Last Twilight Signals the Breaking of New Dawn
The great thing about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part II is that it does bring closure to these cinematic adaptations of author Stephenie Meyer’s freakishly popular series of novels revolving around a pouty vampire and the teenage vixen he inexplicably falls in love with. The overblown and overlong courtship, and eventual union, of the undead Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Forks, WA resident Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) comes to an end, and while the folks at Summit Entertainment do leave the door ajar for more adventures, it’s doubtful any of them would involve those two characters (at least as protagonists).
Are there other great things about this installment in the series? Yes, surprisingly there are, not the least of which is a climactic battle between the Cullens, a bunch of their vampire brethren, and Jacob Black’s (Taylor Lautner) pack of werewolves pitted against the seemingly unstoppable Volturi led by the power-mad Aro (Michael Sheen). It’s borderline spectacular, with returning director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) pulling out all the stops to produce a slam-bang, head-ripping finale that’s easily the best single sequence of the entire franchise.
Still, much like its predecessors (especially last year’s first installment of Breaking Dawn), this conclusion to The Twilight Saga isn’t exactly good. Meyer’s story remains wet behind the ears, and while screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (Step Up) once again does her best to make the most out of the soggy source material, she’s unfortunately not particularly successful.
For those needing their memories refreshed, when we last left newlyweds Edward and Bella, she had just died giving birth to their baby girl Renesmee and was reborn as his vampiric. Complications arise, not the least of which is that Jacob has imprinted on their rapidly growing girl, vowing to be her wolfy protector. There’s also the job of introducing Renesmee to Bella’s concerned dad Charlie (Billy Burke) and doing so without letting on his beloved daughter is now an undead immortal.
Enter the Volturi. When a relative of the Cullens, Irina (Maggie Grace) of the Denali Coven, inadvertently mistakes Renesmee as an immortal child (apparently a big no-no), she sets off a chain of events that could lead to war between all the vampire clans. Sensing things are about to go from bad to worse, the all-seeing Alice (Ashley Greene) and Cullen patriarch Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) instruct their family to scour the globe for supporters who can witness Renesmee for the miracle that she is and hopefully keep the peace.
It’s as silly as it sounds, but unlike a single one of its predecessors, something substantive is actually happening in this second chapter of Breaking Dawn. There is a real threat for Bella, Edward and Jacob to overcome. It also helps that our heroine is no longer a passive creature standing around moping, waiting for her beloved to transform her into his undead paramour. She has energy and showcases emotion. It took the darn girl dying for her to suddenly exhibit a bit of life, and for the first time in the entire series, Stewart is finally asked to do something interesting.
But this is also another example of the derivative nature of Meyer’s stories. The plot borrows liberally from other sources, most notably of all things Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men movies (as well as the comic book mythology they were obviously sourced from). Vampires all have their own specialized superpowers. Instead of a bunch of demons and werewolves ripping one another into shreds, we get a battle featuring the vampiric Justice League (and friends) versus the undead Legion of Doom, each combatant using their abilities to decapitate their foes with as much carnivorous fury as possible.
If this series does continue (heaven forbid), my guess is that it will involve some of the secondary vampires introduced in the lead-up to the climax. Newcomers like Revolutionary War veteran Garrett (Lee Pace), Irina’s Denali sisters Kate (Casey LaBow) and Tanya (MyAnna Buring), mysterious European wanderer Alistair (Joe Anderson) and Romanian warmongers Stefan (Guri Weinberg) and Vladimir (Noel Fisher). There’s also the obvious likelihood that young Renesmee (played for the majority of the film by Mackenzie Foy) will take over as lead, her relationship with Jacob, which, let’s be honest, is as creepy and as unsettling as it sounds, becoming the focal point of the ensuing melodrama.
But back to Breaking Dawn – Part II. This installment never should have been split into two parts, and if one were to combine both halves into one three-hour motion picture I’d be tempted to recommend everyone give it a look and not only fans of the source material. While I could have done without the annoying “twist” that ties the entire five-film anthology with a shiny red bow, that final fight between the Cullens and the Volturi truly is a thing of beauty.
Yet the elements that damn Breaking Dawn – Part II have been present since director Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight. As a singular story, this monstrosity is as cheekily melodramatic as it has ever been, and Bella remains a poor role model for young women. While steps in the right direction are made with this conclusion to the series, it’s much too little and far too late, and this saga of undead romance is as laughably soapy now as it was when Meyer’s first book initially hit the bestseller list.
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)