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August 21, 2014

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

TSBD2 Edward Bella Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn‒Part 2

Photo by Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment

A Kickboxing, Bloodthirsty Bella Guards her Newborn as Fans Drink Up the Final “Twilight” Movie

Immortality becomes Bella. After moping and mewing throughout the first four film adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” paranormal romance series (Little, Brown), the heroine takes charge in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn‒Part 2.

Kristen Stewart comes to life—so to speak—in this film, whether she is on the hunt for fresh animal blood or taking down a man twice her size. The actress invigorates the series with her performance as one of the undead.

Now that Bella has turned into a vampire—a transformation completed at the conclusion of Breaking DawnPart 1—she fends for herself. She is no longer as reliant on Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and his large family to protect her from werewolves, avenging vampires, and other threats.

Bella may not be Katniss Everdeen, but she’s no slouch, either. She’s a team player and a force to be reckoned with. The physicality in the fight scenes reveals a loosened-up Stewart, a change for the better. Now, Bella appears more at home arm wrestling, kickboxing, or defending her loved ones than she does staring longingly at Edward. This new boost of confidence assuages one of the chief complaints of both the “Twilight” books and movies: that she has been too passive, too willing to transform herself in order to get a guy—in this case a 110-year-old vampire.

TSBD2 Bella Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn‒Part 2

Photo by Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment

The film begins two days after Bella has given birth to a half-mortal, half-vampire baby, Renesmee (yes, the name’s a mouthful). While adjusting to motherhood, Bella takes her own baby steps getting used to her recent incarnation as a “newborn”—a greenhorn vampire. We see her new instincts in action as she embarks on her first hunt, attacks a mountain lion, and tries to control her thirst for blood as she gets used to her inhuman strength.

The greatest danger Bella and her brethren face is the draconian (some might say fascist) Volturi, the policing body of vampires who fiercely guard vampires’ anonymity in order to keep humans ignorant of their existence.

They have heard a rumor that Renesmee is an “immortal,” a chaos-creating, unrestrained child blood sucker. Renesmee, however, is no such thing; she’s just an obedient daughter who grows by leaps and bounds by the week. Trying to protect her, Edward’s coven seeks out allies around the world—Egypt, Russia, Ireland—to avouch that his daughter with Bella poses no threat, and to ward off an otherwise certain death sentence for Renesmee and her entire clan.

Luckily for viewers, Volturi has no luck. The film climaxes with a bloodthirsty battle more violent than the norm for the series, let alone the book, with heads flying off left and right. But this mayhem won’t discourage fans from cheering (or gasping, in the case of one particular fatality).

In fact, the long fight sequence will win over those who felt the movie’s storyline was too sappy or saggy—for instance, when the pace slows down mid-film before the final showdown, which takes place high up in a snowy wilderness. Director Bill Condon cuts from one confrontation to another in a battle that involves more than two dozen characters.  Even though almost everyone is chicly dressed in black, it’s always clear who’s who, and the pace stays brisk without shifting into overdrive.  The concluding chapter in the film quintet captures the excitement of Eclipse, the third, and best, “Twilight” adaptation up until now, which also foregoes dialogue for action.

TSBD2 Jacob Bella Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn‒Part 2

Photo by Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment

The decision to accentuate action over character pays off since the dialogue is still wooden and the acting veers further into campy terrain than in the previous installments. As the head of Volturi, Michael Sheen gleefully hams it up, combining Mike Meyer’s Dr. Evil from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery with some of Dudley Moore’s braying lunacy in Arthur. In addition, two Slavic vampires speak with such thick Eastern European accents that even Bela Lugosi would advise them to tone it down.

But no one goes to these movies for the acting. The series has its own internal crucifix to ward off detractors: fans who bring the backstory and vision from Meyer’s books to these films that only suggest Bella’s internal dialogue, which drives the books’ narrative. As a reward to these followers, the finale concludes with a roll call of all the characters from the earlier films—for just one more glimpse in the darkness, before the lights come back up.

Directed by Bill Condon
115 min.
Rated PG-13 (bed sheets are crumpled; heads roll everywhere)

Kent Turner About Kent Turner

Kent Turner (kturner@mediasourceinc.com), SLJ book review and editor of Film-Forward.com

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