Director – Bill Condon, Screenplay – Melissa Rosenberg, Based on the Novel Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, Producers – Wyck Godfrey, Stephenie Meyer & Karen Rosenfelt, Photography – Guillermo Navarro, Music – Carter Burwell, Visual Effects Supervisor – Terry Windell, Additional Visual Effects Supervisor – John Bruno, Visual Effects – Hydraulx Santa Monica (Supervisors – Colin Strause & Greg Strause), Hydraulx Vancouver, Lola Ι VFX (Supervisor – Edson Williams), Method Studios (Supervisor – Bruce Woloshyn), Pixomondo (Supervisor – Mahmoud Rahnama), Prologue, Rodeo FX (Supervisor – Sebastien Moreau), Soho VFX (Supervisor – Nadav Ehrlich), Tippett (Senior Supervisor – Phil Tippett, Supervisor – Eric Leven) & Zoic Studios (Senior Supervisor – Mark Stetson), Special Effects Supervisor – David Poole, Makeup Effects – Legacy Effects (Supervisor – John Rosengrant), Production Design – Richard Sherman. Production Company – Summit Entertainment/Temple Hill
Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Michael Sheen (Aro), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Peter Facinelli (Dr Carlisle Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Mackenzie Foy (Renesmee Cullen), Dakota Fanning (Jane), Lee Pace (Garrett), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Casey LeBow (Kate), MyAnna Buring (Tanya), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Maggie Grace (Irina), Rami Malek (Benjamin), Omar Metwally (Amun), Billy Wagenseller (Vasili), Charlie Bewley (Dmitri), Joe Anderson (Alistair), Tracey Higgins (Senna), Judith Shekoni (Zafrina), Chaske Spencer (Sam Ulley), Alex Rice (Sue Clearwater), Wendell Pierce (J. Jenks), Cameron Bright (Alec), Mia Maestro (Carmen), Masami Kosaka (Toshiro), Christian Camargo (Eleazar)
Bella Swan adjusts to her new life as a vampire. Her first lesson from Edward is to learn to control her bloodlust. Meanwhile, Jacob explains how he has now Imprinted on Renesmee. The Cullens prepare to leave Forks, as word of Bella’s being alive will spread and bring retribution from The Volturi. Unhappy at this, Jacob goes and shows his wolf form to Charlie, telling him that Bella is still alive, and this is averted. Renesmee grows quickly. Her presence is seen by Irina who reports back to The Volturi. The Cullens decide that they only way to avert war is to recruit other vampires from around the world to bear witness to the fact that Renesmee is not an abomination but part human. Many come to the cause and vow to stand and fight. As The Volturi arrive, it appears that Aro is not prepared to listen to their arguments in favour of Renesmee and that all-out war is inevitable.
Breaking Dawn Part Two was the fifth of the Twilight films. It follows on from Twilight (2008), New Moon (2009), Eclipse (2010) and Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011), which in turn were adapted from Stephenie Meyer’s quartet of best-selling books. Breaking Dawn Part Two is supposedly the last of the films, although one suspects that given their popularity Meyer and the filmmakers will find some means to continue the saga.
The Twilight saga is an absurdly over-extruded work that should have at best amounted to a single film. This is a series that its author saw fit to curtail after four books but where the filmmakers have managed to inflate the last chapter out into two films. The audience for the Twilight films has predominantly been the teenage girl demographic. I enjoyed the first Twilight. It was here that the two leads had a sincerity and the film played out with a realism and earnest romantic longing. For what it set out to be, it worked rather well. Alas, this was before the pin-up idol aspect of the series began and Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner were elevated to the status of sex gods by the hordes of teenage girls. The subsequent films began to cater to this, including scenes of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner whipping their shirts off every five minutes.
