Title: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Cast: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan/Cullen), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Mackenzie Foy (Renesmee Cullen), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Michael Sheen (Aro)
Director: Bill Condon
The Basics: Based on the second half of the fourth and final volume in Stephenie Meyer’s worldwide literary phenomenon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Bella awakening to a life as a newborn vampire after the birth of her daughter, Renesmee. This half-human, half-vampire child draws the attention of the dangerous Volturi, who plan to attack the Cullens as punishment for creating what they believe to be a dangerous “immortal child” (aka child vampire). While some aspects of this film are stronger than any of the others in the series (Bella’s character most of all), the failure of the much-hyped “twist” proves that the inherent weaknesses of the source material are too much to overcome, except in the eyes of the most ardent fans, who will be especially drawn to the surprisingly emotional ending.
M.V.P. (Most Valuable Performer): Kristen Stewart has never looked better than she did in this film, and I mean that as both a beautiful young woman and an actress. There’s a strength in her performance that was largely missing from the other four films. It seems that giving Bella a purpose and plot beyond Edward and Jacob also gave Stewart purpose in her performance. The smiles feel more genuine, the passion feels less forced, and the happiness Bella feels in her new life is palpable. The maturity she gives to Bella this time around really surprised me; I especially liked the depth of chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson this time around. There is a warmth between them that feels more interesting than the obsessive, heavy-breathing “passion” that used to pass for their relationship, and a lot of that credit should go to Stewart, who I always saw as the one dragging that onscreen relationship down in previous installments. That warmth extended to her chemistry with Foy as well; I was downright shocked at how good Stewart is at playing a mother. This film was the first and only chance for Bella to show her strength as a character, and Stewart proved herself more than ready for the task.
Scene Stealer: Billy Burke has always been the scene-stealer extraordinaire in this series, and this was no exception. His dry humor, believable warmth, and undercurrent of genuine emotion have made Charlie Swan one of the most memorable and lovable characters in the Twilight movies. All of those wonderful elements are present in his performance once again, and though his time onscreen is short, Burke makes the most of it, creating some of the most humorous and poignant moments in the entire film.
Bring the Tissues? The best way to answer that question is to answer this one: Are you a fan of the series or have you ever been a fan of it (even on just a “guilty pleasure” level)? If the answer is no, then I think you can skip packing the Kleenex. But if the answer is yes, then you’ll definitely find yourself getting at least a little misty-eyed. Even as someone whose relationship with this series has soured over time, I found myself wiping my eyes by the end.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question this time around. Our theater was full and the people in our row were in a hurry to leave, so I only stayed until about halfway through the credits. However, you should definitely stay for at least the beginning of the credits to see a very nice (and very comprehensive) tribute to all of the actors who’ve appeared in the films throughout this series.
Most Memorable Scene: I know most people will probably answer this with “the fight scene,” but I have too many conflicting feelings about that sequence to single it out in this review. For me, the scene with the most lasting impact—the one I’m still thinking about hours later—is the ending. As Bella lets Edward read her thoughts for the first time, we see flashbacks to the most pivotal moments in their relationship throughout all five films. The way the series is wrapped up in this final scene between Edward and Bella struck a very moving and nostalgic chord with me. (I’m also a sucker for Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” which was used to beautiful effect in this scene.) Then, the film concludes with a shot of the final page of the novel, which I found a very nice nod to fans that have been with the series since the books were published. I applaud the writers, Condon, Stewart, and Pattinson for creating such a fitting and surprisingly affecting conclusion to the series.
Strengths Who knew that all it took was Bella dying for her to become a character filled with life? Breaking Dawn Part 2’s greatest strength is its heroine, who is finally given something to do besides sigh and bounce back and forth between Edward and Jacob. In this film Bella is warm, powerful, strong, and—I can’t believe I’m typing this—interesting. Bella is no longer a passive character in this movie, and it’s refreshing to see.
It’s also refreshing to see her relationship with Edward reach a place of real equality. Watching Bella constantly compare herself to the “perfection” that was Edward got old really fast, so I enjoyed seeing them finally interact on a level playing field—one in which she is just as “perfect” as he is. Now it’s Bella who is the strong one, the one earning Edward’s admiration and adoration, and we actually get to see why that is through seeing both her strength as a vampire and warmth as a mother. Their marriage is played as a real partnership in the film; they’re a team, and the respect that replaced the overdramatic longing of the previous films was a welcome change of pace. It made me actually get invested in the love story of Edward and Bella for the first time in a long time.
On a more technical note, Carter Burwell’s score was quite possibly my favorite thing about the film as a whole. “Bella’s Lullaby” is such a gorgeous piece of instrumental music, and the way it’s weaved throughout the film is excellent. But I also enjoyed his more intense musical creations in this film; the scoring of the Volturi’s big entrance in Forks was a standout.
Weaknesses: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD CONCERNING THE “TWIST”
I hated the well-publicized plot twist. We’re talking huge amounts of hate, irrational levels even. I have a huge problems with twists that are done with no other purpose that to create shock value, and that was exactly what this was all about. As I watched the fight break out and major characters die, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, thrilled that the movie was correcting something that I saw as a huge flaw in Breaking Dawn the novel: the lack of action and almost painfully low stakes in the final “confrontation” with the Volturi. Discovering that it was all part of Alice’s vision of the future made me feel emotionally manipulated. It’s like I could hear the writers laughing at the reactions they knew they would get from the audience during this scene. Instead of improving upon one of the novel’s most glaring problems, the film simply covered it up with a twist that made everything I had just experienced feel like a waste of time (and special effects budget). The scene looked awesome, but it ultimately had no point. It was the cinematic equivalent of yelling “Psyche!” at the audience and running away with an evil laugh.
While the fight scene looked cool, the rest of the film had huge problems when it came to special effects. The scene with Bella and Edward running through the forest was almost comically bad, as was any time the vampires moved quickly from place to place. The “aging” technique used on baby Renesmee was also poorly done; the obvious special effects used on her face distracted me from everything else going on in the film when she was onscreen. In terms of the look of the film, I also was not a huge fan of the amount of close-ups used. The final scene especially could have benefitted from pulling the camera back from Pattinson and Stewart’s faces a little bit; the intrusive camerawork took me out of the scene emotionally at a time when I actually wanted to get lost the film.
Finally, the biggest weakness in the film comes from something that can’t be helped: the source material itself. No great performances or directorial tricks can take away from the fact that Breaking Dawn is—even by many fans’ accounts—the weakest novel in the series of Twilight books. Jacob’s relationship with Renesmee and the lame resolution to the Volturi conflict are two things that bothered me strongly in the movie because they bothered me strongly in the book. There’s nothing that could be done to change it.
Final Verdict: I didn’t hate this movie. I didn’t even dislike it as much as I thought I was going to. Until the plot twist that ultimately wasn’t much of a twist at all, I was actually enjoying the movie as much as I could have hoped to. However, I found my intelligence and surprising amount of emotional investment insulted by a twist done for nothing more than shock value. The genuinely moving conclusion did make up for some of the frustration, but this isn’t a movie I’m rushing to see again anytime soon. However, fans of The Twilight Saga should find this a fitting ending to the series they love.