The Twilight movie franchise has always followed a simple formula. Go heavy on the hottie factor, dramatic declarations of love and a brief fight that hints at some potentially epic action if the filmmakers ever let us see the vampire vs. vampire vs. werewolf battle we’ve only been teased with since the beginning.
And while The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, gets off to a slow start and seems to be treading along the same acceptable, if not terribly exciting ground of the four films before it, the franchise finally shakes the shackles of being just a teen love story and ramps the action up for a finale that both rewards longtime fans with the most satisfying conclusion possible while providing a spectacular main event style brawl for action junkies.
Picking off from part 1, Bella (Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman) has married Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), turned into a vampire and given birth to Renesmee.
Animatronic babies stood in for Baby Nes and they are disturbingly creepy. Almost as much as Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) — the werewolf who tends to buy shirts two sizes too small — fawning over Renesmee due to him “imprinting” her during childbirth. That just means he looks after her like a brother, but they could develop romantic feelings after she’s old enough. Still. Ick.
I’d always pegged Twilight with idealized perfect guys Edward and Jacob vying for Bella’s affection to be a bit of a female empowerment deal where Bella gets to make the choice, but the underlined theme almost appears to be if you meet the perfect guy, change everything about yourself to keep him. Bella ditches her friends and family to become a vampire, but what did Edward sacrifice?
Series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s script has a few bits of cringe-worthy dialogue — “I thought we would be safe forever. But ‘forever’ isn’t as long as I’d hoped,” — (blech) but it still sounds like genuine “teen-speak.”
Thanks to her unusual parentage, Renesmee experiences significant growth spurts and quickly exhibits unique gifts, which terrifies cousin, Irina (Maggie Grace, Lockout), who snitches to the heads of the vampire order, the Volturi.
Not needing much of an excuse to come after the extraordinarily gifted Cullen clan, Aro (Frost/Nixon’s Michael Sheen having a blast) prepares the Volturi to destroy Renesmee, forcing Cullen patriarch, Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), to rally his allies to prevent an inevitable war.
The film’s first hour largely is slow, but things pick up with the introduction of the Cullen allies as Twilight turns into this unexpectedly awesome final act with a battle you’d expect from a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings films.
Director Bill Condon, who helmed the first Breaking Dawn, must have been waiting for this as he builds up this clash all film and puts together a worth all the hype fight scene that’s unapologetically violent and sure to elicit some “ooohs” and applause from the audience. Some of my critic pals didn’t enjoy the resolution of the fight, but it worked fine for me and was a fun payoff.
The acting, as always, is sufficient if not stellar — Sheen is the only standout and Dakota Fanning as the devilish Jane conveys more emotion without speaking than Stewart does with twice as much screen time.
But who’s watching Twilight for Oscar performances? Whether you’re there to swoon over Lautner and Pattinson’s abs and perfect cheekbones; thrill to some vampire fun or appreciate a spectacular fight scene, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is the biggest crowd pleaser of the Stephenie Meyer franchise and if you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, you’ll love this final installment.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photos: Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment