Since the release of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight back in 2007, both the novels and subsequent film adaptations have received enough negative responses to fill the shelves of Oxford’s libraries. I never really played a part in this. In fact, as much as it pains me to admit it, the fourteen year-old me had Twilight posters on the walls and watched the films at midnight screenings. (Thankfully though, I never shrieked in a cinema or wore a Team Edward/Jacob t-shirt).
This all changed with last year’s Breaking Dawn Part 1, directed by Bill Condon. And with Condon taking the reins again this time I found little cause for excitement. For those who have managed to avoid the entire saga like the plague, the final film brings to the screen the latter half of Meyer’s conclusion to the quadrilogy. Bella (Kristen Stewart) is now a vampire, playing almost-happy families with husband Edward (Robert Pattinson), and their hybrid child Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). The Cullens must face the wrath of vampire-dictators the Volturi, who believe they have committed the crime of turning a human child into a vampire.
Many of Breaking Dawn: Part 2’s shortcomings result from the decision to split the corresponding novel into two films; there’s barely any narrative to cover. The first act is especially sparse, and plays rather like a trailer for vampire life, with Bella flaunting that infamous sparkly skin and showcasing her hunting skills. Stewart’s portrayal of Bella’s new animalistic, predatory side is one of the better aspects of her performance across the franchise, and helps make the hunting more convincing, as well as more graphic, than it’s been previously. The same can’t be said for the sex scene, which is hardly what E.L. James had in mind.
However, the scene where Jacob (Taylor Lautner) strips off in order to expose his wolf form to Charlie (Billy Burke), is one of the best parts of the film, and not only for the reason you might think. Burke plays Charlie’s confusion over Jacob’s undressing perfectly, providing what is possibly the film’s only truly funny moment.
Elsewhere characterisation is another significant problem. The Cullens are nothing but spare furniture in many scenes, and the new vampires who arrive to oppose the Volturi are so under-developed that by the final act’s showdown it doesn’t really feel like much is at stake.
There’s no denying that the film-makers have hit on a clever solution for making the novel’s anticlimactic conclusion visually dynamic on screen, but (spoiler alert), it’s a shame this technique has already been made tired and clichéd by the Final Destination films. Still, it’s enjoyable to see Michael Sheen’s smug Aro being kicked in the face, and watching vampires having their heads pulled off is amusing the first few times. The poor quality of the special effects can hardly be missed, but cracking ice giving way to a cavernous hole is one notable exception.
Ultimately, everything comes to an incredibly soppy end, complete with a montage of Bella and Edward’s relationship, which, for me at least, serves only to provoke nostalgia for the earlier films, especially Catherine Hardwicke’s low-budget Twilight, which stylishly adapted Meyer’s work before it became a victim of its own phenomenon. But the fangirl-ing isn’t over yet, as the adaptation of Meyer’s non-Twilight novel, The Host, is due next March.