One hundred and fifteen minutes. That’s the running time for the fourth and final entry in the inexplicably successful The Twilight Saga series (Breaking Dawn – Part 2 for anyone keeping track), before the end credits finally, mercifully fade to black.
Stephanie Meyer’s young adult series, three books total, became a surprise, runaway success upon publication. Big-screen adaptation followed suit, garnering rapturous responses from so-called “Twi-Hards,” while alienating or perplexing non-fans of the series. Twi-Hards, however, existed (and still exist) in sufficient numbers to make the big-screen adaptations box-office hits, but critically they’ve fared poorly. Meyer’s derivative, retrograde series appealed to its overwhelmingly female, uncritical female readership interested in regressive, escapist romantic fantasy. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 simply finishes what the first entry, Twilight started four, very long years ago.
When we last saw Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), she was covered in blood and placenta, the mother of a human-vampire hybrid with her 120-year-old husband, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Giving birth to a hybrid led to Bella’s death (as a human) and resurrection (as a vampire). When, mere days after being reborn, she discovers that Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the one-time third member of Bella’s romantic triangle with Edward and a member of shape-changing Native Americans with a seemingly inexhaustible collection of pants, had “imprinted” himself, as shape-shifters apparently do, on Bella’s daughter, Renesmee (initially played by a CG stand-in, later by Mackenzie Foy), she became understandably upset.
Jacob’s imprinting on Renesmee proves to be a minor obstacle, however. When news of Renesmee’s existence reaches the Volturi, decadent, robe-wearing Italian aristocrats (and vampires too, of course), their leader, Aro (Michael Sheen, at his scenery-chewing best and/or worst), makes a slow-motion journey across Europe and presumably America before weeks or months later reaching the Pacific Northwest for the inevitable X-Men-inspired confrontation between the Cullen Clan, now including Bella, and Jacob’s Wolfpack on one side of the divide and Aro’s Volturi on the other. Before then, however, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 marks time by the slow-motion gathering of Bella and Swan’s allies, ostensibly to bear witness to Renesmee’s true nature (so-called “immortal children” are forbidden by custom and vampire law, apparently).
Despite the nearly two-hour running time, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 shows evidence of the decision by the film’s producers to divide Meyer’s book into two films, a decision that also undermined the last film in the Harry Potter franchise. Repetitive, momentum-stopping scenes are the norm, not the exception. Dialogue, never Meyer’s or her screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s strong suit, becomes all the more noticeable for its awfulness and/or ridiculousness. Lines like, “I’ve never felt more alive, or “I was born to be a vampire,” are passed off as Bella’s deep thoughts about her new status as an immortal being.
On the plus side, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 dispenses for its predecessor’s retrograde sexual politics, focusing instead on Bella and Edward’s attempts to save their daughter from the Volturi’s grasp. Even there, however, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 flounders badly. Whether it was director Bill Condon’s call or the studio’s, the ill-conceived decision to rely exclusively on a CG baby will generate laughs, not elicit sympathy. And for an extremely popular, extremely profitable series, the producers seem content to pass off sub-par visual effects in practically every scene, including the climactic battle. The battle, presumably included to satisfy audiences eager for action, offers the brief possibility of actual risk-taking, at least where the central or secondary characters’ respective fates are concerned. Like everything else in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, however, major disappointment follows.
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