Roll up the roads in Forks. Box up the knicknacks in the Cullen home. Send the wolves to the groomers one last time. The Twilight Saga is now at an end with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (a mouthful of title, so Ima shorten it to Part 2 here.) Though nothing anybody will say could put a dent in the Teflon love fans hold for this series, there’s a definite feel of padding the lily here. Wait — did I mean gilding? Not so much; as with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book of the Twilight series got two films. And as with Hallows, there’s a whole lot of disjointed back-and-forth here, as if the characters were looking around for some compelling reason to stick around for the better part of two hours. No matter. This film will be firmly nestled in a soft pillow of fan love. But the fans deserved better.
To catch up moviegoers that have been living under a rock the past few years, vampire Romeo Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his human Juliet Bella (Kristen Stewart) have been through a lot of sturm und drang, but are now happily married. Sure, there’s that time when Bella got pregnant and died…but Bella is now a vampire herself, and their child Renesmee (now there’s a kid destined for Famous Kids Saddled With Stupid Names Elementary School) is happy, healthy and growing like a weed. Like, she looks about 12 even though she’s less than a week old. Probably for the best though, since Bella’s BFF and shirtless werewolf extraordinaire Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has “imprinted” on little “‘Nessie”. All is not hearts, flowers and strollers however; the powerful ruling vampire clan the Volturi learn of a “vampire child” and as this is a big vamp no-no, vow to punish the Cullens and destroy little Renesmee. Battle lines are drawn, wagons are circled, yada yada.
The problem with Part 2 is simple to diagnose; there’s laughing with a movie, then there’s laughing AT a movie. Part 2 gets a healthy share of both. And unless you’re making a spoof or satire, you really, really don’t want people laughing at your movie. Oops.
First, the good. There’s plenty of wink-wink in Part 2 to delight the fans, and the scenes where the film let’s itself have a bit of fun at it’s own expense are delightful. The Edward/Jacob rivalry is still here, but now it’s a joking rebuff or snarky comment instead of the hate-glaring of Eclipse and New Moon. Part 2 also gathers a mess o’ vamps from all around the world, and getting to take a peek at the different clans (and how they interact with each other) is sure to bring a smile to the faces of those who enjoy this series’ mythology. This film even takes the weird, almost-squicky idea of imprinting and makes it seem, well, normal, though it does understand the weirdness. The scene where Bella finds out that Jacob has imprinted on Renesmee is comic gold for fans and newbies. And best of all, with Bella becoming a vampire, Kristen Stewart can do more than just glare at the screen and wait to trip over her feet. I wouldn’t call Bella a riot grrl, but she’s a far cry from the mopey pity-doll from earlier films in the series, and it’s a welcome change.
Now the bad. With all the gorgeous scenery in Part 2, the wide shots — well, all the woodland shots — are lackluster. I don’t know if that’s me getting treated to the best of the best in cinematography lately (it’s awards season prep time, after all), but I couldn’t help but think I’d seen better, even in the Twilight franchise. That sound you hear is a brass section“wah-wah”. Another Sad Trombone moment is the climax of the film, when the vampires and werewolves that have rallied to the Cullen’s face off against the Volturi. Director Bill Condon decides to pan out and show us a bird’s-eye-view, and the effect is undewhelming. Picture a handful of peppercorns scattered on yards of white fleece. Audience response? Bellylaughs.
Speaking of laughs, Michael Sheen plays Voluturi leader Aro like some batshit crazy American Horror Story reject, garnering several hoots of derision from the crowd. Is there any way to phone in a performance and go off the rails? If so, then he nailed it. Dakota Fanning’s Jane is around to simply glare at people (with her open-eyed stare all I though think about was how much those “Vampire Red” contacts must have hurt), a pity given this young actresses considerable talent. And why dress the Volturi like extras in a My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade video shoot? Bombastic and silly. You’d think after all those centuries in Italy those vamps would have had more style. At least those costumes take my mind off the ridiculously bad “Russian” accents from the Cullen’s two ruskie allies. *shudder*
Then there’s the twist ending, which will could go either way, depending on the viewer and his/her expectations. Fans that have read the books think they know what’s going to happen, but they have no idea what’s in store. In an interview with The Huffington Post, author Stephanie Meyer says “There’s definitely something new to see, but to me it doesn’t seem like we’re going hugely off the page at all.” But still, be prepared for a twist that will definitely have the Twihards buzzing long after the film wraps. I for one enjoyed it, though I did get a Dallas shower scene/Roseanne’s final season vibe as it all played out. I heard cries of outrage alongside cheers and applause, so if you’re headed to the film you’ll have to let it come and judge for yourself.
As the final credits unspool in Part 2, the film tips it’s hat to all the actors/characters in the series, giving a sort of In Memoriam feel that had many fans teary eyed. It’s a final bit of love for the series that is a perfect way to wrap up the journey. Final films in a series can be a bitch; they’re never all things to everyone. But there’s fun to be had, even though missed opportunities weighed heavy on my mind. Ah Twilight. What a long, strange trip it’s been.