Kudos to director Bill Condon and everyone involved in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Although the film is far from excellent, its makers have managed to end this supernatural romance series on a high note. Coming across – at least in its second half – like a cross between Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, Breaking Dawn 2 does away with the monotonous love triangle angst of its predecessors and focuses on action instead. The filmmakers let rip, toying with fan expectation in a way that vastly improves on the movie’s literary source material.
Just to clarify upfront: the plot for the Breaking Dawn film adaptation is convoluted tosh, as per Stephenie Meyer’s book. It’s also entirely inaccessible for anyone who has (amazingly) managed to avoid the franchise over the past four years. With no recaps or character introductions, Part 2 is clearly meant to be watched immediately after Breaking Dawn – Part 1.
The first half of the new movie is pretty much just freshly-turned Bella (Kristen Stewart) trying to reconcile her former human life with her new existence as a vampire. Her domestic, sexed-up bliss with hubby Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is shattered though when their half-human-half-vampire daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) is spotted and confused with an “immortal child” – the forbidden transformation of a pre-teen into a vampire.
This news reaches the world’s most powerful vampire coven, the Volturi – headed by Michael Sheen’s over-the-top Aro. The Volturi have been waiting for a reason to destroy the “vegetarian” Cullens, and recruit their most powerful members. According to Twilight logic, the Cullens’ only hope lies with their allies. If enough “witnesses” stand alongside the family, the Volturi will be forced to hear their case about Renesmee instead of simply shattering them all.
This meeting of rival forces on a snowy plain makes up the film’s engrossing climax… although to reach this point the audience has to endure the usual instances of awfulness that the Twilight Saga has become known for. Laughable and unintentionally creepy moments include a mountain-climbing scene, an unnerving, semi-CGI baby, highly unconvincing parenting and dialogue like “You imprinted on my daughter?!” and “We’re the same temperature now.”
This said, there’s a lot more intentional humour in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 as well. With the tedious romantic complications resolved, the cast, especially Stewart, get to have fun for the first time. Gone is the clumsy, perpetually constipated Bella with all her annoying nervous tics. Sleek and composed, Bella in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is the vampire equivalent of a superhero experimenting with their powers for the first time.
In fact, time and time again, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 feels like a Vampire X-Men, as the Cullens are joined by a number of impossibly good-looking (if unblinking and stiff) vampires, many of whom come with unique extra abilities like elemental control and psychic manipulation.
Although these new additions to the cast are sadly undeveloped – Lee Pace and Joe Anderson are rebel standouts – their fan service presence is still appreciated as an alternative to the preppy, simpering and sickeningly perfect Cullen clan.
What is perhaps most surprising about Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is how much the film strains against its PG-13 age restriction. Not only is there a saucy sex scene – much more explicit than the hand-holding and bed-breaking in Part 1 – but the final confrontation requires that characters ruthlessly snap necks and rip off limbs. The camera doesn’t cut away either.
If that sounds unexpected to fans of the book, well, Part 2 is smart adaptation, veering away from the source material so that even the most devout Twihards are unable to predict what will happen, or who will fall, next. It adds some much needed emotional charge to the film, and the result is shock, followed ultimately by satisfaction.
In the end, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is a fitting conclusion to the film series… with a very pretty soundtrack. The movie is unlikely to win any new fans but if you’re dragged along to a screening there’s definitely enough crowd-pleasing content to keep casual viewers engaged.