There's no real way to predict what you're getting when watching one of the Twilight films. You either get a surprisingly corny and fun film (the first Twilight) or you'll get something severely disappointing like Breaking Dawn Part 1. These wildly varying outcomes affect the overall nature of the series since there's no set definition as to what the Twilight films actually are. Should we expect schlock or greatness going into a Twilight film? It's been unclear up until this point.
As the final film of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 looks to narrow down the answer for us, for better or worse. It needs to end the entire series well while still becoming an adequate film in its own right. Does Breaking Dawn Part 2 accomplish either of these things? Read on for the answer.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Breaking Dawn Part 2 takes place immediately after the events of Part 1. If you missed the first part, or are using this as an odd starting point, you'll be out of place as Part 2 kindly presses forward without the need for recap or summary of the events until the start of the film. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire (reflected by her new red eyes) since it was the only way to recover from her faulty pregnancy. Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella's child, Renesmee, is growing at an alarming rate due to her half-vampire, half-human lineage. Irina (Maggie Grace) mistakes Renesmee for an "Immortal Child," a child who was changed into a vampire, which is a crime against Volturi law. As the Volturi slowly approach to execute Renesmee, the Cullen family seek the help of their vampires friends around the world to make a stand against them.
When Bella discovers she's a vampire, she goes through all sorts of initial hurdles. She needs to fight her hunger, get used to her powers, and learn how to hide those powers from humans. This is all done extremely well. Bella is suddenly given a personality that's been lacking so far. Stewart is awkward, cute, and since she's now a mother, finally given something else to think about other than Edward or Jacob. Thankfully, the whole "Team Edward or Team Jacob" plot is dropped for the final film since Bella has already decided on a husband. Unfortunately that means that like in Part 1, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is given nothing substantial to do other than pine over Edward and Bella's child. He's no longer a main character integral to the events of the plot.
After an interesting first 10-15 minutes as Bella plays with her new found powers in a delightfully corny fashion, however, the film drags. As the plot shifts gears from Bella becoming a vampire to protecting Renesmee, there's a lack of development. The film follows the Cullens as they go from place to place gathering vamps, and while these worldly vampires have distinct and entertaining looks and personalities, nothing is done with the material they're given. There's no true interaction between the vampires and that is especially prominent when a hint of their interaction is relegated to background noise.
One vampire recruit in particular, Alistair (Joe Anderson), seems like a interesting prospect that was unfortunately skipped over as well. He's abrasive, initially against fighting the Volturi, and isolates himself as he watches Bella from afar. His interactions with Bella seem like they're leading somewhere, but end up failing to produce anything of substance. And if there's an overall theme of the first half of the film, its that plots and character buildups lead to absolutely nowhere.
There are also several glaring missteps that really can take someone out of the moment. For one, Renesmee is CG animated for the first half of the film. I know Renesmee is supposed to look a certain way, but its uncomfortable to watch a badly animated CG child interact with the actors. Credit to the actors themselves for attempting to make Renesmee as natural as possible, but its unfortunately badly done. That is a reflection of the overall CGI for the film. At some points, the environments look laughably bad as they amount to an unnatural look, but the actors do their best to reel it all back in. Try as they might though, it's still noticeable.
Thankfully, once the Volturi arrive and their threat is fully realized, the film makes a fun 180 degree flip. Part 2 is far better at managing its balance of tones (the overly dramatic love story and the goofy thriller) than its predecessors. Not since the first film as there been a better distribution of comedy and overt melodrama. As mentioned earlier, the vampire recruits have delightful personalities that range from the egocentric rocker to the destructive Russian. When the vampires do get to interact with one another, they add some much needed levity. The goofy jokes are back as well, and more than welcome. At one point Bella arm wrestles Emmett (Kellan Lutz) and its one of the funniest scenes in the movie (coupled with bad CGI which really helps in that area). Then there are moments of hilarity which blur the line between intentional and unintentional. When the Volturi and Cullens finally stand off, that scene got laughs in the theater I watched it because they were shown standing stupidly far apart.
The overall tone of the film is also much less melodramatic, and much more adult oriented. It might be the drop of the love triangle from the plot, but everything seemed much larger in scope. There was a believable world established outside of Jacob, Edward, and Bella. While Edward and Bella have their (especially now that Bella cannot die, read into that how you may) tender moments, they aren't the focus anymore. It's now about their entire family and species needing to survive. It's a welcome change of focus that helps make the film a lot better in terms of crafting better stories that allow the characters to think about something other than themselves.
If you've been following the production of Part 2, you already know that the film's ending is vastly different than the book's ending. While I won't give it away here, the changes are substantial enough to greatly improve on the book's notably anti-climactic ending (I will say, however, the film leads to something that actually happens). I would go as far to say that the final twenty minutes are the best collection of actions in the entire franchise. I would like to discuss its implications more, but even that would spoil it. It's just plain wonderful to watch. However, there is somehow finality without finality. It doesn't feel like the end of a franchise. And when the film finally ends, there is a lack of a cohesive conclusion. It really undermines what the previous scenes had accomplished.
While the Twilight Saga has had a spotty performance in the past, Breaking Dawn Part 2 sums up the struggles of the franchise perfectly. It's got plenty of good ideas, but these ideas aren't followed through well enough and dropped in favor of another interaction between the main three. And even though Edward and Bella's romantic entanglement has taken a backseat to something grander in scale, fans of that romance won't be disappointed. It's like the characters are finally growing up as they focus on their child and become parents (also helped that Renesmee is sooo cute).
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be pleasing to the fans of the book and films that might have felt let down before, but they might walk away somehow feeling both satisfied and unsatisfied at the inconclusive finish. As for everyone else, it's a film that's entertainingly goofy, marred by a bunch of bad decisions, and then makes a really good one.