I've followed Twilight for awhile now. And this wildly successful franchise has come to its conclusion.
Before we get to the full review of the movie, I want to make some observations about the series that I think explain why it has been so successful.
1. It is the mind of a teenage girl. Bella's actions and reactions, I think, perfectly capture a lot of young girls out there. She is insecure, but hopes that someone special will find her truly beautiful.
2. It is a classic romance. In an age where irony is preferable to sincerity, Twilight has no illusions about being anything other than gooey romance, and there is a hunger for in a society that is pushing casual hook-ups.
3. They cast beautiful actors. This may seem superficial but I do not think the films would have been anywhere nearly as successful without Robert Pattinson and Taylor Launtner (although I am partial to Billy "Mustache Dad" Burke).
3. It taps into the truth that love is forever. So much changes in a teen's life that they yearn for something permanent. Love promises that, but our relationships don't always deliver. Here is a fulfillment of that deep needed desire for not just love, but eternal love.
And with this movie they've brought it into not only the realm of courtship but also marital and parental love.
Now let's get back to Breaking Dawn pt 2.
(spoilers ahead for those who have not watched the previous 4 movies)
When last we left our story, Bella (Kristen Stewart) had given birth to a her and Edward's (Pattinson) half-human/half-vampire baby girl they inexplicably named Renesme, before Bella was turned into a full vampire and Jacob the Six-Pack Werewolf (Launtner) "imprinted" on the baby. That means he will be a protective guardian until she gets old enough for them to, how shall I put this... start a wolf den of their own. If that sounds creepy, it kind of is. Thankfully the movie does acknowledge this early on.
We've been building up to Bella becoming a vampire since the first movie, and director Bill Condon rightly spends an appropriate amount of time exploring her new life. He does an excellent job of visually letting understand how her newly sharpened senses and appetites are affecting her. The movie also does a great job of feminizing her. Whereas she tended to look tomboyish and frumpy, now she exudes femininity while at the same time great strength.
The main thrust of the story revolves around the dilemma of Renesme and the Volturi, the evil vampire royalty that don't as much suck blood as just plain suck. Children who are turned into vampires never mature and cause chaos. The vampire law is that they must be destroyed. The Volturi do not believe that Renesmee is half human and so plan to kill her. The Cullen clan then spend the middle part of the movie globe-trotting trying to get other vampires to side with them to defend the child. During this time they train and Bella learns how to use her new vampire powers. It all builds to a final confrontation between the two groups.
This is the best film in the series. It moves along very well and has the best action sequences of any Twilight movie. There is genuine tension as the two sides get closer to clashing. As the battle rages and characters are killed, there is a real sense of emotion and loss as you watch. But there is a giant flaw with the ending that I cannot describe without spoiling it. What I will say that it is one of the cheapest cheats I have seen used in a film in a long time. This Deus ex machina keeps the movie more consistent with the book, but it makes the movie poorer for it.
While not fantastic, these are some of the best performances done by the cast. They reach a nice level of quite desperation. Unfortunately Michael Sheen's lead Volturi vampire Aro is one of the worst performances around. He chews so much scenery that I'm surprised that there is any left. As Hamlet said, "He out-Herrods Herod." This is unfortunate because the main bad guy should fill you with fear not annoyance.
Another huge flaw I've always found with this series is the cavalier attitude it takes towards the murder of humans. While collecting vampire allies, two of the Cullens find hunky vampire Garret (Lee Pace) just as he is about to kill an innocent human. Rather than stop him, they wait patiently for him to finish his murder before enlisting his help with the good guys. Apparently in the Twilight ethic, murder is acceptable as long as you are attractive. But this problem has existed long before this movie. Often Bella and the Cullens will allow others to die horribly as long as they remain safe. This stance of cowardice spoils a bit of the romance.
One last thing of note is the horrible use of CGI with Renesmee. Rather than do what most directors do and try to capture small moments with babies and children to piece together something like a performance, they instead superimposed a digital face on the baby, and later, the older child Renesmee. I understand the impulse and the need for specific control, since even as a baby Renesmee needs to be an active character. But it comes off as unreal, and to be frank, very creepy. Renesmee seems less human and alive, and therefore it becomes harder to feel for her, to want to keep her safe.
But overall, the movie is good. If you can buy into the romance and root for the characters, you will enjoy this movie. If you melt a little at two people who are horribly in love instead of wanting to puke over their affection, you will enjoy this movie. And especially if you have liked any of the Twilight movies thus far, you will enjoy this movie.
But if you don't like Twilight, nothing in this movie will change your mind.
3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars