Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” “Dreamgirls”)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (“Breaking Dawn – Part 1”)
We made it, everyone! The end of “The Twilight Saga” is here! Husbands and boyfriends across the nation can rest easy knowing that, at least for now, the ham-handed, crushingly-romantic gothic nightmare adaptations are finally drawing to a close. The final chapter, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” picks up where it’s terrible, interminable predecessor left off: with Bella Cullen’s (Kristen Stewart) awakening as a vampire. After her marriage to sparkly bloodsucker Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) results in a dangerously destructive pregnancy, Edward “turns” Bella while in labor in order to save her life. When the half-human/half-vampire baby is born, shape-shifting wolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) “imprints” on her, meaning the newborn is destined to become Jacob’s soulmate. Um…
Anyway, when the dust settles, wolf-Jacob, Bella, and her rapidly-aging daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) are spotted by distant Cullen cousin Irina (Maggie Grace), who mistakes the girl for an “immortal child,” an uncontrollable vampire turned too young. Such a thing has been forbidden, and Irina reports this broken law to the Volturi, the old-school velvet-caped, scroll-reading vampire clan led by Aro (an hilariously crazy Michael Sheen) and Jane (Dakota Fanning, wasted again). The Volturi set out to destroy Renesmee in order to protect the future vampires everywhere while the Cullens and their associates prepare to defend the young girl with both testimony and battle.
As with the first film, “Part 2” visibly strains under the pressure that came with splitting the final book of the series into two separate movies. After a game-changing introduction following newborn vampire Bella hunting both cougars and oblivious mountain climbers, the film settles in for a bloated, muddy middle act featuring the cast sitting around and waiting for the ultimate battle to come. Various half-cooked vampire allies trickle in along the way, each sporting shoddy make-up and a store-brand superpower seemingly stolen from lesser members of the X-Men. The series has never fully realized its potential when it comes to mythologizing its vampires, and this blown opportunity to expand its ranks with some cool, non-mopey badasses isn’t surprising, but it’s still disappointing.
Familiar problems still haunt the series, even with four massive blockbusters under its belt. The special effects remain frustratingly shoddy at times, such as the vampires’ super speed or the nightmare-inducing CGI baby Renesmee head stuck on a real child’s body. The giant Quileute wolves don’t look great either, but the trade-off for that is less screen time for Lautner and the other terribly wooden actors that play human characters.
All is nearly forgiven, though, when the truly batshit climax unspools. I won’t spoil it here, but howls of laughter and gasps of horror give way to an amazingly inventive twist that, frankly, I didn’t think I’d ever see the likes of in a “Twilight” movie. Credit returning director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg since, tellingly, it’s here that the film deviates sharply from the source novel. If only that had been tried 4⅔’s movies ago.