Well, the day has arrived, Twihards… the end of the Twilight franchise is here. And while the final film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part II has its flaws, it gives fans what they desire, which is a pleasant ending to their beloved series.
SPOILER ALERT to anyone who has yet to see the film; although it’s been out since November, and I’m guessing most who desire to see it already have, nevertheless, you’ve been warned, this review contains plot spoilers.
There really are two very different ways to even look at this film. Essentially, it’s not fair to judge and critique it the way that one traditionally does so with any other movie. Either a viewer goes into it with the eyes of a fan or the eyes of a critic. To the fan: the movie delights and excites, and it does not disappoint (how about that unexpected shock ending, right?). To the straightforward movie critic, who has (in his/her mind) “suffered” through five Twilight films, certainly this offers little in the way of new or groundbreaking cinema, and it adds very little to the art of filmmaking.
I’m going to choose to review it as a fan, for yes, in the guiltiest of guilty pleasures kind of way, I admit that I am such a one.
Let’s start from the beginning: FINALLY Jacob is over Bella. It has been a very, very, very long and extenuating road to this very simple reality: Edward + Bella forever. Period. For some reason, in this story, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) was just not able to wrap his wolfy head around this concept until his inner wolfish nature forced him to do so, by imprinting on Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart)’s daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). (Yes, it’s weird that a grown man can fall in love with an infant, but it’s just one of those things that author Stephenie Meyer makes you come to realize as being okay—and once you do wrap your head around the fact that Renesmee will reach maturity somewhere around seven years, and then she’ll stop growing and live as an adult like a vampire for in indefinite amount of time, than you come to be okay with it—unlike her name, which let’s face it, you never really think is okay).
So Bella is a full vampire now, and life is smooth sailing. She is the picture of self-control, as is her gift (since usually newborn vampires can focus only on their bloodlust). But also, she possesses the ability to be a shield from other vampires’ special abilities (which explains why throughout the years Edward was never able to read her mind, as he could everyone else’s).
So the beginning half or so of the movie lays out a life that Edward and Bella are now able to live, in complete wedded bliss—with all the delicious joys that has to offer—as they can now unabashedly consummate their marriage, each now as vampires, unhindered by Bella’s erstwhile human weaknesses. They’re given by Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) and Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), Edward’s adoptive vampire parents, a gift of a lovely cottage in the woods, all to their own. Idyllic and fully stocked, the cottage is something out of a fairytale, yet fixed with all the modern accessories and pleasantries a couple could desire, including fully-stocked closets, with clothes picked out by the lovely, somewhat fashion-forward Alice (Ashley Greene). It must be nice being a vampire, for when you live forever, after a while you must eventually want for nothing, since you’ve had more than enough lifetimes to have have gained wages far beyond what you could ever need!
But the post-honeymoon bliss is quickly brought to a halt, once the reality of having to present Bella’s new “identity” to her father comes into play. Officer Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) takes his daughter’s new yet oddly the same appearance as discomforting, but he settles on her explanation that “she’ll only tell him things he needs to know.” It’s hard to imagine anyone that would allow such a lousy explanation just slide by, yet such is the love and trust Charlie has for her, that he is grateful simply know she is still alive (even if unbeknownst to him she is actually, technically dead; as she says, “her human life is over”).
Further danger is presented when the main plot line comes to pass, i.e. Irina (Maggie Grace), the cousin from Alaska sees Renesmee and mistakes her for an immortal child. She travels to Italy to alert Aro (Michael Sheen) and the other members of the Volturi of this grave misstep of the Cullen clan. The Volturi start making their way to Forks, WA to punish the Cullens, and meanwhile the Cullens assemble a band of Carlisle Cullen’s old vampire friends and acquaintances from around the world to come meet Edward and Bella’s daughter Renesmee, and to see that she is not an immortal child (that is, turned into a vampire as a child), but rather a half vampire/ half human being who matures rapidly every day, and can survive on either blood or human food. Renesmee also can communicate her memories and knowledge to other people by touching their cheek, thus proving her innocence and singular nature among the world of vampires.
Breaking Dawn, as a book, presented a challenge for filmmakers because its ending is rather anti-climactic. The “climax” so to speak of the story, as in, the whole story spanning all four books, is really just being able to see Edward and Bella together, forever, essentially happily ever after. There are harrowing moments, like the birth of Renesmee, or tenderly beautiful ones, such as their wedding (in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I or their peaceful times together in their new home in Part II). But having the end of the story simply be the Volturi showing up, realizing that the Cullens weren’t lying and basically going home simply does not work on the screen.
Thus, in Part II, there’s an epic battle scene that starts off with Carlisle’s beheading, immediately spreading shock in the theatre among viewers (nearly all of whom having been devoted Twilight followers since the beginning). This surprise battle scene does not cause frustration with their having strayed from the book, but rather brings a real zesty apex where there had been calling out for one. It’s thrilling to see the vampires good and bad duke it out, with some of the werewolves of Jacob’s tribe joining in on the Cullen’s side, hand to hand to paw… the best part of course being when Edward and Bella team up and finally behead Aro, once and for all. Literally every action of this epic sequence (in honestly, an otherwise lackluster series, as far as “epicness” goes, despite it being a large, fantasy story—Twilight has a lot to like, but it never was a larger-than-life story set in a fully realized other world, the way that The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter are such stories), feels shocking and exhilarating, which is exciting, considering having gone into the movie, there seemed to be a feeling that it could no longer surprise its audience, yet it managed to do so, and do so well.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part II will hardly bring new fans into the fold, but as I say, for those already under Ms. Meyer’s spell, the film was a delightfully ravenous conclusion to the long road that has been this series. For better or worse, it has left its mark on the culture, and among its film installments, this one surely deserves to be called among the best. The true title remains in the one that started it all, for in that Catherine Hardwicke-directed 2008 film, Twilight, there lies all the magic and desire and entering of the new world of the fantasy that somehow turns out to become stretched a little thin over its following four cinematic successors (particularly New Moon, the most simultaneously drab and ostentatious installment of the series). But this concluding film, directed by Bill Condon, is a fun ride and fitting conclusion, both entertaining and satisfying.
Last item of note: the credits for this film were expertly executed. The opening credits were beautifully presented, in the red and white and black theme, setting the tone of the story. And the closing film credits were beautiful, illustrating not only the main players in this concluding film chapter, but all those who played a role throughout the whole of The Twilight Saga films. It was a lovely touch, and the people who designed both sets of those credits deserved an extra credit here!