We gave it a B
For four years now (at times, it’s felt like an eternity), the Twilight films have coasted along on basic anticipatory questions: What would it look like if a sweetly sulky high school girl fell for a vampire who resembles James Dean crossed with a pasty-faced indie rocker? What would happen if the two of them made love? If they got married? If they had a baby? That most recent question was answered by the uncharacteristically queasy, nearly Cronenbergian horror of last year’s Breaking Dawn — Part 1, which leaves just one more big question, really: What happens when Bella Swan becomes a vampire?
The Twlight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2, the final chapter in this saga of bloodsucking teenage swoons, gets the answer to that one out of the way fast. Bella’s eyes turn red and gaze hungrily at human flesh, her skin sparkles (for about five seconds), she does some of that Road Runnery fast-motion travel — and beyond that, Kristen Stewart acts more or less the way she always has, with an engaging fusion of ingenue vulnerability and flashing-eyed I’m with the undead Leader of the Pack! empowerment. In Breaking Dawn — Part 2, Bella slips into vampiredom as if it were a set of designer clothing she’d always been meant to wear. Besides, what’s not to like about never having to sleep or get old?
With her transformation nimbly accomplished, here’s the real final conflict: Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson) now have a baby girl, who they’ve given the slightly hilarious name of Renesmee (it’s funny because it sounds just la-di-da enough to be a contemporary baby name bestowed by an actual celebrity couple). And this means that they’re in deep trouble, since the Volturi, the powerful coven that enforces the laws of the vampire world, won’t allow a bloodsucking child to exist. It appears that vampire kids, at the age that they ”turn,” become far too reckless, going on rampages that threaten to expose their fellow vampires. So the Volturi must destroy them — and, for good measure, their parents too.
But wait! Renesmee isn’t a full-fledged vampire; she’s a half-breed. And so Bella and Edward decide that if they can reach out to Edward’s vampire comrades from around the world, collecting a team of ”witnesses” to attest to the fact that Rensenmee is not, in fact, immortal (and therefore not dangerous), they can save her, and rescue themselves, from the wrath of the Volturi. The whole gathering-up-of-witnessess plot sags in the middle. The idea is also more than a bit silly, since it doesn’t really make sense that the all-knowing Aro (Michael Sheen), head of the Volturi, would desire the testimony of a kind of Benetton commercial of international hipster predators to see what his powers should instantly be able to tell him: that Renesmee poses no threat. But then, Aro just likes to make trouble, and one of the pleasures of Breaking Dawn — Pt. 2 is Michael Sheen’s more-unhinged-than-ever performance as this archly civilized but always naughty fascist. Sheen rules the screen with his evil-in-the-House-of-Windsor diction, kitschy giggle, and frozen double takes.
Breaking Dawn — Part 2 starts off slow but gathers momentum, and that’s because, with Bella and Edward united against the Volturi, the picture has a real threat. It’s structured as a classic monster-movie showdown, and when the two are standing with their ragtag rebel team in the Northwest snow, facing Aro and his monk-hooded Volturi army, the film takes off — into eye-popping violence and spectacle, complete with fantastic decapitations, and also into a rather touching all-for-one mythology, with Taylor Lautner’s werewolf Jacob spiriting Renesmee away, in what appears to be the likelihood of her never seeing her parents again. And wait until you get to the twist ending! It’s one of the most shocking moments in the series, yet also one of the lightest. It made me realize that, as narratively lumpy as they can be, I like the Twilight films because they’re really about the eternal movie romance of vampires at play. B