By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen and Billy Burke
Back in 1984, a film called A Nightmare on Elm Street was released from a small fledgling studio named New Line Cinema. A studio that, 9 films and $455 million later, would come to be known as ‘the house that Freddy built.’ Twenty-four years later in 2008, another studio called Summit Entertainment, one that hadn’t established itself as much more than a studio that produced things like Christopher Nolan’s early work and flops like P2, came out with Twilight. Before pop culture knew it, the same exact things started happening for Summit Entertainment. However, instead of a teen killing razor fingered villain sparking the cash flow, it was questions asked between mothers and daughters about whether they were Team Edward or Team Jacob. The films that followed engulfed a saga that would unravel at a snail’s pace until Breaking Dawn Part 2, the unnecessarily second part of the final chapter written by people who are obviously not after critics’ applause as much as wanting to lazily write dumb scenes and scenarios that do little to tell a narrative story. Of course, all of these factors undoubtedly will not deter the series’ fans. And, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a movie that has a first hour containing nothing but exposition and scenes of characters standing around more than doing anything of note, contains wooden acting by performers that I enjoy in other cinematic works as well as a surprisingly sub-par set of special effects that look like they were paid for by a still fledgling studio. In short, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is without a doubt a closing chapter that will please devotees of the series, but little else to appease its well-deserved reputation of softball tossing its narrative. The end result felt like laying my head on a pillow case full of rocks. And at times its unfolding scenes felt just as awkward.
Throughout the course of Breaking Dawn Part 2, I wondered just how we went from the story of a high school crush with supernatural elements to Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) holding a CGI baby named Renesmee (more on that abomination later). And, even though I was not going to go back and watch all four previous films again, I was curious to see how this saga would end. As always, the majority of people onscreen look bored to be there. Lautner, who throughout the entire series is either smiling ear to ear or scowling (never in-between) is given little to do here other than get beat up by Bella, get naked in front of her dad, and smile. Stewart, who has a well-known (and well-deserved) reputation for coming off as wooden and vapid in the four previous films, proves to be either indifferent nor better in the fifth. Fanning, like many characters here, does little more than walk around and stare with her red eyes. And, while I am sure she enjoyed the paychecks the series brought in, I would imagine that she probably cheered the most when ‘cut’ was yelled the final time so that she could move on to the challenging roles she is known for. Believe it or not, there were two performances in Breaking Dawn Part 2 that did manage to impress me. Of the three main performers, I sensed that Pattinson seemed the most relaxed. And, as a result, came off pretty well. Instead of walking through doors in slow motion and looking dour, he manages a smile or two, maybe thinking about the prospect of never playing Edward again. However, when someone thinks of smiling during this film, you would be hard pressed to not think about Sheen. The guy commands the screen every single time he’s on it, and is the only player in the cast that dared to do things that were different, as the shrieking cackle he lets out when he first sees Renesmee (the child of Bella and Edward) put me in mind of how much James Hong got into his role of David Lopan in Big Trouble in Little China. It was fun and daring, two things the majority of these poorly written and developed characters are not.
I do not want to make it out as if the film did not have its good points. Like I described in my review of Breaking Dawn Part 1, Bill Condon is a director whose resume I admire greatly. And, I felt he was held as slightly reserved in the last film, but did some things in its follow-up that showed just how good he can be. I liked how he handled the mood of the Volturi’s back story, as it had a great dreary feeling that built suspense pretty well. And, there is closure with Bella’s dad (Burke) that made for perhaps the best 6-7 minutes in the film. I have always said that I liked this father/daughter relationship and how it was handled in the first film. Yet, it has seemed to be more and more forgotten as the series went on. So, it was nice to see the relationship closed here. Condon immensely choreographs the film’s love scene, and also does a great job of building the suspense of what’s to come later. Many characters walk toward Edward and Bella during the minutes before the film’s final battle, and Condon makes sure to amplify the sound of snow being walked on to construct the foundation of mood and anticipation.
However, even Condon can’t save the once again ridiculously wooden dialogue that the series has perfected (‘You nicknamed our baby after the Loch Ness Monster?!’), as well as the tired when it was new formula of montages and pop songs every ten minutes. To add onto the pain, even after four films that have grossed over $2.5 billion, it seems that Summit still does not want to shell out for better effects. The wolves still look bad, and this time there’s a CGI-created baby that looked five times worse than the Brad Pitt baby from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film that came out four years ago. There were even more laughable effects that involve Bella running through the forest and climbing walls like Spider-Man. Finally, as a series of films that is not known for its sly writing, Melissa Rosenberg (who has scripted all five films) writes a ‘Fooled You!’ moment that is perhaps the worst way of insulting an audience I have ever seen portrayed onscreen.
There is one point in Breaking Dawn Part 2 that a character utters the phrase ‘it is painful, yet bearable.’ I agree with this expression when it comes to the first film. But, as the series went on, it got more and more on the ‘painful’ side. The series reeked of making it up as they went along, and I’m sure that I am not the only critic to say that I am not going to miss it. The vapid heroine. The terrible CGI. The head turning plot twists (wait until you hear Jacob’s relation to Renesmee in this one). I have watched all five films for the site, and, with the exception of the first one, have seen no redeemable qualities about any of them. All of what you are used to is here. And, if you have liked the tired build-up to this chapter, then the pay-off will please you just as much. Me? No thank you. But, you can’t say I didn’t Twi.
2 out of 5