Kristen Stewart leaping into the air and tearing out the throat of a mountain lion with her teeth. Yelling “You nicknamed my daughter after THE LOCH NESS MONSTER?” at Taylor Lautner. Dakota Fanning casually tossing a small child onto a bonfire. The gay panic that ensues when Jacob strips down in front of Bella’s dad before showing off his wolf transformation. The fact that one of the vampires’ powers is an evil “paralyzing vapor” (bonus points for it being Cameron Bright, the weird kid from movies like Godsend and Ultraviolet, now a creepy teen). The way vampires casually twist each others’ heads off in battle like they’re all Worzel Gummidge (congratulate yourself if you catch that reference). Bella and Edward zooming through the forest at a breakneck pace like speeder bikes through Endor. Michael Sheen’s insane giggle. These are some of the moments in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 that caused me to crack a smile, at the very least. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but director Bill Condon is the only helmer in the franchise’s history to understand that you can make a decent barbecue sandwich with any cut of pig, provided you overcook it and add enough Cheez Whiz.
Treating the material with all the seriousness it deserves, which is to say absolutely none, Condon already elevated Part 1 to the minor camp that was a significant improvement over all prior attempts to be deathly earnest about sparkling vampires with multiple-choice vampire superpowers. Honestly, if Stephenie Meyer had simply called them mutants or aliens instead, there’d be less fuss – the blood drinking is barely relevant, and the sheer number of characters with different abilities who show up for the grand finale make this feel like a dumber version of an X-Men sequel. At least when we men alter vampire stories that extensively in the other direction, removing the romance and keeping only the biting and undead ugliness, we have the decency to call them something different… you know, zombies.
“I still hate surprises – that hasn’t changed!” exclaims Bella (Stewart) shortly before being given a fully loaded house totally free, and demonstrating exactly why the fan base relates – they, too, appear to love the predictable. And I mean that literally, as early on in the story, we get a genuine psychic prediction that the dictatorial Volturi are on their way to make trouble for Bella, Edward and baby Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy and some digital effects), and then spend the rest of the movie waiting around for that inevitable event to happen. In the meantime, our heroes… wait for it… recruit witnesses. That’s right: basically the entire plot of the movie is the equivalent of serving subpoenas, all around the world, as needlessly narrated in voice-over by Bella. Bring on the drunk Irish vampires, the New Orleans Anne Rice wannabe rock star vampires, the Amazon-dwelling vampires (always accompanied by tribal drumming on the soundtrack, natch), the stereotypical Eastern European vampires, the Egyptian weather-controlling vampires (ever think about giving that desert a little more rain, fellas?), the crazy Alaskan vampires (insert former V.P. candidate joke there if you so choose), and more.
Oh, but don’t worry – there’s time for Bella and Edward to have PG-13 sex. The bed gets off a lot easier than before. There’s a lot of time, actually, and all the better to hear the multiple terrible romantic pop songs crammed on the soundtrack in order to sell CDs. Plus there’s a moment that feels like a massive in-joke for K-Stew haters, in which the newly vampirized Bella has to be taught how to act like a real human being.
And let us not forget the super-creepy Jacob-Renesmee relationship, in which, having “imprinted,” the ab-licious young man is now destined to go from being the infant child’s bodyguard/babysitter to her lover when she reaches the ripe old accelerated-maturity age of… seven. C’mon, Stephenie Meyer, it never occurred to you that this was just the least bit creepy? As is Jacob’s excuse that he can’t help how he is, something pedophiles also say? Have to admit, in an age of Hollywood unoriginality, I’ve never before seen an onscreen love triangle conclude by having one of the participants say he was never really in love with the girl anyway – it was in fact an attraction to her unborn daughter that hadn’t even been conceived yet! So props for that, maybe? Ick. Not that Edward can really morally object to this path for his child; he is, after all, a hundred-plus year-old dude who knocked up a high-school chick.
To Condon’s credit, he concludes things with a bang, turning what might have felt like a cheat in another movie into a way to give fans a cinematically satisfying conclusion while honoring Meyer’s anticlimactic fizzle at the same time. Whether you love the series or hate it, the battle sequence that the posters allude to is one at least worth a watch on cable someday, as well as the most male-friendly moment of the whole shebang. All I’ll offer in terms of detail is this: Edward and Bella finally bring it like the pro-wrestling tag team they were meant to be, with double-finishers worthy of the Hart Foundation, or perhaps more fittingly the Rock and Sock Connection. Just one question: how did all those Volturi get from Italy to the Pacific Northwest in their giant vampire robes without arousing suspicion? Did they just take one large flying leap right over the Atlantic (which would be as plausible as anything else in this universe)? Take a private jet? Given how long it takes them to show up, perhaps they were on a boat.
There seems to have been an overall lowering of critical standards when it comes to Twilight, one that perhaps I’ve fallen into – after hating the first one, I do try to give credit where it’s due, but let’s get real: you could shoot two straight hours of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner breaking wind, call it Twilight, and fans would still love it. So there’s no need to tailor a review to the base unless you’re going to gush, and maybe you’ve guessed by now that I’m not. The bottom line is that it isn’t a very good movie, but there is plenty of fun to be had with it: some laughs are intentional, others not, and different audience members may find different reasons to cheer for certain characters to get their comeuppances. I know this movie wasn’t made for me; if you’re not a hardcore fan, it probably wasn’t made for you either.
Unless you’re a stoner. Because in that case, I suspect it totally was.
And now it’s over. Here’s hoping the next big thing is more fun.
Just so you know, my very brief takes on the others in the series for comparison:
Twilight: Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.
New Moon: Not too bad once you accept the absurd premise. More cinematically thought-out than I expected. Also has the best “sparkly vampire” effects, by a freakin’ longshot.
Eclipse: Crap. Wants to be two different movies; succeeds at neither. Decent tries at comedic banter.
Breaking Dawn Part 1: Corpse cake, Bride of Frankenstein flashback, talking wolves, Edward’s housekeeper, bloody birth – I genuinely liked it. Still the best of the bunch.