November 16, 2012

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part Two

ROMANCE/HORROR:

United States, 2012

U.S. Release Date:

2012-11-16

Running Length:

1:56

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Violence, Sexual Content)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Mackenzie Foy, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning

Director:

Bill Condon

Screenplay:

Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer

Cinematography:

Guillermo Navarro

Music:

Carter Burwell

U.S. Distributor:

Summit Entertainment

Subtitles:

none


I'm of two minds about Breaking Dawn Part 2. Although it includes the most intense sequence in any of the movies, it also features an unforgivable example of motion picture bait-and-switch. It's deflating, a desperate attempt to make the finale of Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga more cinematic while remaining reasonably faithful to the book. What was it someone said about having one's cake and eating it, too?

Gyp: to swindle, cheat, or defraud. That just about covers it.

On the other hand, with Breaking Dawn Part 2, darkness falls on the Twilight series. I'm not a religious man but, Hallelujah! I may not be done with Meyer but at least I'll never again have to cope with the angst, self-absorption, and vampire mythology mutilation that characterized these five movies.

Breaking Dawn Part 2 starts out slowly with a smattering of comedy, proceeds to sputter when it should be picking up steam, provides a rousing 20-minute pseudo-finale, then crashes and burns in unspectacular fashion. The movie ends with a vision of the future that offers a startlingly unambiguous celebration of pedophilia. (How about a guy in his early 20s paired with a seven-year old?) Somehow that one got past the MPAA.

The movie is oddly structured, due in part to its being the second half of a financially motivated bifurcation. From start to finish, Breaking Dawn Part 2 struggles with pacing issues. For nearly an hour, it's lighthearted, with moments of intentional and unintentional comedy (although Condon is savvy enough that even the unintentional instances - such as about half the lines of dialogue - are offered with tongue in cheek). There's a nice little scene where newly minted vampire Bella (Kristen Stewart) kicks the shit out of werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) while hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) watches in amusement. Breaking Dawn Part 2 begins pretty much where Breaking Dawn Part 1 ended, with Bella going through Vampirism 101. Bella's first meal is a mountain lion, because killing an innocent deer might be considered cruel. She learns that vampires have beds even though they don't sleep. And, with Meyer having stripped away all the traditional vampire negatives (like burning up in sunlight), she discovers that the only bad thing about her new lifestyle choice is that she can't be a vegetarian (or, presumably, a member of PETA).

Eventually, the Volturi come calling, led by Michael Sheen's Aro and Dakota Fanning's Jane. Sheen appears to have studied high profile examples of overacting and incorporates a little of everything into his work here. Aro is far too campy to be frightening or intimidating, looking like he stepped out of a Rocky Horror Picture Show revival. Fanning wears equally garish make-up but her dialogue is limited to a single word: "Pain." My two-year old son has a more extensive vocabulary.

All the regulars do their regular things although, in fairness, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner are more comfortable in their roles, if not necessarily better. They needn't start writing their Oscar speeches. Kristen Stewart seems more relaxed as a vampire, although the character still has her share of PMS moments, despite the fact that vampires can't get PMS. All three of the leads take off their shirts at some time during the proceedings. For Jacob, the camera soaks in every detail - it is, after all, a greatly anticipated moment. Stewart and Pattinson get naked for a sex scene but, since the movie is PG-13, the only nipples in view are Pattinson's. Consult On the Road to see Stewart's.

As for the big, climactic battle... taken completely out of context, it's a lot of fun. It's chock full of surprises and visceral moments. Several characters meet grisly ends. There's plenty of wolf-on-vampire action and Dakota Fanning gets to say her single word a couple of times. The conflict is effectively choreographed and directed. Condon's approach is very much of the "kitchen sink" variety. Unfortunately, it's impossible to take this sequence out of context and what it ultimately represents is so dispiriting that it nearly destroys the rest of the movie.

I'll probably never understand the popularity of the Twilight movies. They're haphazardly assembled adaptations of awful books. At one time, films of this sort would have been targeted for direct-to-DVD release. But there's a large, passionate fan base and we have them to thank for five movies that reinforce just about every negative stereotype about today's youth. The best thing I can say about Breaking Dawn Part 2 is that the end credits mean I'll never have to watch a vampire sparkle again.

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