Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Dakota Fanning, Michael Sheen
Written by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novels by Stephenie Meyer
To kill a vampire in the Twilight Universe, you have to rip their head off. I was sure that a similar fate was awaiting me last November, when I gave a poor review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. That film was the worst – by far – in the series. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 may not be the best entry (my vote for that goes to the very good third installment, Eclipse), but it definitely redeems the franchise.
Not that Twi-hard fans care one bit about critical acclaim or lack thereof. Whatever words you are about to read, I’m quite positive that there is little that will sway fans from flocking in masses to the theater this weekend. Or, if you’re like some who can’t stand the mention of Twilight, this review is unlikely to inspire you to change your mind.
Yes, Twilight is what it is: A sure-fire success for its built in audience of swooning teenage girls and their mothers, or a bane of existence for those unwilling to give it a chance.
Now that the saga comes to a close in this, the fifth and final (?) film in the series, the entire story of Bella, Edward, Jacob and the Cullens has been told. This last chapter returns the tale to the epic scope of the third film, Eclipse, although it wraps things up ultimately with a whimper.
Picking up directly after the last movie, Part 2 immediately focuses its attention to Bella (Kristen Stewart), who has now turned into a vampire in order to “survive” child birth. Her baby girl, Renesmee, is a unique being – half human and half vampire – the likes of which the world has never seen. Vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) is now a father, winning out in the love triangle for Bella’s affection over the hot-headed were-wolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner).
Jacob – in the last film – “imprinted” on young Renesmee, creating a unique bond between them. Having now fallen into the “friend zone” with Bella, Jacob is still lingering around the Cullens hideout so that he can look over young "Nessie."
We learn in flashbacks that vampire children have long been outlawed by the Volturi – the cult-like leaders of the vampire order. Children are unpredictable and therefore, it is a huge violation of vampire code to turn a child, a crime punishable by death. When a bitter vampire spots Renesmee, she is reported to the leader of the Volturi, Aro (Michael Sheen). The Volturi head out to destroy Renesmee and those that harbor her. What they don’t know, is that Renesmee is not just any vampire…she grows. At a rapid pace.
Not having read the books, all of the Twilight films have suffered from trying to cram too much in. This film is no exception. To protect themselves from the coming confrontation with the Volturi, the vampires in Edward's clan set out to recruit other vampires from around the world, creating a United Vampire Front of sorts. Lines of dialogue are spattered between them all and none of the characters get any real kind of development. But it has to be very exciting for fans of the book to see all of these characters portrayed in some way.
What is developed in this film is the idea that all vampires possess a special talent. We’ve always known of some of these traits – like Alice (Ashley Greene) who can see flashes of the future. Bella discovers her talent and works at nurturing it.
So we get scenes of Bella learning to cope with her new “life” as a vampire, and then scenes of the Cullens assembling their group of “witnesses” before the Volturi arrive. Don’t worry Twi-hards, as Jacob still manages to once again lose his shirt. Then we get a throw-away, preposterous wrap-up of the sub-plot involving Bella and her father (Billy Burke) as Bella tries to hide the fact that she is now a vamp. Funny, how grandpa doesn’t seem to care all that much that his granddaughter Renesmee has aged almost five years from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
These kind of ridiculous oversights have always been a part of the series, to the extent that you feel that it’s being done on purpose. Why for example, do the vampires drive a car to their neighboring relatives? Can’t they just run at light-speed like they do the rest of the time? And what happened to their skin getting all diamond-y while in the sunlight? The film still uses this truth when it finds it to be convenient, but many of these scenes are outdoors and nobody is shiny. Lastly, what’s with Bella’s eyes? She is given contacts in one scene to fool her pop, but what about when they go from red to yellow to brown in other scenes throughout the movie? Did I miss something vital explaining this?
The answer to that is: yes, probably. It is hard to pay close attention to Twilight movies with all of the women hooting and hollering at the men on screen throughout the film.
But when all of this set-up and exposition is taken care of, and the film focuses on the showdown with Aro and the Volturi, the movie really picks up steam. It is brutal, breath-taking and exciting cinema for this last third of the film. Then, it pulls a clever little trick on the audience, one in which I loved but I could see why it may have others crying foul.
These Twilight movies have and always will be for the fans. To that extent, Part 2 is a home run, complete with a sentimental curtain call. The end of the film flashes through the entire cast, giving a sappy, heart-felt tribute to each character in the story, big or small.
In a movie full of monsters, wolves and vampires, the scariest moment of all came to me at the conclusion of the film. Did they just set up Twilight for future installments? Say it ain't so!! I know that this film was based on the final book in the series, but was this the final film in the franchise?
Now there is a scary thought. Still, the lingering word at the end was “forever.” Take it from a rabid Star Wars fans, never say never when it comes to making a butt-load of money in Hollywood.
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