(l to r) Taylor Lautner, Mackenzie Foy, Kristen Stewart

Release date: November 16, 2012
Directed by: Bill Condon
Screenplay by: Melissa Rosenberg
Based on the novel by: Stephenie Meyer
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli,
Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning
Rating: PG-13; Running Time: 115 minutes

Let’s face it: The Twilight Saga has proved itself to be a franchise unlike any other. Consisting of five films from 2008 to 2012, this vampire/wolf/girl love triangle has achieved a level of mediocrity so stunning as to defy credulity. No other series has balanced such impoverished artistry against such abundant profits. Even before the tsunami of cash surges in from the fifth and final installment of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, this halting franchise has been worth its leaden weight in gold, with the first four installments amassing over $1 billion U.S, $2.5 billion worldwide.

Maybe there’s something to sparkly vampire magic after all.

Given that the prior chapter (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I) was all but a tepid placeholder for Part 2, it was hoped that this final foray into the Forks’ fang-tasy would finally make the series proud. But aside from a good vamps vs. bad vamps battle in the second half of the film, there’s very little that will make our collective blood race.

Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters, screenwriter of Chicago) shot the two parts of Breaking Dawn concurrently, with this sequel opening moments after the prior one ended. But not immediately … Bella (Kristen Stewart) needs to rise from her sweat-soaked birthing bed and don a chic, cobalt blue cocktail dress. Because when a new mom is about to run full tilt into the forest, clawing up the face of sheer mountainous rock in pursuit of living flesh in order to sate her unaccustomed vampiric hunger, nothing says dress for success like elegant after-5 attire.

It’s only after she’s had a bite of lunch that Bella and her beloved husband Edward (a wan Robert Pattinson) check in on their baby daughter Renesmee. Though the child’s barely born, she’s experiencing a heck of a growth spurt, already looking as if she’s at least a year old. Which begs an obvious question: if Volturi chieftain Aro (Michael Sheen) is that dismayed over the idea that Edward and Bella spawned a child vampire – such birth considered immortal and forbidden under Volturi law — why not hide Renesmee for a year or two? Given her shocking rate of growth (noted but not explained), she won’t be a kid for long, stepping out to the prom with Taylor Lautner’s Jacob in no time.

(As Part I depicted, Jacob immediately imprinted on Renesmee. The moony love triangle that drove the prior four films is no longer an all-consuming plot point and soon, very soon, Jacob and Renesmee will be quite the hot couple. But she has to be potty trained first.)

So what story remains to be told? Other than those evil Volturians looking to wipe out the Cullens over their erroneous conclusion that the baby is bad news, it seems that’s all there is. Hence the problem: The decision to divide Stephenie Meyer’s fourth book into two full-length features creates a double dip of the lifeless. The first part gave us an achingly dull, overlong wedding and a troubled pregnancy; the second presents us with one whopping battle (think Bram Stoker meets Braveheart). While this two-part model was previously employed to great success with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling’s eighth novel was sprawling and multi-faceted, teeming with idiosyncratic characters and multiple subplots. Not so much with Ms. Meyer’s work. Here, no one profits but the box office, assuredly the hungriest vampire of them all.

Which leaves us to suffer through such deadly scenes as Bella arm-wrestling with an in-law, or punching Jacob in the stomach, or learning how to create a shield to protect her family. Watching blood dry may offer more riveting entertainment. When Edward sits down to plunk at the piano, with the Cullens all gathered ’round to admire his slight skill, it’s hard not to scream at the screen, “Don’t you people have anything better to do? Doesn’t anyone have a job?”

It was a hope, foolish perhaps, that Ms. Stewart would finally come into her own as Bella the Vampire — strong, fierce, wildly in love with her husband and her child. But no. Stewart is as vapid as always, her face frozen, her delivery a monotone, her every smile a grimace. Meanwhile, Pattinson’s Edward is all but dismissed, relegated to join the rest of his Cullen brethren as mere set décor. Lautner, however, delivers some viable comedy, particularly in his one silly scene with Bella’s dad (Billy Burke). Sparks like these are few and far between; embrace them as they skitter quickly across the screen.

And where was veteran director Condon amid all this anemia? When characters aren’t idly standing around, they’re delivering lines with faux solemnity, as if every word holds unimaginable weight (i.e., “The. Snow. Is. Sticking.” Or, “At. What. Cost?”). The frequent use of voiceover is theatrically lazy … sorry, but were there budgetary issues? While the principals often appear to be mired in some sort of invasive gelatin, we get the over-the top Sheen, seemingly air-lifted from some comedy of manners by the likes of Molière. If only Sheen could take his show on the road with the out-of-place duo of Stefan and Vladimir, the Hans and Franz of the Underworld. Undead? These three? Not on your life.

The inexplicable success of this franchise aside, here’s hoping that Hollywood is paying attention to the lusty desires of adolescent, primarily female filmgoers. But here’s also hoping that the industry might treat this audience with some respect, giving them some, um, vessel of note. More Hunger Games and Harry Potters in the future, please. And less bloody messes like this.
Rating on a scale of 5 stake outs: 2 


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