D: Bill Condon. W: Melissa Rosenberg. DP: Guillermo Navarro. Starring: Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson/Taylor Lautner/Peter Facinelli/Billy Burke/Ashley Greene/Nikki Reed/Dakota Fanning/Michael Sheen/Maggie Grace/Jackson Rathbone/Kellan Lutz/Mackenzie Foy/Jamie Campbell Bower/Elizabeth Reaser/Lee Pace/Joe Anderson/Noel Fisher/JD Pardo. (NOTE: Based on Stephanie Meyer’s young adult fiction book of the same name.)
Four books and five films later the Twilight Saga came to an official end over the weekend. I began this blog more than three and a half years ago and the first review I did was on Twilight. So this not only feels like cinematic closure, but it also means I finally never have to write about soporific vampire love ever again. Or at least not until the series is ceremoniously rebooted, which hopefully won’t be in my lifetime. We can all dream!
Breaking Dawn – Part 2 picks up where its disastrous predecessor, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, left off. Kristen Stewart’s Bella has not only given birth to her half human, half vampire daughter, but has survived the birth by being turned into a vampire herself. Sporting crazy contacts, fake lashes, and even more fake hair Stewart strides into her new life with immense restraint and a humorous first scene with Taylor Lautner’s Jake. Both in the books and films, the werewolf ‘imprinting’ is the silliest and least believable element to the wolf lore. This concept reaches levels of embarrassment as Lautner has to painfully admit to Stewart and Pattinson that he has ‘imprinted’ on their infant daughter. Awkward.
Even more silly was Stewart and Pattinson notorious “first night” together as vampires. Like something out of a CW fairy tale, the montage is so honey coated it practically oozes off the screen. Somewhere, someplace, my 14 year old self is mighty thankful that her vampire story growing up was Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At least that character kicked some ass and didn’t feed ridiculous notions of candlelit sex to teens. I digress.
Much like Eclipse, this installment enlarges the vampire world and has the Cullen family out recruiting other vampires to join their stance against the Volturi. These journeys feel laboriously slow as Stewart’s voice-over is used as a crutch to transition all these various scenes and locations. In the very first Twilight, Stewart’s voice-over was deliberate and diegetically made sense as she was a character in new surroundings and very much alone. But now so much further in her relationship and part of a team effort to protect her unfortunately named daughter (Renesmee???) the voice-over falls flat. The special effects on Renesmee don’t help either.
However, what ultimately saves the film is this vampire community. Unlike the caped and archaic Volturi, this group of misfits has life and energy. The new actors seem to help breathe life into the boring Cullen clan and director Bill Condon seems more at ease with his pacing with these new elements. Most memorable is talented Lee Pace as rogue vamp-dude Garrett, Joe Anderson’s English loner Alistair and Noel Fisher’s Transylvanian Vladimir. They all seem to be having an immense amount of fun, as does Michael Sheen whose Aro laugh is pure unadulterated glee. Filmed back to back with the last film, this installment also sports the best opening and ending credits of the series.
Thankfully, the werewolves are less important in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 as they were one of the pitfalls of the last film. However, Lautner’s Jacob’s break from his pack to form his own is completely abandoned in the film. Not a heartbreak, but still it could have been tackled in one scene and allowed Lautner’s decisions and imprinting to have clear consequences. That being said the acting is all about the same level here as it has been in the rest of the film so maybe consequences really wouldn’t make a difference. What did was screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s trick story element at the climax of the film that allows action that never happens in the book to be seen visually. This trick saves Breaking Dawn – Part 2 from the anti-climactic ending of the novel.
Ultimately, the best film and novel out of the bunch was New Moon. Brimming with teenage idealism and the destruction it causes, the film and book have the most memorable moments out of the whole saga. And a saga it is. For all those who camped out to feed their obsession, clapped and yelped in the theaters, this must be a sad weekend indeed. For the rest of us, phew, no more teenage sparkle vampire drama for awhile. Cheers to that.