The conclusion to the epic vampire romance picks up where we left off in Breaking Dawn - Part 1 when Bella (Kristen Stewart) lost her life while giving birth to Renesmee only to be transformed into a vampire at the very last minute by Edward (Robert Pattinson). Their baby joy is short-lived when Irina, still angry with the Cullens over the death of her lover in the first Twilight movie, reports to the Volturi that Renesmee was bitten and transformed into a vampire, setting up a tense stand-off between the Cullens and the Volturi.
What we thought:
After 4 years and 4 books, five poor to mediocre film adaptations, a handful of scandals and about a million and two screaming Twi-hards populating the planet, I never would have pegged The Twilight Saga to now, suddenly, get smart on me. And in a move that will almost surely divide fans of the books, that's what the final film finally! finally!! - achieved.
Curious and bemused spectators to the Twilight craze, people just like me, have no doubt been able to find our own kind of joy from these movies. For me it was the outstanding soundtrack releases (attracting some of indie music’s best and brightest such as Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver & St. Vincent, Metric, The Black Keys), the all-or-nothing intensity of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen’s love for each other, and the sometimes dizzying expectation that would come with each new release, even as I knew full well that the crucial aspects such as performance and writing would leave me disappointed.
It's been an honoured tradition of The Twilight Saga – ripping apart the heaving supernatural love story as told by actors who looked, increasingly with each new movie, embarrassed to be saying those lines and a plot that awkwardly married conservative lifestyle ideals (Bella and Edward don't even kiss in the first movie) with bodice-ripping passion and the thrill of the dark side.
As before there will be plenty of fodder for the Twi-haters as Breaking Dawn Part 2 puts it all on the line and bid a memorable farewell to the characters and their adoring fans. There are some glaring issues that need to be dealt with up front, like Bella's vampire transformation and newfound bloodlust. The Cullens are more than a bit concerned that she will have a newborn's lack of control over her new powers but Edward is just so tickled by his wife's awesomeness as a hunter, lover, fighter and mother, viewers will be hard-pressed to disagree.
The new Bella does give Kristen Stewart lots more emotion to work with – anger that her wolf friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has formed a lifelong attachment to her newborn daughter Renesmee before she's even had a chance to hold her, fear that her sweetly clueless father Charlie will discover her secret (Billy Burke, who now stars in the apocalyptic TV series Revolution, retains his Best Actor award for this series) – and the liberty to express it all. It's the Bella we've all been waiting for and Kristen Stewart is clearly having fun with the role, perhaps for the first time.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 also introduces a whole whack of new characters, vampire friends of the Cullens' from around the world who’ve been called in to help convince the all-powerful Volturi that Renesmee is not an immortal child, whose existence has been banned by the Volturi because of their destructive powers.
Some of the new vampire characters will leave a lasting impression – particularly war veteran Garrett (played with a sexy coolness by Lee Pace) and Rami Malek as Egyptian element manipulator Benjamin. But there are about 20 other Cullen allies who either fuss about their fear/hatred of the Volturi or, like the Irish or Nomad vampires, who really do bugger all and only make up the numbers so the Cullens don't look pathetic against the black might of the Volturi.
Speaking of which, the Volturi have had a particularly bad time of it in previous instalments, hiding away in their Italian lair, smirking pointlessly at those silly Cullens and their precious Bella – but Breaking Dawn Part 2 is truly their show. Michael Sheen had only previously hinted at the demented deliciousness of his character Aro, and here chews the scenery with a wicked menace that is such a joy to watch.
The stuff about the Twilight movies that grated in the past have kept on keeping on – the odd pacing is frustrating, the CGI is poorly done, particularly Bella and Edward's creepy CGI baby who ages rapidly by 12 years through the course of the movie, and so much of the dialogue is on the very precipice of moronic.
And yes, the story remains ludicrous and far too complicated for its own good, but dammit if director Bill Condon doesn't let it all hang out, with all kinds of knowing winks to the audience that they're in on the joke too. Intentionally or not, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is easily the funniest movie in the series, and manages this while also being the most violent, suspenseful and polished.
And then, riffing off the movie's theme and the final word in Stephenie Meyer's book series "forever", The Twilight Saga signs off with a gorgeous, poignant love letter to the fans who've made the franchise what it is and secured its lasting legacy.
There won't be a dry eye left in the house.