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The time has come: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the fifth and as-of-now final installment of the franchise about the romance between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), a teenager and a vampire who looks like a twenty-something but is really more than a 100 years old, arrives in theaters.
Many will cry because their favorite romance is ending, many will cry out of joy because the series is finally over, many will walk out wondering what the fuss was all about. It’s difficult to imagine anyone preparing to watch Breaking Dawn – Part 2 without some kind of preconception of it: the fans – or “Twihards” – the “haters,” and even the average moviegoers pick out their seats and gaze at the screen, more or less knowing if they’re going to enjoy what they’re about to witness for the next few hours.
But this isn’t about if I like The Twilight Saga or if you like it or if those teenage girls with “TEAM EDWARD” or “TEAM JACOB” shirts who arrived eight hours early like it. This is about film criticism, something that goes far beyond what we “like.” It’s not a Facebook status with which we can align ourselves with the click of a button. It’s about quality, how well the film tells its story, what kind of story we’re judging to begin with, and everything we witness in its presentation.
In case you don’t remember what happened in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – or didn’t bother watching it – Bella marries Edward, and she gets pregnant. The pregnancy – something no one expected would happen, by the way – carried with it myriad complications. Bella makes the transition from human to vampire in order to survive after giving birth. After four movies and lots of pleading, she finally gets her wish to be like Edward.
Now we arrive at Breaking Dawn – Part 2. The film opens as Bella comes back to life, gets born again – whatever you want to call it – and finally gets to experience what it’s like to be a vampire. We’re naturally reintroduced to the Cullen family: the underrated Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser as family heads Carlisle and Esme, the jock-like Kellan Lutz as Emmett, the stiff Jackson Rathbone as Jasper, and the engaging Ashley Greene and Nikki Reed as Alice and Rosalie. Then of course there’s Jacob Black, the werewolf played by Taylor Lautner.
Things seem to be going well, but problems soon arise as the Volturi, the head honchos of the vampire world, seeks to kill Renesmee – first an unconvincing CGI creation that looks like a MorphThing, then played by Mackenzie Foy – because they believe she might be their undoing. The heroes venture into the world to find witnesses who will testify that Renesmee isn’t who the Volturi assumes she is. The opposing groups meet in an open area and solve the dilemma.
That’s the story of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 in a nutshell, all the necessary plot points. But there’s so much more involved in the film, and that’s its undoing. It’s dressed to the nines with pointless characters, events, and scenes. The film spends the majority of its running time setting up this ultimate confrontation between the heroes and the villains, only to do so little with the actual conflict.
We meet many of the allies who will help Bella and company on their quest if needed, but these characters take up an exorbitant amount of time, feel inconsequential, and add little if anything to the story. It’s for these reasons that the narrative falls apart faster than a vampire whose head’s been ripped off.
Still, there are some pros to this final installment of The Twilight Saga. The final confrontation is, in some ways, almost worth the comatose state of the rest of the film. The series has never been strong with VFX or action sequences, but at least it gets somewhere with the latter here. The big action-filled scene we’ve waited for since the beginning of the film has a decent body count, and some big fans of the series might be pleased with who gets bumped off. Well, maybe.
Oscar-winning DP Guillermo Navarro also deserves some credit for some great shots and expertly capturing the impossible attractiveness of the film’s three leads.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2 might also be the best acted film of the series. Stewart has never been better – at least when it comes to The Twilight Saga (for her actual best work, check out Adventureland). Pattinson, who always understood Edward as a character – or at least how to make Edward seem like a character – manages to give some strong work. Even Lautner, on whom I’ve never been particularly high on, functions well in the film. Michael Sheen as Volturi leader Aro chews scenery without abandon – a good thing since there’s so much unnecessary filler to digest – and Dakota Fanning provides a wonderfully icy performance as Volturi vampire Jane. And Billy Burke is always dependable as Bella’s no-nonsense father, Charlie.
However, some good acting and a worthwhile action sequence do not a good movie make. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 miserably stumbles with its narrative, putting far too much into its setup and not nearly enough into its conclusion. Oddly, it’s still one of the better installments of the series even with its massive problems on a narrative front. The film’s opening-credits sequence, in which crimson becomes ivory and winter pervades the forest, is lovely. It’s such a wonderfully laid-out opening with a fantastical view of nature; ironic because the film’s flow feels anything but natural.
On the opposite end, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong sings, “Where in the world did the time go” as Breaking Dawn – Part 2’s end credits roll. Great question.