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‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2′ Review

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2
Summit Entertainment

The opening credits of ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘ alternate between red and white images; seeping blood, spreading ice crystals. The symbolism couldn’t be clearer: bundle up, Twihards, it’s going to be a long cold lonely winter. Here comes the sun, dawn is breaking, and with it the end of your beloved franchise. After this, no more sexy vampires and hunky werewolves. It’s all over — and now that it is all over, let’s give ‘Twilight’ its due: as one of the absolute bats— craziest blockbusters in Hollywood history.

But first, the story: previously on ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,’ vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) has finally married his human love Bella (Kristen Stewart) and, after she was nearly killed during childbirth delivering their baby, turned her into a vampire. As ‘Part 2′ begins, Bella is adjusting to her new life, her new powers, and her new daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), who is half-vampire, half-human, all unsettlingly weird looking CGI. The young family’s idyll is quickly interrupted by a jealous vampire (Maggie Grace) who reveals Renesmee’s existence to the Volturi, the vampire world’s cruel law keepers who like to cosplay as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Bloodsuckers Band. The Cullen coven’s resident precog, Alice (Ashley Greene) senses impending doom, which sends the vampires on a worldwide tour to round up allies that can help protect for Renesmee. There are Russian vampires and Brazilian vampires and Amazonian vampires, each with their own laughably stereotypical accent.

Frankly a lot of this is laughable — and it’s even played for some laughs by director Bill Condon, who seems to get a hoot out of all the cold-blooded melodrama. So do some of the supporting actors, particularly Lee Pace as Garrett, a patriotic vampire who likes to boast that he took part in every American battle of the last 300 years, and Michael Sheen, who plays the sneering, cackling leader of the Volturi in high camp style. Their job is to lighten a story that turns deadly serious whenever Bella and Edward come onscreen — and if you don’t think it’s serious, just ask one of the series’ fans.

Ah, but what about Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s jilted werewolf suitor? Much of the previous ‘Twilight’ films were about the epic love triangle between woman, vampire, and dog-man with the fabulous ab muscles. Now that Bella finally chose Edward ’til (un)death do them part, that leaves poor Jacob and his sizable fanbase in the lurch. ‘Twilight’ novelist Stephanie Meyer’s deranged solution to this problem: have Jacob fall instantly in love with Renesmee. As a baby. And then watch over her until she’s fully grown and it’s no longer creepy for him to lust after her. When Bella wants to hold her newborn, Jacob is the one who hands her to her. A minute later, he tries to grab her back. Lautner and Condon do their best to make Jacob seem like a protective uncle and not, y’know, a pedophile, but they can only do so much with this material.

And so we have this guaranteed worldwide hit about loving babies (excuse me, “imprinting on them”) that is, essentially, one long argument in favor of arranged marriages (excuse me, “destiny”). Maybe I’m as touched in the head as the people who made this lunacy, but that’s kind of what I like about it. Where so many megablockbusters are bland and safe and tame, here is a mainstream film designed for mass consumption that is quirky and personal and deeply felt. Admittedly what it deeply feels — magic and fate and sweet, sweet babylove — is at best crazy and at worst illegal. But it’s expressed intensely and sincerely. No wonder its fans love it so intensely right back.

As a film, ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2′ shares a lot of the same problems as the previous ‘Twilight’s': it looks like more of the budget went into the characters’ glamorous wardrobes than the hokey special effects, and most of the storytelling is accomplished by placing all the characters in a room while poor Bella asks them questions (“What’s a shield?” “Is that even possible?” “What happened?” etc.). At least this installment ends with a massive vampire brawl — featuring what must be a record number of decapitations and dismemberments for a PG-13 film — along with a clever plot twist that messes with the audience’s heads.

Oh, that audience. What will they do with themselves now that ‘Twilight’ is over? Probably watch it all again. And hopefully not fall in love with any babies.‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2′ opens in theaters on November 16th.

Matt Singer is a Webby award winning writer and podcaster. He currently runs the Criticwire blog on Indiewire and co-hosts the Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit podcast. His criticism has appeared in the pages of The Village Voice and Time Out New York and on ‘Ebert Presents at the Movies.’ He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, dog, and a prop sword from the movie ‘Gymkata.’

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