‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2’ Takes Final Bloodless Bite

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CHICAGO – Even the most hardcore, defiant fans of “The Twilight Saga” must admit that there clearly was not enough material in Stephenie Meyer’s final book to justify two films as “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” plays more like a bloated final hour of a better movie than an actually satisfying experience on its own terms. Very little happens in this final chapter for the first hour as director Bill Condon tries to build tension but more often produces unintentional laughter. It’s not a complete disaster as a few of the supporting actors seem to understand the tongue-in-cheek approach that would have fitted this franchise better than the deadly earnestness of most of the cast but it certainly ends this series on an appropriate note – boredom.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” is structured the way that a six-year-old would concoct the final chapter of a franchise. Get all the good guys together and all the bad guys together and have them fight. It’s little more than a playground variation on cops and robbers with good vampires and bad ones. The story of “Breaking Dawn” is so free of actual surprises and interesting characters that it’s clear that it was never designed to carry a film on its own. If it was a tighter, well-paced final hour of a longer film then the failures of the storytelling wouldn’t be as prominent. So many mistakes were made during the production of this entire franchise that one shouldn’t be surprised at the way they continue to pile up in the final film but it is still disappointing that they couldn’t end this series in a way that feels like it was designed for even a SECOND with creative energy instead of mere financial satisfaction.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Photo credit: Summit

“Breaking Dawn - Part 2” picks up immediately after the end of the last film and Condon shot them back-to-back, took his paycheck, and went home to take a “Silkwood” shower. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has just given birth to Renesmee, the half-human, half-vampire child, a hybrid status which apparently makes a baby look like the E*Trade child. The decision to CGI much of baby Renesmee’s expressions was arguably the worst in this entire franchise. And that’s saying something. The special effects all around are horrendous. As Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson) bound through the trees like Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, the cartoonish special effects just get increasingly depressing. This movie will look horrendous in five years, much less fifteen. It’s a cartoon.

Sorry for the tangential rant. Back to the story of what could be an immortal child. That’s the problem at the core of “Breaking Dawn, Part 2.” A vampire (Maggie Grace) coming to visit the Cullens spots Renesmee and conveys her sighting to Aro (Michael Sheen), who sees the potential of a vampire child as a reason to finally take his evil Volturi and destroy the werewolf-mingling bloodsuckers once and for all. The story goes that vampire children can’t keep their existence secret and so must be destroyed. The Cullens travel the world to find friends to serve as witnesses to try and convince the Volturi that Renesmee is something brand new and not merely a child who has been bitten. They find an array of vamp personalities, all of whom look hip enough that they could be extras in a The Fray video, played by Lee Pace, MyAnna Buring, Mia Maestro, and other actors too good for this franchise. It all culminates in a good vamps vs. bad vamps scene on a snowy plain that goes for a record for PG-13 decapitations and deaths of CGI wolves for which it feels like you’re actually supposed to know their human counterpart.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Photo credit: Summit

The set-up for “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” is so desperately elongated in an attempt to add gravity to a situation that just doesn’t have any. The Cullens hang out with the E*Trade vamp-baby and watch Edward play piano. Edward and Bella get a few romantic moments while Jacob (Taylor Lautner) explains how his eternal connection with Renesmee isn’t totally creepy. For a while it’s as if they’re waiting for the movie to begin. These are scenes of domesticity that would have fit well as a structural break in a longer movie but begin this film on such a boring note that it’s hard for it to recover. It doesn’t help that Lautner is just awful, having gotten worse with each film. To be fair, Pattinson, on the other hand, gets better with every acting assignment and it’s nice to finally see Stewart smile.

The smiling stops when the action of the film kicks in and Sheen and Dakota Fanning get to have a little bit of fun. Sheen is so over-the-top that he completely steals the piece from everyone involved. I started to root for him to decapitate a few Cullens. It must be said that the action of the climax works. It’s well-directed, chaotic, and just loony as wolves tumble into the Earth and stylish vampires get their heads ripped off. It has what is missing from so much of this franchise – a pulse.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Photo credit: Summit

And so Edward, Bella, and Jacob go into the movie history books. While the “Harry Potter” movies gave us a series in which characters grew and changed before our eyes, offering peaks and valleys along with the true cost of heroism, “The Twilight Saga” has done virtually nothing but deliver the bare minimum. It’s worked financially. However, history will look back at this series as a wasted opportunity to create true drama for teenage viewers instead of merely giving them the bare minimum to make a dollar. There are already rumors that this series will be rebooted and we will start “The Twilight Saga” over again. With this straight interpretation already in the books, I’d embrace a group of filmmakers willing to take chances with the vamp, the werewolf, and the sullen girl who came between them.

”The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, and Dakota Fanning. It opens on November 16, 2012.

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