‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2’ movie review

November 15, 2012

At the far end end of the spectrum of potential audience for the “Twilight” franchise is the “Twi-Hard” contingent, those fanatic loyalists to the book-turned-movie series who will camp out for a front-row seat, no matter what the reviews say. Their only regret about “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” the two-part film whose final installment opens tonight, bringing the five-chapter saga to an end, is that the whole magical experience couldn’t last forever.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. And some bad ones too.

For those with no vested interest in this protracted and supernatural soap opera, but who do care about cinema, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” will be, unsurprisingly, a silly and somewhat cheesily made waste of time.

But this review isn’t written for either of those two extremes. Rather, it’s for the theoretical viewer in the middle, the one who cares as much about good storytelling as about whether Bella the human ends up with Edward the vampire or Jacob the werewolf. Whether such a mythological filmgoer even exists — and is not more fanciful than the pasty-faced bloodsuckers and buff fur balls who populate the tale — is a question for another day.

As “Breaking Dawn — Part 2” opens, our once-mortal heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) has just given birth to a half-human, half-vampire baby, Renesmee, with her new, undead husband Edward (Robert Pattinson). To save her life, which had been threatened by carrying such a monstrous, if undeniably photogenic spawn, Bella has been turned into a vampire, through an injection of venom by her husband.

Almost the entire first third of the movie is devoted to Bella’s adjustment to her new life and unfamiliar powers: her sudden thirst for blood; her superhuman speed and strength; her seemingly insatiable (if PG-13) sex drive; and the tricks she must learn in order to pass as human. Endless minutes are devoted to colored contact lenses (to mask her red eyes), an arm-wrestling contest with her vampire brother-in-law (Kellan Lutz), and scenes of Edward and Bella running through the picturesque Pacific-Northwest woods on her first hunt, which culminates in an al fresco picnic dinner of venison tartare.

Once again, the special effects are low grade, relying heavily on old-fashioned camera blur and unconvincing wire work to convey a sense of quickness and acrobatic agility, as Bella bounds from rock to tree to mountaintop. It’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Vampire,” without the verve.

Eventually, the real story clicks in after word reaches the Volturi — the vampire world’s governing elite — that Renesmee may be what’s known as an “immortal child,” a vampire baby who grows up with the mental maturity, and imperfect self-control, of an infant. Immortal children are illegal, since they cannot be trained to rein in their appetites, which threatens to expose the carefully hidden vampire subculture to the rest of the world. As Aro, the leader of the Volturi, Michael Sheen is a rare delight, smiling malevolently — and at one point issuing an insane cackle that’s worth the price of admission — as he attempts to determine whether Edward and his family must be punished and Renesmee destroyed.

It ain’t much, but it passes for drama — if by “drama” you mean a climactic showdown in a field of snow between the powerful, berobed Volturi on the one side, and a ragtag band of the “good” vampires, now in league with Jacob and his pack of giant, CGI werewolves, on the other. I’ll tell you one thing: You have never seen so much unrealistic decapitation in your life. After about the 20th head-popping, which flips off like the top of a soda bottle, it’s just ridiculous.

Not so funny? The relationship between the werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and Renesmee, played by the adorable poppet Mackenzie Foy. As in the books, Jacob, Bella’s former suitor, has “imprinted” on the little girl, a bit of lupine gobbledygook meaning that they are destined to become lovers when she’s fully grown.

I know, I know: it’s fantasy. It’s also more than a little bit creepy, smacking of the child bride. Fortunately, Lautner brings a welcome sense of detachment from the film’s absurdities. “Breaking Dawn,” which only every now and again seems to have figured out that it’s okay to laugh at itself, could use a little more of the actor’s wry, laid-back energy, and a little less pomposity.

As for Stewart and Pattinson, once again he looks perpetually stoned, and she as if she has just detected a bad smell — coming off of her own underarms. Neither one has much range, or makes much of an impression, other than vague malaise.

Then again, neither one has to. They are both so indelibly associated with the roles of Bella and Edward at this point that it will take each of them at least anther couple of films before they fully shake the connection with “Twilight.”

As for you, dear reader, the symptoms of our long national nightmare should begin to fade as you’re heading out of the theater, dissipating by the time you clear the concession stand.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2

1 and 1/2 stars

(116 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sensuality and violence.

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Holiday Movie Guide 2012

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Michael O’Sullivan has worked since 1993 at The Washington Post, where he covers art, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture.
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