Movie Review – Breaking Dawn – Part 2: The Twilight Saga

Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a solid entry into the franchise, and is perhaps the best of the bunch, although the caveat to that is that to better Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1 isn’t much of a stretch in the first place.


– Summary –

Director :  Bill Condon
Year Of Release :   2012
Principal Cast :  Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Mackenzie Foy, Ashley Greene, Maggie Grace, Peter Facinelli, Michael Sheen, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Jamie Campbell Bower, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Heyerdahl, Billy Burke, Lee Pace, Casey LaBow, Rami Malek, Booboo Stewart, Mia Maestro, Toni Trucks, Erik Odom.
Approx Running Time :   116 Minutes
Synopsis:  Now a vampire, Bella Swan must protect her newborn child, Renesmee, from the evil clutches of the scheming Volturi, led by the malevolent Aro. She is helped by husband Edward, Renemsee’s werewolf protector Jacob, and the entire Cullen family – as well as a small gathering of friends who see the Volturi as a threat which must be stood against.
What we think :  This rousing finale to the Twilight franchise sends this saga off in energetic style – although the film does stumble through much of its opening act, the final climactic battle between the Cullen’s and the Volturi is worth the price of admission alone. Non-fans will remain nonplussed, while Twihards will lap it all up. Stylishly filmed, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a definite improvement over the inept and impotent Part 1, but cannot muster up anything resembling an apology for making us sit through five films to get here.


It’s over, thank goodness.

The long-awaited conclusion to the Twilight Saga, the second of the Breaking Dawn double-act that serves not to expand the terribly thin literary narrative of Stephenie Meyer’s horrible novel, but simply add more dollars to the bulging coffers of Summit Entertainment (anybody claiming the decision to break Breaking Dawn into two films was purely creative can go sing that song at another blog, because it would be a lie); the end result of years of angsty, stammering emo-lite “character development” for Kristen Stewart sees her become a full-blown vampire and take it up to the powers that be. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has managed to craft a better film here than she did in the dire Part 1 – a film so bland it stands on its own as a method of torture for the US government, surely – although in saying that, Part 2 still isn’t a great film. While one would never mix the Twilight Saga for, say, a David Lean film, there’s a sense that Bill Condon’s epic battle-ready finale strives to undo the negativity surrounding the film’s immediate predecessor. If nothing else, Breaking Dawn Part 2 at least looks amazing, even if the story is grossly over-exaggerated, the characters remaining flatter than floor tiles, and the convoluted plot twists will confuse all but the most knowledgeable Twihard fangirl. So where does Part 2 get things nearly right?

Go on, sparkle for me big boy....
Go on, sparkle for me big boy….

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) has just survived death during childbirth thanks to new husband Edward’s bites – she wakes a newborn vampire, to learn that her daughter, Renesmee (portrayed by Mackenzie Foy throughout most of the film) has imprinted upon werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). After learning that the Volturi, a group of ancient Italian-based vampires led by Aro (Michael Sheen), know about Renesmee’s existence, and consider her a threat (something about immortal children having super-powered tantrums for all eternity….), Bella, Edward and the rest of the Cullen clan must must band together to tell the Volturi the truth. The Cullen’s gather their allies from all corners of the globe – including a pair of Amazonian blood-suckers – to stand against the powerful elders of the vampire world.

Oh dear lord, I've passed into obscurity!
Oh dear lord, I’ve passed into obscurity!

Describing a Twilight film as being “good” seems anathema to me – after all, we’ve had them blight modern cinema for a number of years now, thwarting genuine creativity for dire scripts, terrible characters and a complete hatred of all things…. “good”. Breaking Dawn Part 1 was easily the worst of the saga’s films up until now, and after seeing Part 2, I’m happy to report that Part 1 will remain the worst. Part 2 isn’t a great film, but it’s probably the best of the series (for whatever it’s worth) – no, not simply because it’s the last one (which is terrific news generally) but because it’s actually not a bad film. It’s a film with issues, sure, but compared to New Moon, Eclipse, and the original Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a step up for the saga.

The gang's all here, and that's all that matters.
The gang’s all here, and that’s all that matters.

