I’m here to tell you that heads get twisted off in the final Twilight movie. Many heads, in many creative ways, without a drop of blood — this is a PG-13 film, after all. Those decapitations, tidy as they are, could help account for the relatively hefty proportion of males — 21 percent — who joined the massive audience for Breaking Dawn Part 2 last weekend. That’s the highest-ever figure for the series, according to Box Office Mojo.
Do guys — and movie critics — just hate romance? Let’s hope not. But movies that devote long stretches of screen time to two characters gazing or glaring at each other tend to come off a bit inert to viewers who feel no pressing investment in that relationship. Like pornography, or gory horror flicks, Twilight films play to an audience that wants to see variations on the same thing (Edward staring into Bella’s eyes) over and over and over. All that repetition leaves fans dizzy and nonfans antsy.
So director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg deserve credit for playing up everything that actually happens or even could have happened in the second half of the fourth installment of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series. The film’s long middle is still a slog, but the beginning and ending are loud and weird enough to supply solid entertainment.
The weirdness is built in. Breaking Dawn Part 1 ended with Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) literally torn apart by her unborn child, whom its immortal father (Robert Pattinson) delivered by emergency C-section using his teeth. He then assisted our heroine in rising triumphantly from her deathbed as a vampire — one who, at the opening of Part 2, looks ready for a night of clubbing. Her eyes gleaming with blood lust (courtesy of red contact lenses), the glammed-up Bella leaps from tree to tree, eats mountain lions and arm wrestles with her erstwhile other love interest, Jacob the werewolf (Taylor Lautner). The shirt-averse lad abandoned the rivalry when he realized he was actually destined to be mated to Bella’s infant daughter.
What? Ew! That’s also Bella’s reaction. But she soon has bigger problems, as her miracle child sprouts rapidly into a tween (Mackenzie Foy) and attracts the rage of the Volturi, an Italian vampire clan devoted to scenery chewing. When you want to defeat slumming thespians, you need more slumming thespians. So our brave family of vamps enlists a veritable UN of the undead, played by overqualified actors who deliver colorful lines in colorful accents, to face off against a howlingly silly Michael Sheen and an icy Dakota Fanning.
It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a head, right? In the final act, the filmmakers unleash Sheen, the digital effects team and their imaginations to deliver a scene that even resolute nonfans can relish. It’s a long time coming, but then, so was the end of this “saga.” (And rumor has it more Twilight films are now in the works.)
The makers of the five films did a classy job, respecting the material and its fan base while throwing reluctant viewers some bones: attractive visuals, the occasional self-aware joke and a handful of memorably bizarre moments. They did not succeed in converting this critic to the cause of their gorgeous, morally pure, eternally young, incredibly wealthy protagonists, who still strike me as waxy mannequins better suited to monarchist propaganda about the glorious court of Louis XVI.
But, hey, it’s fantasy, not reality. And it’s over.
* Running time: 115 min.
* Rated: PG-13
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