As fans rolled out of my screening of Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final chapter in the Twilight series, the final of five films in the four book series by author Stephenie Meyer, fans talked about which character was their favorite—emphasis on the word was—like reminiscing about old times and old friends. The popularity of the films and the huge female demographic it catered to garnered a larger audience over time, building off of 2008’s Twilight. Like with Harry Potter, audiences grew exponentially with ever book and every film. And it wouldn’t be unusual for that low ratio of men in a Twilight matinee—say five guys to every 30 women—to feel pretty uncomfortable when ladies erupted like rabid, flesh starved zombies over the removal of a shirt from one of the male characters. This is the end, the finale. This franchise is toast. It’s over and some will be saddened by that, others happy with that. But it really never was a movie for anyone but the fans of the novels. And the same can be said of Breaking Dawn Part 2.
The Story: Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) wins Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and marries her, and all the vampire-to-human complications that come with that, in Breaking Dawn Part 1. Immediately, since he’s a vampire with super un-human strength, they are pregnant with child and by the end of Part 1 already giving birth to a girl named Renesmee. The child might be a danger to the vampire legacy, or so the supreme leaders of the vampire nation, known as the Volturi, want to believe. Ed, Bella, friends and family, even Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s other love interest for most of the Twilight series, and his werewolf clan, prepare for what could be a fight to the death to save the child.
The Goods: Director Bill Condon picks up on the best of Breaking Dawn Part 1, right from the get-go in Part 2 which is a lingering of the internal through the mind, synapses, veins and blood with a camera visual style that accompanied Bella’s traumatic delivery of child. That small bit of masterpiece from Part 1 opens this film. We get a strong sense of dichotomy; white wintery mountains, mist coming over the trees, juxtaposed with the same images only tinted red. And we cut between the white and the red while the opening credits pop on and off until we arrive at our first shot of familiarity, a human eyeball. It’s Bella’s eye, in close-up, as the pupils begin to bleed from the inside out flooding the whole of her brown, hazel-nut colored pupil with red. And that contrast of colors works for the contrast of good and evil amongst vampires in this film.
It's moments like these that I can really appreciate the Twilight movies, because it is so visual. Moments just like this opening contain hardly any dialogue which is a good thing in the Twilight Saga—none of these characters deliver anything better that what I often feel are sometimes soap opera sentences. Their words and delivery of lines are sort-of always awkward and funny, so unnatural in a natural surrounding; funny in the sense that they make you laugh when you don't really want to laugh. There is a heck of a lot more of that in Breaking Dawn Part 2 since most of it gets away from the love triangle of Ed, Bella and Jacob and focuses more on the protection of Renesemee from the Volturi. The acts are simple: act one has Bella learning her new vampire abilities; in act two the Cullen family reaches out to vampires around the world for help in a possible fight with the Volturi; and in act three it’s the meeting of with the Volturi we’ve been building to. The audience laughing at characters when they don't mean to, or aren't supposed to and for the first time I feel like finally faithful viewers are seeing the awful truth. But viewers paying money to see their favorite literary characters come to life are quick to forgive. And Condon and team help them forgive with winning score, soundtrack and cinematography.
The best way I can describe what is essentially art in this film is like when you picked up a bird feather for the first time, if you can remember that; a piece of nature with a soft textural feel to it that you know originated from a living creature—a creature already possessed with the magic of flight. That’s how Bill Condon treats some of the nature, or naturalness of surroundings, in Breaking Dawn Part 2. You can almost smell the crisp air and feel the dew dripping off the cool green leaves…yes, like biting into a York Peppermint Patty. And in Breaking Dawn Part 2 more than the other Twilight films there is a message of diversity, that we are meant to appreciate the kind of Earth that generates such natural beauty in species, flora and fauna. Above all else however Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a moving advertisement for the environment.
The Flaws: Which makes sense considering all of the advertising that is being done in this movie. All of the well-coiffed popular hairstyles and clothing fashion, tailor-made pieces for each character, are too perfect, are trying too hard for what advertisers want us to perceive as perfection; never a character that is pimple-faced or overweight or normal; no odd body shapes or bad hair-dos; no sense of bad body odor…. When watching Breaking Dawn Part 2 you can’t help but feel like you're whipping through expensive clothing, furniture and automobile magazines. Plus, no matter how good cinematographer Guillermo Navarro makes the North Western part of the United States look it’s always ruined by the way these characters stare at and talk to one-another, and the obvious computer graphics that distract more than assist. It more than often feels like television rather than big screen entertainment at the movies.
Breaking Dawn Part 2’s restrained PG-13 rating too might be insight as to why these movies feel like a made-for-TV series; that a wider audience, and specifically the very young moviegoer, keeps the Twilight films from reaching full potential within the codes and traits of the horror genre. Which is the genre Ms. Meyer has set her harlequin romance in, and which without limitation Bill Condon might have really done something extraordinary with for this franchise.
The Call: You’ll need to spend the ten if you’re a fan. And if you’re out looking for some entertainment on opening weekend I’d say spend the ten to see what is truly a movie-going, pop-cultural phenomenon in terms of fan reactions. That’s the most entertaining part of this or any of the Twilight films. That and Oscar nominated actor Michael Sheen’s maniacal laugh, as Aro the head Volutari. Emphasis on the word head.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity. Running time is a short feeling 1 hour and 55 minutes.