For the first time in the critically maligned, commercially successful series, the “Twilight” movie series has produced an installment that’s for Twihards only. Those faithful fans who have devoured author Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling novels and waited with bated breath for each successive movie adaptation are going to turn out for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” because they won’t miss the series finale. And to them, the movie is critic-proof.
To everyone else, TTSBD2 is going to seem long, slow and stupid.
Director Bill Condon’s movie adaptation of the Meyer novel “Breaking Dawn” was shot as one large production, broken into releases á la “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” This makes it all the more difficult to understand how this segment is so different in tone and quality from its predecessor. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” was unabashedly over-the-top, soapy and nearly operatic in its approach, but it certainly wasn’t dull.
TTSBD2 nearly screams for someone to get out and push, particularly during an extended sequence where we’re introduced to visiting vampire guest stars and their various super powers, which comes off like an “X-Men” parody and reeks of Saturday morning TV.
There are, however, some scenes that are intentionally funny and the movie is at its most entertaining during the comic relief interludes.
Kristen Stewart, who has played series heroine Bella Swan in all five movies, has matured nicely and gives a solid performance. Robert Pattinson, as centenarian bloodsucker Edward Cullen has less to do here than in “Part 1” but has, it seems, jettisoned the pouty, angsty facial expressions once and for all. Taylor Lautner, as teenage werewolf Jacob Black is earnest. At the screening attended by this critic, female fans of an incredibly wide range of ages literally screamed during his token shirtless scene. As despotic Volturi mastermind Aro, Michael Sheen gives a performance worthy of Monty Python’s Royal Hospital for Overacting and someone should get him there soon as possible.
“Part 1” benefitted strongly from Guillermo Navarro’s superb cinematography, which somewhat inexplicably is less impressive here. The music is by Carter Burwell, who scored the original “Twilight,” but is less hauntingly evocative than Alexandre Desplat’s score to “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” The production design by David Bribin (“The Twilight Saga: New Moon”) wisely does not try to reinvent the wheel. Bella and Edward’s cottage looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting. Take that for what you will.
The special effects are a mixed bag. Bella’s “shield” effects are an unconvincing copout. As always, the CGI on the wolves are hit or miss. Given that legendary stuntman and martial arts coordinator Jeff Imada (“Big Trouble in Little China,” “Blade,” “Fight Club,” “The Bourne Supremacy”) choreographed the action, one might have expected more, but then, anyone going to a “Twilight” movie expecting “Underworld” was bound to be disappointed.
Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has adapted all of the “Twilight” novels, and has treated them with substantially more respect than the literary critics. She knows the reverence the fans have for them, and isn’t about to anger them unnecessarily. She’s also, up to now, tried to make the movies stand on their own to viewers who haven’t read the books. This is not the case here. The uninitiated are likely to be confused by certain details which are either unexplained or inadequately explained in the movie. Not that it’s likely that anyone’s starting the movie series on the finale, but if they have, they should bring an interpreter.
Rosenberg has, however, at least arguably solved the problem of the novel’s anticlimactic conclusion, though she’s playing with fire where fans of the book are concerned. Any other information would constitute a spoiler.
The end credits provide a black and white photo album of the entire movie series, which will no doubt produce a lump in the throats of the faithful.
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1” is now playing at theatres throughout the Capital District, including: The Bow Tie Movieland 6 in Schenectady, The Rotterdam Square Cinema, The Regal Cinemas Colonie Center Stadium 13, The Regal Cinemas Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, The Regal Cinemas Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX, The Regal Cinemas Latham Circle Mall 10 and the Regal Cinemas East Greenbush 8.