Directed by Bill Condon
Well, here we are. Four years ago we began this journey of discovery together. It’s been a long, hard road full of tears, laughter, pain, anger, and recriminations. And that’s just what Nomad and I have gone through in order to write these reviews. But now it’s finally here… the last installment of The Twilight Saga movies, and I’m on my own as Nomad wasn’t able to see this one.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 leaves off so if you haven’t seen that one, then… well, first be thankful. And second, you might as well not bother with this one. But if you’ve been following along, then you’ll know that at the very end of Part 1 Bella (Stewart) gave birth to her freaky half-vampire baby amidst lots of blood and broken bones and Edward (Pattinson) had to turn her to save her.
Bella awakens as a vampire, all red-eyed and supernaturally attractive, and races Edward through the forest for her first hunt. She catches the scent of a human and races off, only managing to keep from chowing down when Edward catches up to her and brings her to her senses. And immediately my issues with the movie begin. They’re not new issues, and they won’t bother those of you who haven’t read the books and choose to see the movies anyway. At least not on the same level. So I’ll try not to harp. But I’m here to review the film as someone who has read the books, and in that capacity I feel it must be reiterated that these films somehow manage to both remain superficially faithful to the books they’re based on and completely miss the point of them at the same time.
The movie is technically very faithful to the book, in that all the things that happened on the screen happened more or less similarly to how they happened on the page. But it’s the slight changes in dialogue, tone, or the way the situation is presented that make all the difference. Much like the preceding installments, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 bears as much resemblance to the second half of the book as a CliffsNotes version would. It covers the basics: As Bella adjusts to her new life as a vampire and the fact that her best friend has imprinted on her infant daughter, it quickly becomes clear that Renesmee is even less normal than you’d expect from a baby born of a 100-year-old vampire and a high school senior.
She has psychic abilities, just like her mind-reading daddy, and she grows and develops at supernatural speed so that within weeks she’s the size of a toddler and has the mental capacity of an even older child. The Cullens have just begun trying to figure out what this means for the child when a chance visit of reconciliation from fellow vega-pire Irena (who, if you haven’t read the books you probably aren’t really aware, is angry with the Cullens because they’re still buddies with the werewolves even after the wolves killed Laurent – the dreadlocked black vampire from the first and second films) knocks them out of the almost completely glossed-over search for answers about Renesmee frying pan and into the Volturi are coming to kill us fire.
It turns out Irena mistook Renesmee for an Immortal Child (aka a vampire who was turned as a kid), and Immortal Children are totally illegal because they’re vicious little buggers who can never mentally mature past the age at which they’re turned. So she tattles on the Cullens to the Volturi, and Aro and the gang head to Forks to destroy the entire Cullen clan. The Cullens then have to gather all their vampire buddies together in the hopes that they can testify to Renesmee’s non-immortalness and keep the Volturi from tearing them all apart and setting them on fire. And I just spent as much time explaining the story and developing the characters as they did in the film’s two-hour runtime.
I wish I could list some positives. I wish I could say how cool it was to see the Amazon vampires and the Nomads (as opposed to “the” Nomad, whom I always enjoy seeing) and Alistair in the flesh. But aside from a few brief moments with Garrett (Lee Pace) and Kate (Casey Labow), the rest of the gathered vampires are little more than breathing scene dressing. Frankly, Charlie, Jasper, Alice, Emmett, Rosalie, Carlyle, Esme, and even Renesmee are living props with barely more than a few words of dialogue to spread among all of them. Not that Jake, Bella, or Edward get to be much more interesting. Bella’s vampirism does seem to momentarily free up Stewart to emote more than normal so we get a brief, fun scene with Bella wanting to kick Jake’s butt when she realizes he imprinted on Renesmee. And our hero and heroine do get to clock in a little more mattress time.
Personally, I found Bella and Edward not having sex in the first three books sexier than Bella and Edward having sex in the last one. Meyer actually does a decent job of writing sexual tension, but she handles the sex scenes sparingly. So I wasn’t waiting with bated breath for the “first sex as a vampire” scene. Lucky for me because Rosenberg, Condon, Stewart, and Pattinson in no way deliver the goods. I know it must be weird for an actual couple to make with the private time on film, or I imagine it could be anyway, but I would think two people who have actually had sex with each other would be able to fake it more convincingly.
While they don’t seem to get their climax, we get ours (after a fashion) in the form of a showdown between the Cullens and their crew and the Volturi et al in the middle of a field. And herein lies maybe my biggest disappointment in this film. Many moons ago, in 2009, when New Moon came out and we first got to see Michael Sheen as Aro, I wrote in my review of that film “I can’t wait to see him in Breaking Dawn as Aro’s kind facade begins to wear thin.” That was back when I still had hope. Instead, what we get is a foppish Aro who’s not nearly as menacing as we all know Sheen can be. In this climactic scene Aro should be oozing sinister, terrifying charm that’s evidencing underlying cracks when he begins to realize things are not going to go as he’s planned… not grinning and giggling with odd over-exuberance and plastic superficiality.
I don’t even know what to say about these films anymore. At least this one didn’t make me as foaming at the mouth angry as the first one or as frustrated as the second one. Maybe I’m just tired. I’m ready, like many of you, for them to be done and just go away forever. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 isn’t quite as hackneyed as the first two installments, though it is just as shallow and still employs terribly done voiceover. There is a decent battle scene toward the end that my husband says he’d be willing to watch again (as long as it’s only that one scene). Though, without giving any spoilers, let me just tell you not to get your hopes up if you see it… Much like the series itself, it’s only superficially satisfying.
Let’s be honest; at this point you are either going to be into the movies or not. Nothing I say is going to convince you either way. If you’ve been waiting four years for all the movies to come out before seeing them and making your decision, I’d urge you to forget it – much like the rest of us will do soon, if we’re lucky. If you really want to know the story, or just feel the need to be the last to jump on the bandwagon, read the books. In fact, if you watched the movies and somehow found yourself the least bit interested in the story, I’d say read the books. They really are better. Though I must admit, as aggravated as they made me, these movies did do this one thing right… they made me want to reread the books.
2 1/2 out of 5
Avoid a sold-out show; buy tickets to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 here.