Four years and four movies have passed since Kristen Stewart first showed up on the big screen as Bella, just another pretty-but-awkward teenager in love with a heartthrob vampire, played by Robert Pattinson. Catherine Hardwicke directed that first movie and I remember seeing it, five girlfriends in tow, on a post-brunch Sunday matinee and straight up giggling right through every single minute of it, and wondering JUST HOW could people possibly be taking this seriously? I still don’t have the answer to that question, but can attest to fully supporting the Twilight economy (which is definitely doing better than most other economies) by seeing all the other films in the theaters on opening weekend (and no, I have not read the books, and have no desire to). So I was excited to see what they had in store for this last farewell tour around the vampire/werewolf/pin-up block.
So, let me give you the good news (for some) first: The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is thoroughly entertaining. It is actually probably the most entertaining one since the first movie came out, and it is also the one where they let their vampire freak flag fly a little more than usual, which is great. In fact, I keep slipping and typing “Breaking Bad Part 2” instead of “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” which I take as a subliminal sign that I did truly enjoy it on some sick, perverted level.
The bad news (for some) is: The Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is thoroughly entertaining. And the pretty blatant lack of believable acting, dialogue or realistic storytelling can’t change that fact, no matter what.
Over the years, the producers have moved the story further and further away from human life and more and more into the parallel universe of blood thirsty upper middle class and tightly shirted werewolves That transition is complete with this film, where the only humans involved are Bella’s poor, long-suffering dad and a random man they need to see at some point about something (no need to elaborate more). EVERYONE ELSE IS BEAUTIFUL AND IMMORTAL AND PROUD OF IT. While the decision to split the final book in the Stephanie Meyer series into two movies at first seemed like a blatant ploy to get America to pay $20 instead of $10 to see how it all ends, it does end up working to the over-the-top advantage. At the end of the last installment, Bella endured one of the most visceral/horrifying birth scenes I’ve seen committed to the big screen, and Edward had to save her by turning her into a vampire. Also, in some random Twilight logic, Jacob, the teen-werewolf, “imprinted” on the newborn, Rennesme, in order to save her and thus became her soulmate.
When Breaking Dawn Part 2 opens, we are 3 days away from that night, Bella is undead, strong and looking better than ever (a stone cold vampire fox, literally), Edward is fully enamored with his newly vampy wife and Jacob (muscles, nipple aware shirts and all) is hanging around the house “protecting” the child he is “in love with.” The family plays piano, has candle-lit sex in adorable cottages, and arm wrestles over boulders for fun. So this is business as usual in the immortal cul-de-sac of Pacific Northwest.
Rennesme, whose name I DARE YOU to say with a straight face, is a half mortal/half vampire, and a kid that is growing up way too fast (geddit?) soon becomes a source of serious headache for her family when the Volturi (the fabulously black caped almost-papal organization/clan that oversees the rules of the vampire world or something to that effect) catch wind of the child’s existence and, for a myriad of random (but very dramatic) reasons, set out to destroy her and her family. This would involve cutting of heads, a very graphic burning of bodies. The Cullens will have none of that.
What comes next is a literal trip around the vampire world, a talent-show of vampire skill sets, a battle scheduled for the first day of fully fallen snow, and a whole lot of AMAZING overacting by the guest stars (which, this time around include the always-amazing Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning as the Volturi heads, but also Lee Pace, Maggie Grace, and a bunch of other otherwise respectable character actors apparently looking for a reason to wear white make-up and speak in questionable accents for a quick buck). I am not going to tell you how it all ends (because, OMG, yes, there is a twist!) but I can tell you that it is all executed with the kind of gleeful disregard for conventional cinema methods and weird appreciation for all the internet Twilight fan-art out there. You cannot help but enjoy it, whether you (all caps) CARE what happens or whether you’re just in the mood for some escapist camp (and, lets face it, who isn’t these days?).
Bill Condon (who directed Breaking Dawn Part 1 as well as legitimately good movies like Kinsey and Gods and Monsters) really goes to town here. Nothing in the movie seems real (which ends up being a handy storytelling tool when you least expect it), everyone is sporting the kind of glamorous pallor which allows them to completely ignore any reasons to act even a little human, and the directorial guidance (pre-fight moments which they’ve all been waiting for, you can just see) seems to be limited to “Don’t Blink” and “Say that with more severity and intensity!”, which seems to work just fine in this context. There is, true to the Stephanie Meyer propaganda promise,a fair amount of preaching about the importance of family values, and such, but if you’ve seen the other movies, it is actually toned down here quite a bit. In this one, everyone is married, and everyone is finally not crossing some strange divide to be together (well, minus the weird kid and werewolf, but since that was DESTINY, that’s ok, right?).
Everyone in the movie theatre seemed to be lapping it all up though, with teenage girls openly gasping during some particularly dramatic moments, and most of the people over the age of 18 getting all the jokes Condon dropped throughout for non twi-hards to enjoy. Afterwards, you just wipe the cheese that dripped onto your face directly from the screen and move on, preferably towards a strong cocktail. Twilight mission accomplished.