Four years worth of watching Twilight movies has trained me to seek out a didactic message in accordance with the Mormon beliefs of Stephenie Meyer, author of the original novels. The first three films served as long-winded metaphors for abstinence, while the fourth film dramatized the debate over abortion. Entering Bill Condon’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, I was primed for another divisive sermon. Leaving, I was greatly surprised by the fact that none was delivered. None, at least, substantial enough to make note of, and certainly none of an overtly religious nature. This is actually a great relief, because frankly, I was really getting tired of being preached to. I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it yet again.
Adapted from the second half of Meyer’s novel Breaking Dawn, this fifth and final installment earns a place on the same shelf as the third chapter, Eclipse, as the least unentertaining. Instead of a veiled religious commentary, we have nothing more or less than a lightweight, soppy, and basically harmless supernatural tween romance. I’m not recommending it – in all honesty, I don’t think it would have been possible to convert me at this stage of the game – although I recognize that more of an effort was made this time around, and for that, I give the filmmakers credit. It will undoubtedly appeal far more to those intimately familiar with the novels than to general audiences, but I guess that’s to be expected.
When we last left Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), she had married the love of her life, the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), became pregnant, and nearly died as the result of the baby’s advanced gestation rate and a difficult birth. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 ended with Edward transforming her into a vampire, which was the only way to bring her back from the brink. And so Breaking Dawn – Part 2 begins with Bella quickly adapting to soulless immortality and the physical perks, including herculean strength, boundless energy, super speed, and an increased awareness of sounds and smells. There’s no longer any need for her to sleep or even breathe, which should prove invaluable when it comes to her sex life. Edward, who has been taught to not feed on human blood, is amazed at the restraint she exhibits when in the presence of a mountain climber. She’s also surprisingly expert at hunting animals.
Her daughter, Renesmee, grows alarmingly fast. Within a matter of weeks, she resembles a girl around the same age as the young actress who plays her, Mackenzie Foy, who was eleven at the time of principal photography. All vampires develop some kind of special power; Renesmee can make others aware of her thoughts and feelings not by speaking, but by putting her hand on their faces. She can also jump high into the air, as seen when she collects snowflakes in midair. When noticed by a vampire named Irina (Maggie Grace), Renesmee is mistaken as an immortal child, or a child that has been transformed into a vampire. This is forbidden under vampire law, as children are unable to control their physical and mental urges. For the good of vampires and humans alike, all immortal children have to be destroyed; we see a disturbing example of this in a sequence that flashes back centuries.
Irina brings news of Renesmee to the wicked vampire Aro (Michael Sheen), who plots his evil schemes in Italy as the leader of a coven called the Volturi. When Edward’s clan sister, Alice (Ashley Greene), learns of Aro’s impending attack through a psychic vision, the Cullens orchestrate a gathering of vampire clans from around the world, who will stand as witnesses and prove that Renesmee isn’t an immortal child. If they can get the Volturi to listen, then perhaps an all-out battle can be avoided. But if fighting is what it comes to, the visiting clans will stand by the Cullens. So too will their sworn enemies, the werewolves. This would include Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who formed a special bond with Renesmee not long after she was born. The mental and physical specifics of this bond aren’t adequately explained, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
Does it in fact come to fighting? The ads have shown Bella and Edward running in slow motion towards members of the Volturi in a snowy field, but you shouldn’t let that influence where you think that particular scene is going to go. All the scenes after that, however, give audiences, even those not personally vested in either the book or movie series, exactly what they’ve come to expect. Such is the way of teen fantasies like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. This final installment isn’t as insufferable as most of its predecessors, and while that isn’t much of a compliment, it’s the best I can do. The simple fact is, it will be appreciated only by the Twihards, who are personally vested in both the book and movie series.
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