There’s a point in Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 where the Cullen in-laws are instructing vampire “newborn” Bella (Kristen Stewart), in the art of passing herself off as human. “Humans don’t sit up that straight,” and so on. Bella’s irritated response is, “I got it. Move around. Blink. Slouch,” inadvertently summarizing the entirety of what has been Stewart’s acting repertoire for all five installments of The Twilight Saga, which is now drawing to a close.
Because whether you’re Team Edward (Robert Pattinson, vampire), Team Jacob (Taylor Lautner, wolf), or Team One-More-EntertainmentWeekly-Cover-and-I’ll-Open-a-Vein, Stewart is, and always has been the weak link in this self-sustaining, self-perpetuating box office juggernaut. So what? No one involved in this five-year odyssey is in it for Awards Season. Twilight doesn’t care what team you’re on. It doesn’t need the critics; it doesn’t need cineastes, or the Weinsteins. It’s an independent nation of millions — screw with them and they’ll take all the screens at your little multiplex, and you’ll just have to wait for the likes of Lincoln on Blu Ray. They’re taking out Bond, and they’re coming for Spielberg.
For the uninitiated (who will not be seeing this movie), Breaking Dawn 2 is the last of a couplet that concludes the five-part Twilight Saga movie series, based on Stephanie Meyer’s teen vampire romance novels — Twilight (2008); The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009); The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; and the final couplet, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, I and II. Last year’s Breaking Dawn 1 kicked off with the wedding and honeymoon of Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson). It followed Bella’s “difficult” Rosemary’s Baby-esque pregnancy (carrying a half-vampire baby brought a few unexpected health risks), and ended with the labor and delivery of their spawn, Renesmee, followed by Edward “turning” Bella into a vampire, and Jacob (Lautner) “imprinting” on the infant (in much the same way dogs will imprint on a lambswool chew toy as a suitable litter mate, or a missing parent).
Filmed at the same time as the first half of the couplet, Breaking Dawn 2 picks up where the first left off, with dreamy close-ups of Robert Pattinson’s implausibly long eyelashes. Bella has to be introduced to her new life as a vampire, her new powers, and to her new (impossibly creepy) CGI/animatronic baby. There is some faux friction when she attacks Jacob for imprinting on her daughter, but he gives the couple his blessing, “you guys really do look great together.” (Isn’t that what Jon Cryer as Duckie said to Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy at the end of Pretty in Pink?)
Of his special relationship to Renesmee, Jake eventually tells the couple, “it all makes sense now… all of it,” referencing the Team Edward vs Team Jacob series-long battle, gesturing (possibly to the Blu Ray collection off camera) in a way that suggests he might be trying to convince himself as much as the fans.
Shimmery wedded bliss, newlywed sex, and arm-wrestling with the in-laws follow briefly. And then Cousin Irina shows up (Maggie Grace, from Taken 1 and 2), gets a look at Renesmee, and hightails it off to the Volturi (a kind of vampire Vatican) to tell them laws have been broken — that the Cullens are harboring an “immortal child.” This is followed by montages illustrating why vampire kids are a bad idea (they can’t be controlled, etc). Volturi gal Dakota Fanning tosses babies’ heads on bonfires — that kind of thing.
The Cullens could, of course, just tell the Volturi that Renesmee is a hybrid, not an immortal…but that would make for a very short movie. Instead, they travel the world assembling “witnesses” who will testify on their behalf. Along the way, every possible ethnic and international stereotype is trotted out (“no one does rebellion like the Irish!”). Then each witness gets an unreasonable amount of screen time to develop relationships and introduce a super-power for the inevitable spinoffs that will follow the end of the Twilight series (“Benjamin can influence the elements!”)
The most overtly hilarious witnesses are the duo from Transylvania, one of whom delivers the anti-discrimination moral of the series, in a heavy Count Chocula accent, “In such perilous times, only the known is safe. Only the known is tolerable.”
Even though this witness-recruitment part of the saga drags on far, far too long, the movie winds down to an incredibly satisfying and cleverly staged epic battle. Does it qualify as a twist? Does it betray the book? No. It just stages it a little differently.
From there, director Bill Condon obviously realizes his obligation to the Twi-Hards and gives the fans what they want. When Bella takes Edward’s hand and says, “I want to show you something,” of course it’s going to be a montage intercut with the flipping of book pages (Stephanie Meyer is a producer) that gives their five-movie romantic odyssey a fitting send-off (followed by end credits that give each player in the entire series a moment of acknowledgment).
Despite the ridiculous effects that came to (at times) dominate the five-part series (CGI wolves and animatronic babies), it wraps up like it all began — as a somewhat mystical take on teen romance that always tried to be more John Hughes than Ann Rice.
May it rest in peace and on Blu-Ray, free of spin-offs and third-rate sequels and prequels starring peripheral characters, crassly manufactured for no other reason than to relieve tweens of their babysitting earnings.