Reporting Eric Henderson
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is a true win-win proposition. On one hand, it ends the series on a clear high note. On the other hand, it ends the series.
As much as I love that a gang of likeminded young individuals calling themselves “Twi-hards” spend much of their free time getting into West Side Story-style dance-offs on behalf of Team Edward (the group that gets weak-kneed over the weak-kneed) and Team Jacob (the gang that thinks pec muscles should account for roughly one-third of their ideal mate’s BMI), the spectacle of their rabid fandom outpaces the actual quality of the films that inspire it tenfold.
A hundred fold.
Folded by as many years as Edward Cullen has been wandering the globe in search of the most wan, most uncharismatic high school girl to call his soulmate in living death.
If Breaking Dawn, Part 2 soars comparatively high above the other films in the series, it’s in no small part due to the fact that Kristen Stewart’s expression-avoidant acting chops finally (finally!) make sense upon Bella Swan’s conversion into a member of the blood-sucking legion, a fact even the filmmakers themselves seem to be aware of. In one unintentionally hilarious scene, Bella, expecting a visit from her father (who remains blissfully unaware of her fate), is instructed on the fine art of acting like a human — slouch, blink at least three times a minute, move your shoulders to simulate breathing. “OK, I’ve got it,” she preemptively insists, more telling than showing.
If Stewart is in constant danger of underplaying a scene, Michael Sheen fills out the vacuum playing Aro, the head vampire in the Volturi clan (a sort of Illuminati by way of Hogwarts). Sheen’s best-in-show preening and sneering goose the series from its adolescent doldrums as the Volturi hungrily investigate claims that Edward and Bella’s child breaks the law of the vamp.
You see, apparently, children born between two blood-suckers have nefarious superpowers that exceed the already formidable collection of “gifts” displayed by the Cullen clan’s motley recruits (such humdrum stuff as astral projection, control over the elements, soothsaying, mind-paralysis, shielding, really almost anything that you could’ve rolled a 20-sided die to accrue during a round of Palladium role-playing). The Volturi don’t realize that Renesmee was born before Bella crossed over to the sparkly side and is thus harmless, but who could blame them for having suspicions. Her eerie, needlessly CGI’ed head (which always seems to be tangentially floating on an axis vaguely related to her spinal column) is nearly as fake as her name.
The long-awaited faceoff between Aro’s Volturi and Edward’s international coalition of the willing brings the series to a reasonably rousing climax, albeit one that (spoiler alert) turns out to be nothing more than a premonition shared between Aro and the Cullen clan’s resident psychic Alice, in one of the more audacious bait-and-switch narrative gambits I’ve ever seen attempted in a mass-market tentpole.
Ultimately, though, it’s fitting that the most exciting thing to happen in the entire series actually doesn’t happen at all. From the very beginning, the abstinence-minded Twilight has been consumed by the great romantic fantasy, and terrified by the prospect of sealing the deal.