It’s been four years since screen audiences were presented with the swooning and impossible romance between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but after four feature films spanning three-and-a-half books, the fifth and final instalment in Stephenie Meyer‘s globally beloved Twilight saga has arrived. Throughout the years, the Twilight films have swung like a successful and resistant pendulum; fans and cinema-goers love them whilst the majority of film critics are less appreciative but perhaps the latter’s minds can be altered by Bill Condon‘s Breaking Dawn – Part 2; a surging, riveting and explosively entertaining B-Movie tied up with a blood-soaked bow.
Picking up where Breaking Dawn – Part 1 left off, Bella (Stewart) is now a Cullen and indeed a vampire. She is also a mother and baby Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) is growing at an absurdly rapid rate. Edward (Pattinson) and the rest of the Cullen family are preparing to move away from Forks to start a new lease of life but soon the Volturi are informed of Renesmee’s existence which could lead to potentially catastrophic events. Desperate to protect their loved ones from an unwelcome and unneeded battle, the Cullens call upon their fellow vampire illuminati as well as Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and the Quileute tribe to stand united and defend what’s right.
Being a big Twilight fan myself (sorry if that’s distressing news), one welcomed the idea of an extra movie, but upon the decision to spilt Meyer’s final book into two parts, many felt this was merely a financial stunt to replicate the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is true to a certain extent, however having Breaking Dawn separated has enabled something to thrive within the Twilight saga which many didn’t believe to be possible – directorial and artistic vision.
Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘s biggest success is that it’s the single Twilight film which embraces film fans, not just those who follow the franchise. Minor plot points aside, this is perfectly accessible viewing for someone with no singular knowledge or interest towards the films, and that is down to the brilliant exercised rate of Condon’s camera.
The film is captured with a bleak, ambient beauty; from the American Horror Story-esque opening titles to the cold and vacant landscapes, this is undoubtedly the most visually accomplished and constructed picture in the franchise. Condon forms a frame with calculated hands – many sequences screen like moving postcards, consumed by the icy elements and the equally icy vampires. Nothing feels rushed either; his scenes are allowed to unfold and tell the story without constantly needed to be supported by the three leads.
Smaller and new characters do not seem redundant either – each introductory is offered a decent nugget of screen-time which enables development and audience interest to flourish. It’s clear that Condon along with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg intend to make this final film count in all departments and their mission is accomplished. Much like in Eclipse and Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the often embarrassing dialogue is toned down leaving meatier and meaningful conversations for the characters involved to engage with. Here the Cullens deal with fairly deep and adult circumstances including murder, betrayal and the big one – imprinting; something which if handled incorrectly could basically be translated into paedophilia.
These darker narrative themes mirror the almost lonely world the vamps and the wolves reside within which only means Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘s tone is melancholy, atmospheric and violent. Everything is at stake here (excuse the pun) – the Cullens are putting their livelihood and integrity on the line to prove their innocence; if you were to take away the setting and the fantasy of it all, the film’s core could be boiled down to a courtroom drama. Granted, it wouldn’t be A Few Good Men, but you catch my drift.
Like the Harry Potter franchise, Twilight has matured with age and consequently, so has the on-screen content. Whilst this film doesn’t show any graphic bloodshed, the amount of violence and mania on offer is cataclysmic – it’s like The Raid in Narnia…Throughout the 115 running time, countless vampires meet their demise which usually involves a savage decapitation followed by a brutal pyromania assault. Head get ripped off, stamped on, snapped in two, peeled until the skin cannot stretch any more, plus there’s all the biting, savaging and burning along with that.
If Condon’s picture had the red stuff, this would be a high-end 15 certificate and that is not an overstatement. The violence however is integral to the feature’s third-act; a great, glorious and beautifully crafted battle scene on the ice which is Condon’s centre-piece and boy is it gleefully exciting. Viewers will cheer, fist-pump and gasp at the quite frankly insane carnival of horrors on show; one can’t lie that I too even had a little bounce in my folding chair. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is brilliantly and boldly rendered by it’s relentless and apocalyptic mayhem – it’s screams, shouts and ferociously bashes it’s chest until even the most sceptical take notice.
Like the previous outing, the performances are collective strong too – Pattinson is a fine screen presence and he is clearly happy to take a risk. This Edward is stripped of the cheesy lines and the overpowering romantic spell and instead stands on-screen like a local hero; sure he’s a vampire and he sparkles, but like all the best action stars, his motivation is his family and he’ll go to hell, Italy and high-water to protect them. Lautner too is strong, particularly his exchanges with and regarding Renesmee – a blow-out with Bella during the film’s first-act is hilarious stuff, plus thankfully he and his pals do not engage in any of that ridiculous wolfy chit-chat.
Peter Facinelli, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser and Nikki Reed are also offered better, wholesome dialogue and they thrive in their central scenes. Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning are equally great as the Volturi’s Aro and Jane; both of whom aren’t very nice even if they are fairly camp. The only shame is once again the lack of Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone as the brilliantly cooky couple Alice and Jasper but bygones be bygones.
As usual the film’s star is Stewart who yet again gives a fantastic central performance; she is cruelly underrated and misjudged by many but she has proven on countless occasions and in numerous films that she is capable of carrying the silver screen’s weight and she seems to take the burden in her stride. Bella is a different person here and that clearly shows; she isn’t just the same girl with contact lenses, she’s a evolved, morally constructed character who has an uncertain if eternal future. She may be dead, but Bella has never been more alive.
Perhaps the film’s biggest error is some seriously dodgy CGI for baby Renesmee – it makes slight sense why the team used the technology but honestly, just get a darn baby. Also I’m sure some Twihards will be a little flustered by slight textual changes but this is cinema not literature and one is thrilled at the odd alteration as is shows collaboration and vision; something essential to filmic success.
The Twilight saga may now be over, but it’s a sheer thrill to see it exit with this calibre. The training wheels have been removed, the wings has been attached and Condon allows Breaking Dawn – Part 2 to fly in all it’s weird and wonderful glory. It’s chaotic, harmonic and above all else, unashamedly entertaining. Oh, and it might have the twist of the year too…