The wait for Twilight-fans is over and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 finally closes the book on the narrative of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). The Twilight film series has enjoyed massive box office success thanks to the legions of fans of Stephanie Meyer's novels who have turned out in their thousands to create something of a mega-franchise. The critical reaction to the first four films range between the good (Eclipse), the bad (New Moon) and the downright ugly (Breaking Dawn Part 1). For the final installment, which constitutes the second half of the Breaking Dawn book, producers have opted to keep Bill Condon as director after stellar box office receipts of part 1.
Having been turned into a vampire by her husband Edward (Pattinson), Bella Swan (Stewart) must learn to cope with her increased strength and lust for blood. Having recovered and learned to hunt, she returns to find her daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) in the loving arms of her new family before discovering that her former flame, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has imprinted (an uncontrollable werewolf physical reaction that inspires loyalty) on Renesmee. As they all come to terms with their new lives, Edward's cousin Irina (Maggie Grace) sees the child and believes that she was turned, not born, which is a terrible crime in vampire law. She heads to Italy to inform the Voltari, lead by Aro (Michael Sheen), of this crime and brings them to face the Cullens. Aware of the impending attack, the Cullens reach out to extended family members to bear witness to the truth before it's to late and the Voltari exact their terrible justice.
Whereas Breaking Dawn Part 1 focused on the personal lives of pre-vampire Bella and Edward, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is very much an action-packed epic finale, complete with world-shattering events and tragic losses. Sort of. Hampered by Meyer's source material, itself often considered the weakest of the series, Bill Condon does an admirable job of creating such an important final battle and giving it the gravitas the series has lacked thus far.
The performances from the central characters is much better than before with Stewart not nearly as annoying and Pattinson positively exuberant (in the terms of the series of course). Arch-villain Michael Sheen manages to outdo the camp, scenery-chewing performances in previous films and gets the biggest inadvertent laughs, while Maggie Grace and Dakota Fanning do very well with small supporting parts. Lautner once again proves adept at camp comic timing with quippy one-liners, almost stealing the film when explaining to Bella's dad exactly what he is while slowly undressing. The less said about his joke-telling and creepy laugh the better. Condon makes a point of spending a few minutes early on to ease the worried minds of those that thought 'imprinting' might too closely resemble paedophilia, and once this happens minds are put to rest and the audience can get back to enjoying the story.
The pacing is sadly where Breaking Dawn Part 2 is let down. Had they condensed the risible Part 1 into the opening 20 minutes of this film and skipped the extended sequence of finding members of the Cullen family who really serve no purpose in a narrative sense, we may have enjoyed a more complete film experience. This is not the same situation as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, there simply isn't enough content to fill Breaking Dawn Parts 2 without it dragging in the middle act. A sign of the money-maker power of Hollywood to shamelessly split the film in two and damage the credibility and impact of both.
Parents may ask the question "Is Breaking Dawn Part 2 suitable for young children?" To which the answer is a resounding no. While it's fine in the early stages and there's almost no blood, characters have their heads ripped off with increasing regularity and by the end it seems to become a competition to see who can do it in the most extravagant way. Then there's the ending. While the audible groan moment at the end is exceptionally disappointing and immediately severs any emotional resonance from the audience to the film, there really is little else that could've been done other than drastically changing the text. the key is to enjoy it as best you can and accept that it's deeply flawed from the outset.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 isn't the best of the series (still Eclipse), but it is close. Twihards will laugh, cry and feel that they've watched something life-changing. For the rest of us it is a fun, escapist way to help pass a couple of hours. It's silly, nonsensical and a little creepy in parts, but it even the most cynical viewer will find something to smile about, which in terms of the Twilight series is as close to a praising recommendation as you're going to get.
Rating: * * *
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