REVIEW: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2’ (2012)

Grade: B

Twilight is the kind of franchise that became too big a phenomenon for its own good. Keep in mind, it’s not without company in that department. It’s easy to skewer the franchise followings that erupted around fantasy novels such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, for simply that such devout praise came often at the price of overlooking narrative inconsistencies. Same goes for their respective film adaptations, which have all become box office triumphs on the will of their core fanbases alone. Other fantasy series’ didn’t take off at all, The Golden Compass and Eragon striking out due to wayside fanbases not entirely sold on the adaptations, not to mention *shudder* diverting from the narrative of the books. The reason The Twilight Saga survived, and also the reason it’s easiest to attack, is because of how damn ridiculous it is.

I mean, here is a serial about sparkly vampires, shirtless native American werewolves, and they’re all obsessing over a girl with major insecurities, both emotional and physical. That’s kind of the ideal for most young teenage girls, and not for any cruelly manipulative reason. Is it ridiculous to want a life more than ordinary, or to have the man of your dreams come wrapped along with it? I suppose it’s not realistic, but four years later down the line, did you really expect that to change? We’ve been going through the rounds on these films for quite some time, each year recycling the same obvious jabs at a franchise that doesn’t honestly care how foolish we think it is. At a certain point it just becomes exhausting to hold up the hate rather than to judge a film on its own terms, which are emphatically entertaining for once.

If you weren’t in the loop for Breaking Dawn Part 1, which I regrettably avoided missed out on, it’s no massive hurdle to catch up with the action on this one. Bella is now a vampire, ridding her of all those nervous ticks and allowing her a happy new existence with hubbie Edward, along with their newborn baby girl Renesmee. It’s the happy ending Bella had always wished for to her story, with more than a few reservations. As their girl’s rampant growth threatens to cut off the family’s happiness all too soon, a misunderstanding leads the vampire authorities, an Italian sect called the Volturi, to prepare a biased slaughtering against the Cullens. More desperate than ever, the family scours the globe for vampire witnesses to call to their aid, and to fight if need be.

If all that leads you into Breaking Dawn Part 2 finally expecting a festival of vampire carnage, you’re still heading in the wrong direction. Twilight remains the fantasy equivalent of a Nicholas Sparks melodrama, which have thankfully protected it from broad criticism for the past four years. Though Bella and Edward’s love may not exactly be the romance of the century, there’s an endearing dopiness to the couple that shields them from being labeled pretentious. Suddenly they don’t seem like the glowing ideal of the modern relationship, but just two people who are looking for some peace from the horrors they’ve suffered to get there. But don’t let me oversell the pair, as they’re still the kind of people who would say “We’re the same temperature now” as a swoon-worthy gesture. This is also the same world where Taylor Lautner’s Jacob has unwittingly fallen in love with their daughter, which is about as counter-intuitively arousing as it is sickeningly creepy. If only David Cronenberg were attached to this film (Breaking Dawn Part 3?).

All the inherent absurdity of past entries remains present, and almost constantly deserving of giggles. Taylor Lautner’s werewolf boy-man Jacob’s impromptu strip-tease towards a reluctantly awkward Billy Burke’s Charlie Swan (Bella’s dad) is perhaps the most welcome comedic detour of the intentionally unintentional farce. That self-deprecating humour is one of the playful flourishes director Bill Condon has wisely added in his tenure with the franchise, all but throwing serious minded notions to the wind in favor of fashion model glitz. Condon and series regular cinematographer Guillermo Navarro capture the sparkly prettiness and sexed-up carnality of a perfume commercial, not to be confused as a criticism. I call Brad Pitt as witness. From the very first moments of the film, the sweeping scenic opening credits and the diamond definition of Bella’s newfound vampire vision set a precedent of visual astonishment.

Though the entire franchise is an unfairly maligned thing, the final installment is especially unworthy of reproach given the effort put in to make it more than usual. The biggest creative liberty the film takes is in its dazzling action finale, making good on the promise of bringing our protagonists unnervingly close to the brink of hell, as well as giving devout fans in the audience a collective heart attack. Though there’s a late-game reversal which makes it all too easy to criticize for being fake, it gives a triumphant final huzzah to a series that rarely bares its teeth, no thanks to Stephanie Meyer’s all too precious attachment to her characters in the books. Though many of the characters are admittedly disposable, there’s still a shock to seeing series regulars being unexpectedly beheaded, and it sticks even after the book preserving deus ex machina takes place.

What gives me reason to accept Breaking Dawn Part 2 is its unenviable belief that love conquers all. Such ideals are reinforced not only by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s admittedly sweet moments together in their earthy grown cottage, but by a smaller passion that blooms through Lee Pace’s rugged hard-core vampire Garrett (an excellent cameo). Michael Sheen too has a giddy fascination with just about everything, from love to children to massive death. Tying it all together is Carter Burwell’s loving piano melody that’s stuck with the franchise from the very first installment. You can easily look past all these lovely and enjoyable additions and see only the stupidity of story, and there’s little stopping those who do. Twilight is over, and now’s the time to make your peace with it, good or bad, and move on. For my part, I can’t accept getting fussy over a film I had an unapologetically good time with.

Bottom Line: Whether you go of your own accord or your girlfriend’s, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a gleeful, perfume-pretty finish to the often flimsy Twilight Saga.

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