I have not been a fan of the “Twilight” series. I think the films have done more damage to horror than good. (http://exm.nr/L5dAtk) It’s trivialized the concept of vampires to the point where there is no downside to being one in author Stephanie Meyer’s world, and that goes against everything that horror should be. But “Breaking Dawn Part 2” overcomes a lot of the same pulled horror punches to deliver some surprising shudders and shocks. It’s not a great film by any means, but it is the best of a bad lot.
The final chapter of the saga picks up after Bella (Kristen Stewart) has miraculously given birth to a half-mortal/half-immortal baby from the vampire seed of Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen character. (How a dead man produces living sperm is one of the major plot holes in the series, but then author Stephenie Meyer has never been particularly interested in having to explain her vampire incongruities.) And during the life-threatening childbirth, Edward bit Bella to save her life by turning her into one of the grateful undead. Because of it, Bella now positively glows, with red eyes and a bold new confidence.
That still isn’t enough for Stewart to give a vibrant performance. She approaches almost every moment of her characterization with great hesitancy, but at least she’s living up to the name Bella here. She’s never looked better onscreen and even shows off sexy legs in a short dress as she chases down a mountain lion in the forest for dinner. As her voice-over explains, lacking any irony whatsoever, “I was born to be a vampire.” Actually honey, it’s the other way around, you died to be one, but I’ve got bigger quibbles than that with the material here.
Moments like the scene where Jacob (Taylor Lautner) finds a novel way to tell Bella’s clueless dad (Billy Burke) that she’s now ‘changed’ made my eyes roll farther back in my head than the shark’s in “Jaws.” He’s promised not to reveal that she’s a vampire, so what does he do? He nudes up in front of pops to morph into a werewolf to reveal not all is as it appears to be. I’m sure what dad thought it appeared to be was a scene from a gay porno. Yikes! The scene gets it’s laughs, but probably not for the reasons intended.
The movie is filled with embarrassing, clunky moments like that. Good actors are left standing around stiffly, trying not to get in the way of the other ten people in the frame. (They look as stiff and bored as everyone does in the “Twilight” movie posters: http://exm.nr/L4F4z8). Charming performers like Peter Facinelli and Nikki Reed have precious little to do except work their bad blonde wigs and yellow iris contact lenses. And the love scenes between Edward and Bella are so corny they should be in a can with a Del Monte logo on them. These two lovers actually interlock fingers and canoodle in front of a perfectly appointed cottage fireplace. Really? This is the vampire world? I didn’t realize that night crawlers had such an affinity for Martha Stewart Living.
After too many cringe-inducing scenes I was ready to chalk up this finale as just another bad entry done in this misguided schoolgirl fantasy series. But then, lo and behold, the movie suddenly takes a turn towards genuine horror with its big vampire battle scene that is both thrilling and frightening. When the leadership council of vampires comes a callin’ they start a fight with the Cullen crew over the half-breed daughter. Led by Aro (Michael Sheen, putting the vamp in vampire), the scene crackles with tension and some horrific bloodletting. Suddenly it’s a horror film. For horror fans. Not just giggly schoolgirls.
Director Bill Condon is a huge movie buff, and his staging of this set piece recalls the great action sequences in films like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Braveheart”. The viciousness, the multitude of deaths, and the shocking narrative twists bring this picture to real, honest-to-goodness life here. It had the Cineplex audience I saw it with whooping and hollering. And yours truly was on the edge of his seat too. I know, I know. Shocking.
Does a sharp finale such as this one make up for a comatose hour and a half before it? No. Does it undo the egregiousness of Meyer’s willingness to stretch every vampire rule to her whims, including such unforgivable sins as having vampires go out in daylight, even sunlight and not fry like Crisco? Absolutely not. And does it make this franchise something to be savored in the annals of horror? No, no, no! But it does send the whole shebang out on a high note that I never saw coming, and it left me smiling at this twilight’s last gleaming.