Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2
★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Opens in local theaters on Nov. 16
For about 15 minutes, near the end of Twilight — Breaking Dawn — Part 2, I found myself thinking, "I can't believe it, they're finally going to introduce some real peril, some honest to goodness dramatic stakes." After all, when you see prominent supporting characters and sneering enemies get their heads ripped off, it's natural to think that the series, which often mistook moping for emotion and posing for action, actually grew a pair of balls and decided to deliver on its otherwise hollow threats of danger. No such luck. At the risk of kicking this review off with a spoiler — and those who care should go on to the next review — the big showdown ends up being little more than a dream. Once again, the threats were empty and the stakes inconsequential. More than all its other myriad faults, this is why the Twilight films have earned my scorn. They are hysterical yet empty dramatic vessels, hyperventilating over passionate indecision and supernatural menace, yet delivering only sulky wallpaper. In other words, Stephenie Meyer's writing is irredeemably terrible, and scripter Melissa Rosenberg does nothing to improve that fact.
So let's drop the pretense that Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 is going to get, or is deserving of, serious critical consideration. Over the course of the last three films, there has been a remarkable consistency in its commitment to low-quality entertainment. The acting has been laughable, the protagonist is passive to the point of catatonic, the special effects are only slightly better than what you'd see on the SyFy channel, and the anti-sex, pro-abstinence, anti-abortion subtext is odious. I don't mind a movie that brazenly wears its Red State sensibilities on its sleeve, I mind that it is inept and self-congratulatory.
Taking inventory of the plot thus far: After spending three films moping with romantic indecision over Edward, the sparkly vampire (Robert Pattinson), and Jacob, the frequently bare-chested werewolf (Taylor Lautner), Bella (Kirsten Stewart) finally ties the knot with the bloodsucker, spends her honeymoon on a Brazilian island, gets knocked up, then delivers a half-breed baby weeks later. Unfortunately, the tyke kills her on its way into the world. Luckily, Edward puts the bite on Bella, finally turning her into the vampire she's always wanted to be. Oh, and Jacob's "imprinted" on Renesmee (which might be the worst baby name of all time). Yup. That means the teen wolf and the vampire baby are going to hook up. Hopefully after she clears Washington state's age limit for statutory rape.
These plot developments might have made for a damn interesting film if someone like David Cronenberg had gotten his hands on it. His disturbing approach to body identity and sexuality could have given Meyer's unlikely mix of Mormon morality and pervy goth romanticism a rich landscape to play in. Unfortunately, the films have had a chaste, soap opera quality to them, muting the sex to gauzy hugging and kissing while quickly papering over Meyer's unsettling ideas about inter-species sexuality and necrophilia.
But that's the last installment. Onward and downward! Without a romantic triangle or dangerous birth to fuel the melodrama, Breaking Dawn — Part 2 spins its wheels gathering together a United Nations ... or rather a Benetton ad of vampires who will help defend Bella's quickly maturing offspring from the power-hungry Volturi clan, who have strict laws about baby bloodsuckers. It's an eyeliner-and-bad-special-effects face off, with the Cullen family and their runway model pals voguing against Aro (a joyously unhinged Michael Sheen) and his heavily robed, superpowered minions (most notably a mute Dakota Fanning). Throw some poorly rendered CGI werewolves into the mix as well and mayhem comes really, really close to ensuing. But doesn't. Then does. Then doesn't again.
Bella's droning voice-over gives way to a soft focus montage of I'm OK-you're OK images, with the final shot settling on Edward and his love in a field of wild flowers. It's only then that you realize director Bill Condon and his effects wizards forgot to make the young vampires sparkle in the sunlight — for the entire movie. Or maybe they didn't. Maybe Meyer randomly changed the rules again. Who knows? At this point in the series you're either all-in or simply don't care. If you do happen to be part of the small demographic that hasn't decided whether to see the movie (as confounding a notion as those who remained undecided on Election Day) then take this simple suggestion: Don't. There are better ways to spend your evening. Perhaps there's some laundry to be done?