Directed by: Bill Condon
Premise: The second half of the fourth and final Twilight story. Having birthed her daughter and converted to vampirism, Bella and her companions must confront vampire elders who believe the child is a threat.
What Works: The last installment of Twilight finally addresses some of the longstanding problems of the series. One of the biggest flaws of the films has been the lack of passion between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) but their relationship in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is much more convincing. The lovemaking scenes manage a heat and sensuousness that was lacking in the wedding night of Part 1, while staying within the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. The relationship between the three lead characters is also more interesting. Kristen Stewart in particular gets to do more in this film and she is a much more lively presence than her saggy performances in the earlier Twilight films.
What Doesn’t: Although Breaking Dawn – Part 2 does address some of the character and performance problems of the previous Twilight films, it is too late for the series. Altogether, the five Twilight films total ten hours of running time but the filmmakers don’t get a handle on the story until the last two hours of the series, once all the potential drama of courtship and marriage are over. And although this film begins on a strong note, the gains are quickly ruined by sloppy filmmaking and increasingly stupid storytelling decisions. The quality of the special effects of the Twilight series have been mixed but the visuals in Breaking Dawn – Part 2 contrast sharply and several of the computer generated effects are distractingly bad. This is especially true when Bella’s child is an infant. The filmmakers either sought to make the child appear strange or were too lazy to get an actual baby on set, and so the actors hold an obviously computer generated infant. But as in most installments in the Twilight series, the biggest failures of Breaking Dawn – Part 2 are in its plotting. The story beings with several story threads: Bella’s adjustment to life as a vampire, Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) relationship with Bella’s daughter (Mackenzie Foy), and the growing threat of the Volturi. None of these plots are done well. Although Edward has previously warned about the insatiability of the vampire’s thirst for blood, Bella struggles with it for about five minutes and then she is fine. Similarly, the triangular relationship between Jacob, Bella, and Renesmee could be a compelling conflict but Bella soon lets it go for no reason. These subplots are pushed aside in favor of what should be the climactic conflict between the Cullens and the Volturi but this is handled worst of all. In order to pose a credible resistance, the Cullens recruit other vampires, flooding the film with a slew of new characters. Where the supporting cast of vampires in previous Twilight films came across like extras from Blade, the new vampires of Breaking Dawn look like background characters from X-Men. The middle of the last chapter is the wrong time to introduce all of these new characters, especially since none of them actually do anything. But as bad as that is, the filmmakers manage to outdo themselves in the final showdown. The story pulls the equivalent of an it’s-only-a-dream cheat in the ending, resulting in a conclusion that is anticlimactic, stupid, and insulting. Worse, it does not resolve anything and makes the whole Twilight series a ten-hour waste of time.
Bottom Line: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 may be the worst finale of any major fantasy series. But in a way this ending is a fitting summation to the Twilight saga. The films were characterized above all by their utter vacuousness. The stories were never really about anything and very little happened in each film, and so it is fitting that the conclusion of the series does not resolve or affirm anything. Breaking Dawn finally proves what has always been suspected about Twilight: it is a monumental waste of time and celluloid.
Episode: #417 (December 2, 2012)