By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com
Wilmington on Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Bill Condon, 2012
Some movies become mass cultural lollapaloozas and pop ultra-phenomena — and they assume an importance they may not quite deserve. So it is with the cinematic Twilight Saga, a series that zillions adore, but to which some critics (including me) remain unhappily immune.
Why? This moony, dreamy show first began to haunt the dreams and multiplexes of susceptible moviegoers back in 2008, with the relatively modest teen scream romance, Twilight — a show that appealed to fans of novelist Stephenie Meyer and fans-to-be of stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, as well as anyone partial to vampire movie romantic clichés. In many ways, it was a typical young adult romance with a Dracula twist: Girl Meets Vampire, Girl Meets Werewolf. Sparks Fly (leading to a slam-bang action finale). Now, four movies later, with the appearance of the fifth and final installment, The Twilight Saga; Breaking Dawn, Part 2, the whole twilight shebang has, for the moment, run its course. We’ve gone though all four Meyer books — “Twilight,” “New Moon,” “Eclipse” and both movie parts of “Breaking Dawn.” The long teen-to-twenty vampire night is over.
More importantly, the sexless romance that made the hearts of a nation of wannabe teen princesses throb , and tingle has been at last consummated. In Breaking Dawn, Part 1, Bella and Edward got it on, and we saw, finally, sex, a pregnancy and a birth, and (now. in this movie) an unusually rapid childhood and growth for Edward and Bella’s little girl Renesmee, or “Nessie” for short. Meanwhile, the wickedly busybody Volturi of Italy (the series’ main bad guys) have assembled under their simpering, preening leader Aro (Michael Sheen, doing a sort of semi-Vincent Price routine, and having a lot of fun), and are hatching up more trouble for our heroes and heroine.
You see, Aro’s cohorts and minions are confused about Renesmee’s (Mackenzie Foy) birth; they think that instead of being born a vampire, she was bitten and turned into one by infection — making Little Nessie prone to all kinds of bloody problems. So they all head for the forest and the Cullens’ place and another climactic showdown — while the Cullen family and friends gather some new buddies, more expensive-looking special effects and a ton of credits.
When those credits finally roll, after some crazy scenes whose secrets we won’t reveal, we finally come to the end of a long and increasingly well-photographed road with Bella and Edward and Jacob, the world’s favorite human-vampire-werewolf triangle. Of course, since Bella is now a vampire herself, things have changed. In fact, the one time human teen bombshell has become a zestier lass, leaping and bounding up mountains to go after mountain lions (for a bloody meal), indulging in more sexual marathons with Edward, and proclaiming happily, “I was born to be a vampire!”
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 may actually be the best of all the Twilight movies, even if you count the two parts of Breaking Dawn as one movie instead of two, which you probably should. Michael Sheen alone pushes it over the top. But for me, that wasn’t susch a choice accolade. Then again, maybe I was just happy to see it finally end.
The core of the movie and the series remains the passionate trio of Bella, Edward and Jacob — as played by the photogenic threesome of Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner. What The Saga eventually became, was a corny romantic movie not so much about vampires and werewolves and Volturi, but about movie stars and what they mean to the audience who responds to them. That‘s what a lot of the audience goes to the movies for: to find good-looking actors to feed their fantasies, or to be role models, or to ignite dreams of their own.. Critics instead tend to be more responsive to scripts and good writing, though we have our crushes as well, and that’s why there’s sometimes a great divide between the tastes of the mass audience and the tastes of the reviewers.
Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner certainly became movie stars relatively early on, and it’s an irony that two of them were playing the undead (or the potential undead) and the other was a big dog who liked to take off his short. Movie stars are, in a way, as ageless and forever young as vampires. Certainly when I look at a movie with one of the old Golden Age stars — Katharine Hepburn or Jimmy Stewart or Tracy or Bogart or Olivier or Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, they seem always alive again to me. And no matter what their current age, the young Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine and Robert De Niro seem forever young. Movie stars crave immortality just as vampires do; they just don’t have to suck blood to achieve it. (Or do they?)
A problem I’ve had with the Twilight series from the beginning then is that none of the top three stars appeal to me all that much as fantasy friends or girlfriend. My fault, no doubt — though Kristen Stewart is at her most attractive in this movie, because she gets to be feistier. Meanwhile Pattinson gives us his pensive, James Dean-Monty Clift look and Lautner smiles his crooked smile and bares his torso manfully, and no doubt they mean something special to the teams fans pouring into the mutliplexes, but not to me. They’re just likable young actors who struck it rich
Any way, I don’t think the problem is so much with the actors as the scripts. The dialogue, once again, is ordinary and unimaginative, and its funereally paced. Sheen gets more mileage out of his simpers and than everyone else out of author Meyer‘s story and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg‘s lines.
Still, this episode has something that’s been relatively ignored in most of the four: jokes. They’re not very good jokes. (At one point Bella castigates Jacob for nicknaming her daughter Nessie, after, she suggests, the Loch Ness Monster.) But at least there’s an effort, a semi-jocular mood furthered by Sheen’s antics and by director Condon’s somewhat lighter hearted camp-vampy approach. (He also had fun with movie monsters in Gods and Monsters.)
And there’s that big battle in the snow, with heads rolling and veins bursting, and a surprise ending. And I hope I’m not ruining anything by saying that at least somebody lives happily ever after. Or a lot of them do. At least in this movie. Anyway, what can I say. Twilight’s blood isn’t my cup of vino. And they’re just not my kind of movie stars. Maybe they will be, some day.