Picking up exactly where “Breaking Dawn Part 1” left off, we find Bella (Kristen Stewart) awake and exploring her familiar surroundings with the unfamiliar eyes of a newborn vampire. Edward (Robert Pattinson) helps Bella become accustomed to her newfound abilities as well as her insatiable hunger and then soon after introduces her to their newborn daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) who has been watched over carefully by the Cullen clan and especially Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who has an extremely protective nature towards the child. Once word reaches Aro (Michael Sheen), head of the Volturi order, about Renesmee and the possible threat she poses, he journey’s to the Cullen’s homeland with an army ready to do what needs to be done.
By this point you know what to expect from the “Twilight” series. You’ve heard it all before, Kristen Stewart can’t act, Bella is a detestable and selfish character, Edward’s love for her makes little to no sense, Jacob needs to take his shirt off at least once every film and has fallen in love with one of the worst looking CG babies of all time, Vampires apparently only glitter in the sunlight under certain circumstances anymore and now have magical super powers that the Avengers would be envious of. After four films that have failed fantastically at giving you any reason to like, care or love any of its main characters, create any semblance of drama or romance that appeals to more than just lonely teenage girls and their mothers who like to project themselves into Bella’s life or provide any kind of excitement from its silly but extremely promising concept, this fifth and final chapter comes along to remind you why this franchise is one of the worst things to happen to cinema since the “Star Wars” prequels.
“Breaking Dawn Part 1” was a loathsome experience on nearly every level. It stretched about thirty minutes of material into an overlong two hour self indulgent exercise of pointless meandering comprised of plenty of wish fulfillment fantasies for its core female audience. The sequel to the uh…sequel, is every bit as stupid and ridiculous as that first part of the final book and still feels the need to show us just how much Bella and Edward love each never realizing that all we ever needed in place of five full films of trying to convince us of their love were two actors who had real chemistry with each and could actually act. However, this review is not going to go down the path you think, this review is going to explain how someone who was not a fan of the series finally learned to like it for what it is and then suddenly have the rug yanked out from under them only to realize they were right all along.
“Breaking Dawn Part 2” (hence forth known as BDP2) is easily the best and worst film in the entire series. It is difficult for someone who has lambasted this series for its many atrocities against the art of film and the universe in general to admit that they were wrong, but thankfully no apology is necessary…at least not entirely. This is the first film in the series to feel freed from the shackles of its dreadful melodramatic trappings and truly tap into the potential of its compelling concept by leaving that tiresome will-they-or-won’t-they love triangle behind. This is a difficult film to properly criticize simply because the truth of the matter is that it works and it works surprisingly well, but it also commits a sin that no film should ever commit. Any fan of the series up to this point will likely be instantly enthralled by where the story goes and what consequences await many of its large cast of characters, the problem lies in how the consequences don’t really matter by the time everything is over and done with.
There are some genuinely good moments to be found in “BDP2”. Everything having to do with the Volturi, the vastly (but not entirely) improved visual effects, a bigger focus on the immensely likeable Cullen family, some well executed dramatic sequences that actually call forth genuine emotions such as when Bella must confront her dad, some honest to goodness comedic bits that aren’t wince inducing such as when Jacob reveals himself to Charlie (Billy Burke) and a grand finale that is beyond anything that you could ever imagine (or is it?). For someone that has hated on this series from minute one, it was shocking to realize that over the course of this film there were actual bonds being formed to some of these characters, but it happened. Then those bonds were abused in the most devious and grotesque way possible by the filmmakers (and writers) to manipulate those feelings in a way that is almost criminal.
As the film progressed though it became increasingly more interesting, the characters ceased being completely annoying (with one or two exceptions) and there seemed to be an actual story developing that was actually building to something that would actually be resolved by the end of the film. Even when the hokey vampire powers came into the picture it still retained a sense of fun that had escaped the previous films. These were no longer vampires, they were super heroes and it was kind of cool. The powers have always been there, such as Alice’s (Ashley Greene) ability to see the future or the evil Jane’s (Dakota Fanning) ability to inflict massive amounts of pain on anyone. But here it just reaches ridiculous levels with vampires able to manipulate water, fire and electricity. Add in how they all move extremely fast and are incredibly strong and you soon find yourself in a lawsuit with Marvel and its X-Men series.
