The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

<em>The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2</em>

Okay, I’ll keep it brief: unsatisfying.

Not just The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2, mind you, but The Twilight Saga in general. Depending on your relationship to the franchise, that may mean something or just be what you already expected. But mainly I mean that Breaking Dawn — Part 2 manages to be the second-worst of a series which has rarely aimed higher than mediocre.

Some of that is to be expected from the fifth entry in a series which has often reveled in easily-resolved, high school soap opera drama and ridiculously surface-oriented “romance.” You don’t get to a sequel, much less a fifth…quel…by giving your audience something other than what it has shown it wants, either. You could probably get away with that with source material with enough depth to use new installments to dig into its characters, but Twilight has never had a desire to do that, and why start at the end? Instead we get a mishmash of bad ideas, missed opportunities, and other signs the franchise is better of finished.

We get the continuing story of the Swann-Cullen-Blacks, just with a sudden sickeningly sweet stop at the end, like being force-fed molasses while being hung. Picking up from Breaking Dawn Pt. 1‘s cliffhanger ending, we awaken with Bella Cullen‘s (Kristen Stewart) first day as a vampire and first day as a mom to a really, really creepy CGI baby. The culmination of the first half has once and for all ended the internal strife the supernatural side of Forks, Washington, has faced.

Bella and hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) no longer have to worry about her growing old and dying, and best friend-slash-werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has imprinted on their baby, Renesmee, transferring of all his feelings for Bella to her daughter. And yes, that is as creepy as it sounds.

Of course, this also retires the driving dramatic conflict of most of the series, forcing director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg to focus outwards to a final confrontation with the mysterious Volturi, the ruling council of vampire-kind who have been subtly trying to antagonize the Cullens for much of the series. This has two small problems and one very large one.

With the final conflict with the Volturi built in as the climax, Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 has nothing to do until they arrive and no way to drive tension to that point. It tries awfully hard, with various cut-aways to previous evil acts and exposition about their power, but telling does not equal showing, and what’s shown has no real effect, because there’s little direct emotional connection between this conflict and the main characters. Unlike the previous films — and in particular, the series apotheosis Eclipse — the danger here is somewhat in the abstract, similar to New Moon, and is similarly ineffective.

Even novelist/producer Stephanie Meyer seems to have realized that at some deep level, as the Cullens spend much of the film on the hunt for allies from around the world to shift our focus onto, since the returning characters have simply stopped growing by this point. Which gives us an appalling army of ethnic stereotypes, but at least it’s different.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair — the assembling of the Seven Samurai introduces a few interesting faces to the vampire coterie, notably Lee Pace‘s Garrett, a roguish Revolutionary War soldier still fighting the British two centuries later. Garrett has more charm and personality than Pattison’s Edward has managed in all five films, and one can’t help but wonder what the series would have been like with him in the lead, instead.

Which is all Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 really has to offer, in the end: what-might-have-beens. And that’s the big problem. The need to stay close to the source material while also recognizing its weaknesses has left one director after another going to the edge of taking the story in a more interesting direction than the material allows, only to turn back from the edge at the last minute to stay reassuring for the fans.

Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 suffers from that mightily in what should be its strongest section, the actual finale. As the Cullens and Volturi finally meet face-to-face to determine Renesmee’s fate, it quickly becomes apparent to everyone — and particularly Condon — that a visceral cathartic climax is needed, but flirt with it as he does, he either can’t or won’t go all the way. To call it “unsatisfying” is a colossal understatement.

Instead, like all of the films with the exception of Eclipse, the teenage romance and the over-the-top monster movie remain separated into two distinct parts when they should be integrated together. But that was never going to happen, and not because Bella and Edward no longer have anywhere to go as characters or the depth to surprise.

It’s because Twilight is an exercise in appeasement, not storytelling, and it was never going to do any more than it already has. Yeah, it glistens a little in the sunlight, but those aren’t diamonds, they’re cubic zirconia. And maybe that’s the real draw in surface-oriented stuff like this. There’s no real difference between the two.

Cast: Kristen Stewart as Bella Cullen; Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen; Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black; Mackenzie Foy as Renesmee Cullen; Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen; Maggie Grace as Irina; Jamie Campbell Bower as Caius; Michael Sheen as Aro; Nikki Reed as Rosalie Hale; Kellan Lutz as Emmett Cullen; Dakota Fanning as Jane; Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale; Christopher Heyerdahl as Marcus; Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen; Billy Burke as Charlie Swan; Lee Pace as Garrett; Christian Serratos as Angela Weber; Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen; MyAnna Buring as Tanya; Noel Fisher as Vladimir; Joe Anderson as Alistair; Cameron Bright as Alec; Angela Sarafyan as Tia; Aldo Quintino as Amazon Vampire; Rami Malek as Benjamin; Booboo Stewart as Seth Clearwater; Daniel Cudmore as Felix; Christian Camargo as Eleazar; Mia Maestro as Carmen; Ty Olsson as Phil; Alex Meraz as Paul; Judith Shekoni as Zafrina; Charlie Bewley as Demetri; JD Pardo as Nahuel; Julia Jones as Leah Clearwater; Lateef Crowder as Santiago; Andrea Powell as Sasha; Toni Trucks as Mary; Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call; Chaske Spencer as Sam Uley; Marisa Quinn as Huilen; Omar Metwally as Amun.

[The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 opens 11/16/12.]
(Lionsgate --; Summit Entertainment --; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 --; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (Facebook) --
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Review by . Review posted Friday, November 16th, 2012. Filed under Reviews.

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