Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More Action Than Romance, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 Ends The Saga In An Unremarkable Way.

The Good: Special effects, Most of the acting, Pacing, Direction
The Bad: Light on character development, Unimpressive plot
The Basics: Completing The Twilight Saga on screen, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 focuses on the conflict between the Cullens and Volturi without anything superlative.

Fantasy has been big in teen literature and cinema since the Harry Potter Saga (reviewed here!) and the franchise that has stepped most fully into the niche left by the completion of that movie series has been The Twilight Saga. As Breaking Dawn - Part 2 hits theaters, it is hard not to admit that some franchises work better than others. While I was not a fan of the Harry Potter films when they began, they developed into something I generally enjoyed. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 takes the franchise in the other direction. Like most final acts of a larger story, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is exceptionally dependent upon the films that preceded it. That means that Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will mean almost nothing to those who have not seen Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and/or Breaking Dawn, Part I.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 does what it needs to in terms of completing the Twilight Saga, but fans of the teen-based, supernaturally-themed romance might be less impressed by this installment. Outside the fans of the books and films who are going to see it and praise it regardless of the objective quality, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 works far less to develop the characters and, instead, creates a plot thread that takes the focus well away from the intimate romance and tortured love triangle between the three main protagonists and instead refocuses the story on the conflict between most of the vampire clans and the villainous Volturi.

Following the birth of Renesmee and Bella Cullen (formerly Swan) being turned by Edward into a vampire to save her life, Bella begins exploring her newfound powers as a vampire. Annoyed at Jacob for imprinting upon Renesmee, Bella nevertheless finds some peace in her life as she accepts her new life as a vampire. With Jacob's help she even reveals herself - in a very limited fashion - to her father. As Renesmee ages rapidly, the Cullens work to understand the exact nature of the child. Their quest to understand what she is is cut short when Irina, a vampire who visited the Cullens, reports to the Volturi that Renesmee’s existence breaks the decrees of the Volturi.

Knowing that Aro and Jane, the powerful Volturi, are coming to Forks with the intent of passing lethal judgment on the Cullens, Bella and Edward work to protect their daughter. Enlisting Jacob Black, whose feelings for Bella have faded, the Cullens search for other vampire families around the world to aid them in protecting Renesmee. The forces of various vampire covens and Jacob’s werewolf allies band together to confront the Volturi. Unable to rely upon Jasper and Alice, Bella learns of her new powers as a shield and uses that training to prepare for the inevitable conflict with Aro and the Volturi!

Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is far less melodramatic and sappy than the prior installments in The Twilight Saga. Instead, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is a pretty steady action movie that builds from the exploration of Bella’s newfound powers into what is essentially a battle film. The final conflict puts to shame the battle sequences from the prior movies as well. Director Bill Condon has a strong sense of vision for Breaking Dawn - Part 2. The action sequences and special effects are tighter and more refined than other films in The Twilight Saga. For those who were bored by the ponderous pace of New Moon (especially), will find that Breaking Dawn - Part 2 provides a more consistent sense of dramatic tension and movement.

What Breaking Dawn - Part 2 lacks is a stronger romantic aspect than the prior installments. Those who are into The Twilight Saga for the angsty love story will find Breaking Dawn - Part 2 lacking. The on-screen chemistry between Kristen Stewart (Bella) and Robert Pattinson (Edward) is still alive and kicking, but Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg do remarkably little with it. Ironically, given that The Twilight Saga is made for gushing teenage girls who want to believe in powerful romantic love, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 has a jaded masculine sensibility to it. Many men fear that the birth of a child will change their relationship with their spouse and, with the change in tone in Breaking Dawn - Part 2, that is essentially what the viewer gets. Bella’s priority becomes protecting Renesmee over expressing her undying (literally!) love for Edward. The shift in the movie’s energy when watched immediately after the other films in the Saga is noticeable.

Breaking Dawn - Part 2 re-establishes Bella and instead of truly developing her character, she is redefined in the beginning of the film and then sticks with the new iteration of the character through the rest of the movie. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is more or less devoid of actual character development for the rest of the movie, though Bella is transformed into something of an action hero in this film. Edward is essentially his unchanging self and Jacob’s transference of emotions is understated, as opposed to creepy.

On the acting front, the ensemble cast is well-honed. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner all expertly execute the roles they originated in Twilight and developed for the four prior movies. This film does not stretch them in any new directions, save Stewart illustrating a slightly more protective instinct. She has played Bella, in the past, as the character who needs protection and in this film, she steps up to play more protective with reasonable success. The real breakout for Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is Mackenzie Foy. Foy plays Renesmee and she has a serious demeanor that allows her to fit in with the more seasoned performers.

Ultimately, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is much more average than in any way extraordinary. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is not bad, but it does not pop, it lacks a hook that is at all intriguing. While the earlier films had a freshness to them, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 feels much more like a typical supernatural action-adventure story than a truly audacious or interesting vampire-themed romance. Fans will flock to see it, but those who are not already invested in the franchise may want to wait for it to hit DVD.

For other fantasy films, please check out my reviews of:
Snow White And The Huntsman
Beautiful Creatures


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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