Brace yourselves Twilight fans, it all comes down to this. No more brooding, no more long awkward affectionate stares or lip-biting. This final installment gives fans the climactic showdown between the Cullens and Volturi they’ve been patiently waiting for (well, kind of). Suffice to say nothing in the series has been more thrilling or satisfying than this. This final installment also finds Bella, with baby in tow, joining the Cullen clan in the way she believed herself born to live, as a full on vampire. There’s less focus on Bella’s former life (sorry fans no Anna Kendrick and co here) as the story moved with long strides to meet, head on, the Volturi who have been looming in the shadows.
Following directly on the heels of the last film, Breaking Dawn – Part I, Bella awakes in the Cullen residence as a new born vampire. Far from the hesitant high schooler, and even farther from the ghastly-looking expecting mother in the last film, Bella sparkles and shines with the immortal vitality like the rest of the Cullens. Everything is new again to her and she begins adjusting to this life; controlling her thirst, appearing human, even walking normally takes some getting used to. But everything isn’t the dream she envisioned as there’s already conflict overshadowing the post-natal bliss. Jacob has imprinted on Renesmee and Bella, justifiably enraged now, has strength to go along with her anger. Minor plot points are manageable but the larger challenge awaits as the clan preps for their most dangerous confrontation. Following the birth of Renesmee, the Cullens must seek aid from other vampire clans to protect the child from Volturi who believe her to be a dangerous immortal child.
Now that Bella (Kristen Stewart) is a vampire she’s a lot more fun and less like the frail tag-a-long. She has confidence, poise and can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and the stronger vampires. Really this is her story and the completion of her character arc as she goes from timid, out of place teenager to vampire warrior princess (and protective new mother). Either it’s the character or just Stewart coming into her own is indiscernible bit for once she’s not a wet blanket and shows she’s quite a capable actress.
Raising arms and allies against the inevitable confrontation with the Volturi, the Cullens brace for battle. Each Vampire that comes to their aid has unique powers (nearly likened to mutants and the X-Men) which makes the final battle much grander and almost like a comic-book film. But the recruits are so varied (it does help in the climatic barrage to tell one character from another) it’s like a Vampire U.N. arriving to help put down Aro (Michael Sheen) and his axis of evil. There’s a team and core group level of fun seemed to be missing as the saga focused on the heavy handed teenage love triangle. One thing is for sure, for a series that had a lull for 3 straight films, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ends on a high note that will impress the most fervent naysayer. No that it’s guaranteed to convert everyone but it will certainly impress those who go not willing to give the film a chance. The premise and execution lend itself to an overblown courtroom drama but you still feel the gravity of the showdown, and that’s before the no holds barred action kicks into gear.
In his second at bat to finish out the saga, Bill Condon re-assembles a familiar series of stuffy settings, Gothic stares and wardrobe from the Banana Republic Winter collection for one last hurrah. Good news is that this time they’ve nailed it and this fells like what Twilight should have been all along. Further it doesn’t come across like the shallow story line critics have labeled it with; this is quite a fun film with some heft to it. It fits right in line with that Twilight film signature look and you have to give credit to Condon and all the other directors for creating and maintaining consistency across 5 films. The series is essentially one overlong story but whether or not you’re drinking Stephanie Meyer’s kool-aid, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 gives some passion to the slow meandering shots, cheesy lines and playful insults the characters exchange with one another.
It’s really kind of fun this time around and not just on screen but more so with the devoted audience. The fans have helped make this a phenomenon when it could easily have been a forgettable literary tween fare never seeing anything past the first film. But from the ooohs and ahhhs that can be heard when Pattinson or Lautner grace the screen (with or without a shirt) sometimes it’s just nice to see that even if a film isn’t working for a portion of the audience, there is a group who is just loving it. Hearing someone loudly ask “why are they spending 8 hours on credits?” as the 2 minute intro sequence’s postponement of Patinson/Lautner/Stewart visual gratification is likened to Star Wars fans busting out their light sabers during the title crawl. They just want to get to the good stuff…and Pattinson, Stewart, Condon and crew deliver.
Admittedly, the installments in this series have corny elements and situations, but here it looks like the team has finally been able to embrace it and have fun with it. Characters like Michael Sheen’s Aro absolutely chew up the scenes and outshine the other sparkly daywalkers, but by doing so adds the right weight to the story. Further while there are characters galore, Condon keeps things moving swiftly, effectively keeping the carnival-esqe story and plot in check (even if it resulted in these new characters being mostly one-dimensional). Make no mistake, it’s not even close to perfect (including CG that is, at best, laughably bad) but the series does end on a high note and funny enough, the end credit scene really brings things home as it tastefully gives credit to everyone who made this saga such a massive hit.
So whether or not this will spin off into the TV series that has been rumored or Meyer gives us new literary material for the further adventures Bella and company remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, this final chapter does what all good stories should do, allow those who enjoyed the ride to close the book with a relief and a sense of satisfaction.