All of this was adding up to a very entertaining film, but instead of being entertaining for all the wrong reasons such as horrible dialogue (which is still there but mostly from Bella) and effects that even the SyFy channel would cringe from, it entertains for all the right reasons. There are some thrilling moments in “BDP2” that are on par with some of the years other blockbusters that will have non-believers doing a double take and wondering to themselves if they had been perhaps too judgmental of the series over the years. The thought, “Has Twilight actually become…cool?”, will most likely cross the minds of haters everywhere as that final battle plays out before them. But just when you have become accepting of it, flaws and all, just when it is beginning to justify four long years of suffering, it goes ahead and gives each and every audience member the biggest middle finger in cinematic history.
To talk about what crimes “BDP2” has committed against humanity, we must talk about that much publicized final battle. What gets us to that battle is nearly inconsequential by this point, we had been building towards this climatic battle between the Cullens and the Volturi for over three films now. All anyone wanted to see were conflicts finally resolved (of which there were many) and judgements passed on those who have been a constant thorn in our main character’s sides and here it was, the culmination of everything that had come before. With everyone gathered, both friend and foe, this was poised to be the battle of the year.
The final moments of “BDP2” can be summed up in two words, “Bad A**!”. Yes, you read that right. This final battle literally comes out of nowhere with its ferocity and sudden bursts of violence. You have never seen “Twilight” like this before and it is glorious. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that lives are lost during this battle and they are likely characters you have grown attached to in some form or another and most do not have pleasant deaths. The emotional tole this takes on the viewer cannot be stressed enough, even for someone who has used this series as a dartboard for negative connotations and a constant stream of sarcastic remarks about its ineptitude, such as this reviewer, cannot deny how emotionally gripping this finale becomes.
What exactly makes this such a bad thing? Leaving out as many spoilers as possible, let’s just say that by the end of that battle, you will be emotionally drained but not for the reasons you may be thinking after reading that last paragraph. Words can never truly express the amount of disappointment this film instills due mainly to its final act, which is this mixture of awesome and catastrophe that will leave fans and casual viewers alike with their jaw to the ground trying to comprehend if what they just saw actually happened.
The greatest sin this finale commits however is by making a believer out of someone with little to no faith and then taking away what they have just minutes before came to actually like by telling them that they were right not to trust it and should feel insanely stupid for buying into it. The filmmakers and writer (Stephenie Meyer) clearly wanted to leave room for a sequel, but also wanted to have the final confrontation where they could eat their cake and have it too and while that may serve their needs, it will likely only be remembered for those final moments that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is without a doubt one of the biggest cinematic cop outs for a long running series of all time and its damage is irreparable to any future incarnations this series may take.
This could have been one of the greatest and most talked about endings in film history (seriously, it is that crazy), but because the book didn’t want to risk too much, the film will always be remembered as the one which was so close to greatness but just had to hold back during its final leg of the race. It had a tough choice, stay faithful to the books and please their loyal (and large) fanbase by simply recreating the written word or try to improve upon it. The choice to remain faithful is usually the preferred method however this time out it was the wrong one. To stay faithful to the books (as horrible as they are) was the wrong decision and it has paid the price for its lack of follow through.
Most of all however, its the fans that could possibly feel the sting the most here, especially after that emotional roller coaster ride of a final act proves to be nothing more than wishful thinking. “BDP2” is the best film in the series, hands down, for finally coming to grips with its bizarre nature with super powered vampires, werewolves who magically grow back pants after becoming human and indulging in the more outrageous components that make up its world. “BDP2” is a failure, but it at least fails better than the other films by providing a magnificent battle that should have carried this series off into greatness, but instead serves as a reminder why so many people hated it in the first place.