[The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Directed by Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner
MPAA: PG-13 – For Sequences of Violence Including Disturbing Images, Some Sensuality and Partial Nudity]
I’ve pretty much disliked every single Twilight movie up to this point. The first movie was bad, but at least kinda knew that and attempted to be somewhat enjoyable. Both New Moon and Eclipse, on the other hand, took themselves so seriously that it was almost vomit-inducing. The fourth movie, and the first part of the divided Breaking Dawn finale, brought back some of the ridiculousness, but there still wasn’t enough to truly get me to enjoy myself.
Well, the final installment is now out and I sit here a changed man. Breaking Dawn Part 2 is still as blisteringly awful as the previous films, but this time, director Bill Condon has fully embraced how completely batshit the source material is and made one of the most insane, ridiculous films of the year. In short: This movie is so satisfying for all the wrong reasons. A turgid, moronic, yet absolutely glorious disasterpiece that brings this saga to a maniacal close.
To those of you who aren’t keeping track, Breaking Dawn Part 1 ended with Bella resorting to vampirism so that she wouldn’t die of giving birth to a half-human, half-vampire baby. Breaking Dawn Part 2 pretty much begins where that installment left off. Bella is now a newborn vampire, her child Renesmee (Still a dumb name) is growing at an increased rate–Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack style–, and Jacob Black has imprinted the child so he could be her protector (And something about falling in love with it, but please don’t question it, there’s enough creepiness in that plot-point as it is). Though things should seem dandy, the blood hits the fan when Bella and Edward are accused of bearing an “immortal child” (Which is totally different, and too complicated to explain in this review). They, Jacob, his pack, and the rest of the Cullens decide to recruit a team of vampires across the globe X-Men style to defend the child, clear their names, and live happily forever after.
You see, the thing with the fourth book was that it dealt more with the genre-heavy mythology stuff in place of the romance angle, alienating some of the core audience of teenage girls. This is definitely the case in the film adaptation. When I said they were recruiting vampires X-Men style, I meant it literally. Each vampire has their own special “power” outside of their usual blood-sucking and super-speed. Because of this, you see vampires reading minds like Professor X, using their hands as tasers like Storm, summoning shadow clouds, creating force fields, hell, one of them is said to be a “master of the elements” exactly in the vein of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
All of these factors lead up to a climax that is, in all seriousness, extremely satisfying in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. The final action sequence is surprisingly well-shot and choreographed, and there’s so much insanity flying around everywhere all throughout it that I was genuinely in awe of what I was watching, whether it was because it was ridiculously stupid or genuinely badass. Plus, it’s surprisingly gory. This is perhaps one of the most gruesome PG-13 films I’ve ever laid my eyes on. I won’t spoil how they inventively incorporate this, but let me just reiterate that the only way vampires can be killed in this world is by beheading them and setting them on fire.
So yeah, I both ironically and unironically enjoyed myself throughout the climax of the film, and it’s so stunningly insane that I’d almost say that it’s worth the price of admission. That being said, the film still has a slew of problems.
Because they’ve divided this portion into two parts, there’s some very clear padding that is meant solely to appease the fangirls who will castrate the filmmakers if they so much as change a single factor from the novels. So while you still get some enjoyably ridiculous stuff like I previously mentioned, it’s all sandwiched between extended scenes of exposition, more of Edward and Bella staring at each other, and countless moments of recruiting numerous different vampires and training them for the upcoming conflict.
Plus, the way this movie is structured is incredibly unnatural. Much like the previous films, none of the events lead into one another in an organic fashion. It feels very much like each of the sequences in this film were done in a checklist sort of way, ticking off moments of the book so the fanbase could remain invested in the experience with their jimmies unrustled, whilst biding their time until the real event: The aforementioned climax.
However, there’s a clear sense that Bill Condon is fully aware of how, to put it bluntly, blisteringly stupid the source material he’s working with is. For example, there’s a scene in which Taylor Lautner literally strips in front of Bella’s father (The talented Billy Burke), and it doesn’t feel unintentionally funny in the slightest. The filmmakers are aware of how such a scene looks, and because of it, are able to get genuine laughs out of the people who have been dragged to see it, while also providing fan-service for the ones that are genuinely into the series.
In fact, that’s the best compliment I can say about this film’s approach. Because it embraces the insane stupidity of it all, people who wouldn’t normally be into the series will enjoy themselves all throughout the film. However, the fanbase will still enjoy it because they’re into all of the ridiculous aspects already.
This reaches its absolute apex when we get to the end of the climax, and the filmmakers decide to end it with the biggest cop-out ending ever. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say that if screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg submitted that script with that specific moment to a screenwriting professor, she’d get a big fat F- immediately. It’s so appallingly bad, and such an affront on the basic rules of storytelling, and yet the audience totally ate it up. I can see why they embraced such a twist, because it ensures that the franchise ends on a happy note, but that doesn’t excuse absolutely awful storytelling. And yet, as awful as this twist was, I loved it too. It was so surprising, so completely unexpected, that everyone in my theater just gasped either in shock, relief, or in absolute rage. I hate to steal a phrase from critic Bob Chipman, but it really was only fitting that the one good thing about this series, its climax, would be ruined by such a twist, and it brought the movie to The Room levels of horrendous enjoyment.
If this review sounds like a fully ringing endorsement, keep in mind that I still think this is an awful film. But it’s an awfully fun film. The acting is still stilted (Save for a hilariously scenery-chewing Michael Sheen), the story is as appallingly inept as ever, the characters remain more one-dimensional than a picture of a cardboard drawn on a piece of cardboard, the mythology stuff is ridiculously convoluted….and the entire thing is just as masterpiece of wonderfully misguided filmmaking.
Final Verdict: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is bizarre, brainless, indulgent…and one of the most fun movies of the year, whether it be intentional or not. With a climax that’s genuinely well-executed, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, and some screenwriting so bad it has to be seen to be believed, this is a disaster that is well-worth seeing for those into pointing and laughing at the screen.
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See ya next time! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to drink human blood off of a Styrofoam cup. Bye!