporarily physically stronger than Edward and the other Cullens, and her new abilities take some getting used to for some, especially wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner). But Jacob’s a little different now too- he’s “imprinted” on Renesmee, and Bella’s discovery of that intimate, primal connection between the two provides some tense (and comic) moments in the early going.
Just as those misunderstandings are worked out and the happy couple starts to settle into their new life, the real threat emerges. The Volturi, that oh-so-sinister vampire coven that has menaced the Cullens since they learned that Bella knew their true nature back in New Moon, now learn of Renesmee and think she’s an “immortal child” – a human turned into a vampire while still a child. Such an act is among the most heinous of crimes among vampires, as it threatens their ability to remain secret from humans (kids can’t keep secrets, you know), and the Volturi, in their self-appointed roles as enforcers of tradition and law, use Renesmee as an excuse to at last openly move against the Cullens and eliminate them once and for all.
The Cullens know they’re outnumbered and cannot defeat the Volturi, even with the help of Jacob and his fellow wolves. So they reach out to other members of the coven scattered all over the globe to serve as “witnesses” and speak to the truth of Renesmee’s nature (that she was born a hybrid being, rather than turned). Like Edward and Alice (Ashley Greene), some of these “cousins” also have special abilities, abilities they all hope will be enough to make up for the disparity of numbers should they be forced to fight.
Yes, old grudges and vampire politics drive the plot of Part 2, along with a sense born of other films that served as grand series finales (think Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2) that this is IT and things probably won’t end well for these beloved characters. For fans of this series, those elements will be more than enough to make this finale something that they’ll want to watch over and over.
If, however, you find the soap-operaish melodrama of the Volturi versus the Cullens and their allies uninteresting, what will instead grab and hold your attention is the skill with which director Bill Condon (who also directed Part 1) presents the story. While Condon doesn’t completely deny the Twihards their opportunities to coo over Edward and Bella or gush over Jacob with his shirt off (he knows his audience) he keeps the long, “soulful glance” moments to a minimum and replaces them with sweeping camera shots of breathtaking landscapes, spare but poignant dialogue, and thrilling set pieces reminiscent of recent superhero films. The way he crafts Bella’s discovery of her new abilities in particular, allowing the audience to experience her heightened senses, the thirst and the need to hunt, the enhanced strength and speed, all in first person, is surprisingly compelling. We’re allowed to see at last how the vampires view the world, and that view is seductive.
The movie suffers from one too many “endings”, and the “final” ending is one that’s sure to draw “ahhhhs” from the fans and groans from everyone else, but truthfully, all can agree that it simply couldn’t end any other way. It’s a tribute to Condon, and to screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who adapted all of the books into film), that just about everything else leading up to that maudlin moment is as accessible and enjoyable as it is.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, with Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning. Directed by Bill Condon.
Running Time: 115 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity.
-Felix Albuerne, 1059 SUNNY FM