Where things go well for Part 2 is the surprisingly fluid scripting, and the ability of lead actress Stewart to actually act in this one. Instead of the sullen, emo-ridden arc we’ve been force-fed for four films now, as a vamp Bella becomes a real character rather than a series of emotional crutches. She’s a mother, and so her maternal instinct all but overrides her vamp instinct in most cases – there’s several amusing scenes after she learns about Jacob’s “imprinting” on Renesmee that brought a sense of levity to the story – levity badly needed, I might add. Twilight’s main problem has always been the way it takes itself so seriously, and in Part 2 you get the sense that Condon finally got the joke and decided to play it all with a bit of a glint in the eye. Sure, the repercussions for the characters are apparently world-ending, but Bella’s human remnant emotional state brings a few laughs. Rosenberg skips over a large portion of Stephenie Meyer’s impossibly daft text and hones out the core beats of the story; the film starts slowly, much like the entirety of Part 1, but about twenty minutes in starts to generate a sense of urgency that pulls the viewer back to the screen.

Egyptian men don't get erections. They make pyramids under the trousers.
Egyptian men don’t get erections. They make pyramids under the trousers.

Kristen Stewart aside, the leading men of the film do their best to fade into the background once again. Robert Pattinson’s constant facial expression would seem to indicate a bowel obstruction, while Taylor Lautner’s Jacob has an amusing sequence where he undresses in front of Bella’s father, played wonderfully by Billy Burke – much like the books, Bella’s dad is treated abysmally by the filmmakers here, almost hurried off the stage to make way for the cool vampire stuff instead of actual human emotion, but Burke’s able to deliver a sensitive, heartbreaking turn as a father confused as to why his daughter is now colder than a Joan Rivers joke. The scene with Lautner disrobing to show Bella’s father that he’s a werewolf seems to have been included simply to complete the requirement of Lautner’s abs being contractually obliged to appear in every movie, although Lautner has a few lines of wry ironic dialogue indicating he might wish this wasn’t the case. I guffawed at this. Pattinson’s Edward is as charming and charismatic as sloppy vomit, and the awkward scenes where he and Bella make love, obviously filmed before Stewart’s now infamous affair which brought the real-life couple undone, still feel devoid of anything resembling passion. An aside – the final scene of the film, in which Bella declares her eternal love for Edward, will make most modern viewers reach for the upchuck bucket, so stick around for that!

Hey Kellan, I heard you pissed in an airport lounge.... wait, that wasn't you?
Hey Kellan, I heard you pissed in an airport lounge…. wait, that wasn’t you?

The rest of the cast feel like a smorgasbord of casting hotness. An entire film’s worth of new characters appear and hang about the Cullen house, waiting for the Volturi to arrive, with each new arrival offering something of a different personality with which to find a few moments of levity and fun within the dire narrative. Keep an eye out for Lee Pace’s Garret, he’s a scream, while Kellan Lutz has a larger role in this than in the previous four films combined. Peter Facinelli provides the Obi Wan Kenobi role of the Cullen patriarch, and Ashley Greene’s Alice vanishes from the film for an hour midway through – her character needed to be around more, because Alice is one of the film series’ best assets, but I guess Meyer’s text prevented Rosenberg from allowing this to happen. The cavalcade of beautiful people as vampires continues with the Volturi crowd, with Dakota Fanning and Cameron Bright nailing Aro’s main strike force combination as Bad Guys We Want To See Killed. Michael Sheen has a blast as Aro, although he does drift from seriously evil to dementedly giggle-worthy creepy-overacting at times, but he’s generally effective as the Cullen’s chief nemesis.

I'm hugging you this tight because after this film comes out, nobody will hire me for a movie again!
I’m hugging you this tight because after this film comes out, nobody will hire me for a movie again!

