Finally — finally! — the Twilight franchise embraces its own innate absurdity with the gleefully over-the-top conclusion, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2.
This is by far the best film in the series. This does not necessarily mean it’s good. But as it reaches its prolonged and wildly violent crescendo, it’s at least entertaining in a totally nutso way.
The first four adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s mega-best sellers about the girl-vampire-werewolf love triangle (the final book was divided into two films for maximum box-office benefit) were, for the most part, laughably self-serious affairs full of mopey teen angst, stilted dialogue and cheesy special effects.
Now, Bill Condon (who also directed last year’s Breaking Dawn — Part 1) finally lets his freak flag fly. Here is the Condon of Gods and Monsters, the one who loves lurid horror. Here is the Condon of Dreamgirls, the one with an eye for panache. His final Twilight movie dares to have a little fun — it actually makes you laugh intentionally for once, teetering on self-parody as it does.
There have been teasers about a bold plot twist — and we wouldn’t dream of spoiling it here — but Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg have taken a big risk in deviating from the book, and it pays off big-time from a narrative perspective. It’s kind of amazing that this thing got a PG-13 rating.
First, though, Breaking Dawn — Part 2 must pick up where part one ended.
No longer torn between two amorous, animalistic suitors, Bella (Kristen Stewart) has married vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), produced his hybrid spawn and been turned into one of the undead herself to avoid actual death during childbirth. Now she gets to enjoy all the perks of living forever — unstoppable strength and speed, the thrill of hunting for fresh blood and a seemingly unlimited sex drive.
And Stewart seems to be enjoying herself for the first time, too. She’s done away with the sulking and lip-biting and thrives within her newfound ferocious femininity. The swoony Edward almost feels like an afterthought here: This is Bella’s time to sparkle.
Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the childhood friend and werewolf who was competing for her affections in small-town Forks, Wash., is still around and he’s assumed a new role: He has “imprinted” on Bella’s newborn daughter, the hideously named Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), which makes him her protector and lover for life. Yes, this is creepy, but at least the film acknowledges as much.
But the arrival of this beautiful child draws the suspicion and ire of the Volturi, the vampire elite living in Italy who view this half-human, half-vampire as a threat. The bloodsucking Cullen clan and Jacob and his wolfy buddies must band together to prevent an attack, and to prove that the girl’s rare existence should be treasured.
The gifted and versatile Michael Sheen unleashes the wonderfully weird performance we always knew was in him as Aro, the sinister leader of the Volturi. Meanwhile, Dakota Fanning as the powerful Volturi guard Jane maybe says one word during the entire movie, instead letting her intense, red eyes speak for her.
It’s a massive cast that feels even larger during the closing credits. It’s a strangely melancholy send-off. Just as the Twilight series improves, it’s going away.
The Twilight Saga:
Breaking Dawn — Part 2
Rated PG-13, 115 minutes. Opens Friday.