I’ve watched about eight hours of “Twilight” movies in a single week to prepare for this review, and while I’m not ruling out the possibility that I’ve been successfully inducted into this strange, unaccountably popular cult, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2”. It displays a welcome sense of self-aware humor, and it boasts fewer embarrassing moments that make you want to cover your ears and hum really loud.
Multiple filmmakers have tried and failed to breathe life into this series based on Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster vampire romance novels. After stumbling with “Breaking Dawn - Part 1” (the pow-wow of the talking Quileute wolves was the most laughable scene in the entire saga), director Bill Condon has finally managed to pull the sword from the stone. I haven’t read the books, mainly because such esteemed vampire chroniclers as Stephen King and Anne Rice have said Meyer “can’t write worth a darn.” Having researched the way the movie differs from the book, I’d say Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg have outdone Meyer by realizing the full potential of the material.
“Breaking Dawn - Part 1” ended with Bella (Kristen Stewart) having a baby and hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) turning her into a vampire. The new movie begins with Bella discovering what it’s like to be a vampire and learning that bringing a human-vampire hybrid into the world has dire consequences. The filmmakers get a lot of mileage out of these early scenes showing Bella’s surprising strength and agility. Like Ewan McGregor in the “Star Wars” prequels, Stewart has always given me the impression she felt stuck in this role. She all but confirmed this in an interview with “W” magazine: “After [my] final scene, I felt like I could shoot up into the night sky and every pore of my body would shoot light. I felt lighter than I’ve ever felt in my life.” For the first time in this series, Stewart looks like she’s having a good time, and that sense of fun is infectious.
“Breaking Dawn - Part 2” stakes a claim in fanboy territory, making it arguably the only “Twilight” movie that can be enjoyed by both sexes. Edward’s family finds allies who will help defend his and Bella’s baby. The scenes introducing these characters and their various supernatural abilities are straight out of “X-Men”. The final showdown with fantastical creatures facing off on a battlefield looks like the finale of a “Harry Potter” or “Lord of the Rings” movie.
Michael Sheen steals the show with a gleeful performance that’s as over-the-top nutty as Palpatine in “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”. The British actor had previously had very little to do in these movies as head of the Volturi clan besides issue decrees like the vampire pope. Wait until you see him out on the battlefield. Now I understand why Sheen signed onto this series. His high-pitched cackle is the highlight of the “Twilight” adaptations.
This final installment has been sumptuously made, with a lush score by Carter Burwell that gets a little carried away during the final battle and gorgeous cinematography by Guillermo Navarro, who won an Oscar for “Pan’s Labyrinth”. As good as much of “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” is, the movie is no classic. A freaky CGI baby distracts the viewer during pivotal early scenes with Bella and Edward’s infant daughter. Despite the wholesome screen presence of Taylor Lautner, the scenes depicting a romantic connection between the werewolf Jacob Black and the baby fail to avoid a very high ick factor. But, I’m shocked to report, I didn’t roll my eyes once, and I loved the cool twist at the end. There’s a word I thought I’d never use to describe a “Twilight” movie: cool.
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2” will be playing through December 6 at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State Street. Tickets are $6.
Stephen is an AHS graduate who studied film and journalism in college. His reviews have appeared in The University Daily Kansan and at FilmNet.com. His favorite vampire movies include “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi, “Interview with the Vampire” and “Let the Right One In”. He lives in Wichita.