The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Cast:
Kristen Stewart as Bella Cullen
Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen
Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black
Mackenzie Foy as Renesmee Cullen
Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen
Maggie Grace as Irina
Jamie Campbell Bower as Caius
Michael Sheen as Aro
Nikki Reed as Rosalie Hale
Kellan Lutz as Emmett Cullen
Dakota Fanning as Jane
Jackson Rathbone as Jasper Hale
Christopher Heyerdahl as Marcus
Peter Facinelli as Carlisle Cullen
Billy Burke as Charlie Swan
Lee Pace as Garrett
Christian Serratos as Angela Weber
Elizabeth Reaser as Esme Cullen
MyAnna Buring as Tanya
Noel Fisher as Vladimir
Joe Anderson as Alistair
Cameron Bright as Alec
Angela Sarafyan as Tia
Aldo Quintino as Amazon Vampire
Rami Malek as Benjamin
Booboo Stewart as Seth Clearwater
Daniel Cudmore as Felix
Christian Camargo as Eleazaar
Mia Maestro as Carmen
Ty Olsson as Phil
Alex Meraz as Paul
Judith Shekoni as Zafrina
Charlie Bewley as Demetri
JD Pardo as Nahuel
Julia Jones as Leah Clearwater
Lateef Crowder as Santiago
Andrea Powell as Sasha
Toni Trucks as Mary
Kiowa Gordon as Embry Call
Chaske Spencer as Sam Uley
Marisa Quinn as Huilen
Omar Metwally as Amun

Directed by Bill Condon

Review:
If you’ve made it through that ridiculously long character listing, you’re ready for the sum up, so I’ll keep it brief:

Unsatisfying.

Not just “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ mind you, but “The Twilight Saga” in general.

Depending on your relationship to the franchise, that may mean something or just be what you already expected, but mainly “Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ manages to be the second worst of a series which has rarely aimed higher than mediocre.

Some of that is to be expected from the fifth entry in a series, which has often reveled in easily-resolved high school soap opera drama and ridiculous surface-oriented “romance.” You don’t get to a sequel, much less a fifth … quel … by giving your audience something other than what it has shown it wants either. You could probably get away with that with source material with enough depth to use new installments to dig into its characters. But “Twilight” has never had a desire to do that, and why start at the end? Instead we get a mish-mash of bad ideas, missed opportunities and other signs the franchise is better off finished.

We get the continuing story of the Swan-Cullen-Blacks, just with a sudden sickeningly sweet stop at the end, like being force-fed molasses while being hung. Picking up from “Breaking Dawn – Part 1′s” cliffhanger ending we awaken with Bella (Kristen Stewart) Cullen’s first day as a vampire and first day as a mom to a really, really creepy CGI baby. The culmination of the first half has once and for all ended the internal strife the supernatural side of Forks, Washington has faced. Bella and hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) no longer have to worry about her growing old and dying, and best friend slash werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has imprinted on their baby Renesmee, transferring all of his feelings for Bella to her daughter. And yes that is as creepy as it sounds.

Of course this also retires the driving dramatic conflict of most of the series, forcing director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg to focus outwards to a final confrontation with the mysterious Volturi, the ruling council of vampire kind who have been subtly trying to antagonize the Cullens for much of the series. This has two small problems and one very large one.

With the final conflict with the Volturi built in as the climax, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ has nothing to do until they arrive and no way to drive tension to that point. It tries awfully hard with various cut-aways to previous evil acts and exposition about their power, but telling does not equal showing, and what’s shown has no real effect because there is little direct emotional connection between this conflict and the main characters. Unlike the previous films and in particular the series apotheosis “Eclipse,” the danger here is somewhat in the abstract similar to “New Moon” and is similarly ineffective.

Even novelist/producer Stephenie Meyer seems to have realized that at some deep level as the Cullens spend much of the film on the hunt for allies from around the world to shift our focus onto – since the returning characters have simply stopped growing by this point. This gives us an appalling army of ethnic stereotypes, but at least it’s different. Actually, that’s not entirely fair, the assembling of the Seven Samurai introduces a few interesting faces to the vampire coterie, notably Lee Pace’s Garrett, a roguish Revolutionary War soldier still fighting the British two centuries later. Garrett has more charm and personality than Pattison’s Edward has managed in all five films, and one can’t help but wonder what the series would have been like with him in the lead instead.

Which is all “Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ really has to offer in the end: what might have beens. And that’s the big problem. The need to stay close to the source material, while also recognizing its weaknesses, has left one director after another going to the edge of taking the story in a more interesting direction than the material allows, only to turn back from the edge at the last minute to stay reassuring for the fans.

“Breaking Dawn – Part 2″ suffers from that mightily in what should be its strongest section, the actual finale. As the Cullens and Volturi finally meet face to face to determine Renesmee’s fate, it quickly becomes apparent to everyone and particularly Condon that a visceral cathartic climax is needed, but flirt with it as he does, he either can’t or won’t go all the way. To call it unsatisfying is a colossal understatement.

Instead, like all of the films, with the exception of “Eclipse,” the teenage romance and the over-the-top monster movie remain separated into two distinct parts when they should be integrated together. But that was never going to happen and not because Bella and Edward no longer have anywhere to go as characters or the depth to surprise. It’s because “Twilight” is an exercise in appeasement, not storytelling, and it was never going to do any more than it already has. Yeah, it glistens a little in the sunlight, but those aren’t diamonds, they’re cubic zirconium, and maybe that’s the real draw in surface-oriented stuff like this. There’s no real difference between the two.

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