Unfortunately, any positives to draw out of Part 2 are rendered useless in light of the fact that most people would have already switched off this franchise after Part 1. Bill Condon manages to deliver some decent thrills during the climactic battle between the Cullens and the Volturi, at which point many a Twihard most likely had an embolism right there in the cinema, but it’s too late to salvage the film from being mediocre at best. The film’s book-ending romantic moments are horribly stultifying, cloying in their passionless eroticism, and the fist-punching resolutions to our characters’ arcs last as long as a Hollywood marriage before fading into distant memory. In short, there’s nothing lasting with this film, nothing that makes one sit up and say “hell yes!” at any point. Condon tries to generate excitement and menace, a sense of unstoppable fatality to events to come, and in part succeeds, but only through keeping the emotional sturm-und-drang to a minimum where possible. Even the tacky nod to previous films’ characters during the closing credits attempts to legitimize the Twilight Saga’s impact as a series of films of note, but only serves to prolong an otherwise long-expected death rattle.

Creepiest daughter since Damien.
Creepiest daughter since Damien.

Central to the film’s major problem is the fact that it comes after Part 1, and has too much ground to cover. The new, bloated cast, the frantic dialogue about the Volturi’s history and the link to Renesmee (seriously, that’s the most f@cked up character name in all of history!) as an immortal child, to the gnashing of teeth from Sheen’s Aro and the ethereal and creepy CGI work on the young Renesmee herself, everything about Breaking Dawn Part 2 reeks of convoluted wrap-up. Stretching the lack of material across two films comes home to roost for Part 2, in that it’s too cumbersome a film to really allow us to bond with all these newcomers. Perhaps instead of an hour or two of Bella and Edward on their honeymoon engaging in rough-up sex, or another hour of the two of them playing chess, Part 1 could have delved more into the back-story of the Volturi and really sold them to audiences as a force to be reckoned with. This would have made the denouement of Part 2 much more potent a factor – having said that, had they simply kept the novel to a single film, and streamlined the narrative to the bold brush strokes of Volturi/Cullen antagonism, the end result might have been a taut, terrific action-focused closer to round out an otherwise desperately passion-free franchise.

Edwards campfire sing-a-longs went down like a lead balloon....
Edwards campfire sing-a-longs went down like a lead balloon….

Nobody with any sense is ever going to claim Twilight is a franchise worth following, because as both a series of books and films, there’s so much wrong with it it’s intellectually criminal. Stephenie Meyer struck it lucky with her poorly written novels essaying a gushing, flowing love-treacle in place of actual emotional content hitting a chord with teenage girls around the globe. The books, at least the first three, are moderately competent in that they have a beginning, middle and an end; Breaking Dawn’s literary silhouette, however, is one of the worst novels masquerading as literature ever written. The fact that Fifty Shades Of Grey started life as a Twilight fan-fiction speaks more about the inadequacies of modern publishing requirements than it does about quality writing. Breaking Dawn should never have been two films – hell, it would barely have made 1 film for the lack of anything happening in the book – but to their credit the studio went ahead with their harebrained scheme to suck money from willing women and it paid off handsomely. What we’re left with, after the hoopla dies away, is a duo of otherwise unwatchably trite, creatively languid and skin-crawlingly acted films that serve no other purpose than to extend a story that should have finished with Eclipse. Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a solid entry into the franchise, and is perhaps the best of the bunch, although the caveat to that is that to better Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part 1 isn’t much of a stretch in the first place.

This is awkward.... did you know another man's penis once went in here?
This is awkward…. did you know another man’s penis once went in here?

I know, I’m not the demographic for this franchise, but as I’ve stated before, that shouldn’t prevent me from enjoying this series on its merits. The fact that it took five films before I found a Twilight movie worth watching at least once speaks volumes to the quality of Melissa Rosenberg’s final stab at crafting something watchable from Meyer’s dreck, and Bill Condon’s admittedly beautiful direction will make one ache for quality scripting on his next project (the man deserves better than this). Breaking Dawn Part 2 is entertaining to a degree, although if you’re a studio contemplating splitting a “final film” into two, you’d look at Breaking Dawn as an example of how not to do it.





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10 thoughts on “Movie Review – Breaking Dawn – Part 2: The Twilight Saga

    1. Now that I've seen this film, there's absolutely no chance I'll ever watch it again – even under sufferance – but as a conclusion to one of the worlds most diabolically stupid story arcs, it does what is needed, I guess. You can borrow my wife's copy, Ruth, but you can't burn it afterwards. 😉

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