At the same time as this kicked in with New Moon, so also did Stephenie Meyer’s amateurish writing. The series managed to extrude a love triangle and Bella’s perpetual indecision over which man she was attracted to over the next three films before offering a wimp-out non-resolution (see below). At the same time as the Twilight saga was making its pitch to teenage girls, in also came Stephenie Meyer’s Mormon background and inherent conservatism where, seemingly in complete contradiction to the sexuality oozing off the screen in the form of constantly shirtless leading men, we kept getting a message in favour of chastity, of waiting until marriage to have sex and in favour of the Right to Life debate (with the previous film holding the view that a woman should place her own life in danger for the sake of her unborn foetus). This worldwide adulation reached surreal levels following the release of Kristen Stewart’s Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) earlier in the year where it was revealed she had had an affair with married director Rupert Sanders and angry fans took to social media to shame her for “betraying Edward” (real-life live-in boyfriend Robert Pattinson) from which you can only deduce that the film has been so successful at manufacturing its fantasy romance that some of its audience have difficulty distinguishing the actors from the real-life characters they play.
The story arc arrived at as Breaking Dawn Part Two begins – where Bella wakes up as a vampire – is the point where any classic vampire film would have gotten interesting. The film does spend a few scenes dealing with her newfound vampire nature – with Robert Pattinson showing her how to control her hunger and the faintly ridiculous image of Kristen Stewart tackling a cougar and drinking its blood, and where she is given instructions how to play human before her father visits (where the subsequent scene fails to play out with either the comic or awkward possibilities that this suggests at the outset). Thereafter though, Bella’s vampiric nature is sidelined and simply forgotten about – even though her wanting to become a vampire was one of the driving motivations throughout the previous films.
Other plot elements are swept away with casual absurdity. The love triangle with Jacob is resolved with a ridiculous piece of plotting deus ex machina, where we get further explanation of what we saw at the end of the last film and learn that he has Imprinted on Renesmee (which must surely rank high on the list of the most absurd child’s names ever devised). Although Taylor Lautner is outfitted with a few “it’s not like that … it’s not what you think” lines, there is a considerable whiff of indecency about the relationship. Aside from the disparity between a girl and a man twenty or so years her senior, would any real world mother not immediately hit the speed dial to the police and cry paedophile if an adult male starting professing romantic feelings for and claiming that her newborn infant daughter was his lifemate? This we sort of have to sweep under the carpet and ignore as part of the Twilight bubble of fantasy because “it’s not really like that.” Not to mention that the lines of dialogue during these scenes are in danger of being laughed off the screen – Kristen Stewart trying to act outraged as she says “You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?” Aside from this, this is also plotting sleight of hand that solves the entire love triangle without doing anything, simply by announcing that Jacob’s attentions were mistaken and really for Renesmee all along. It once again leaves Bella Swan as the eternal Mary Sue who has gone through the whole of Twilight saga desired by two men and at the centre of a war, yet has managed to do so without having to do make any decisions – other than say “yes” to Edward’s proposal.
With the wrap-up of pre-existing storylines out of the way, Breaking Dawn Part Two actually starts to become semi-interesting as it builds up to a confrontation with The Volturi. Storm clouds of war gathering plotlines always stand a film in good stead. The film spends a reasonable amount of time touring the world and recruiting various other vampires initially as witnesses and what later becomes a defence force. Here the tone of the Twilight series heads off in a very different direction to the other films. As the substantial line-up of new vampires are introduced, the film starts to show each of them as having different powers. The psychic powers aspect of the characters formed a relatively peripheral aspect of the series but now these emerge to centre stage and the film starts to resemble less a vampire romance than it does an entry in the X-Men franchise. This I celebrated as it seemed for once that the Twilight saga was starting to move out of its mopey teenage romance and into some big scale action as the scenes of confrontation promised by the trailer seemed to indicate.
And when Breaking Dawn Part Two allows war to break out, it starts to become fun. By no means holding a candle to any of the superheroic combat scenes in recent Marvel Comics adaptations, director Bill Condon delivers some okay battle scenes. Indeed, Breaking Dawn Part Two is the only film in the Twilight series that could be even said to remotely approach horror territory as Condon and the effects team get loose with a series of head rippings among the fighting vampires, albeit bloodless PG-rated ones. (The earlier scenes with Bella hunting also feature the only scenes in the series where the vampires are actually shown drinking blood). More importantly, these scenes hold a reasonable degree of shock as we see continuing characters from the series being killed (not that the series has done a huge amount to ever flesh them out as characters as opposed to good-looking tween faces). The only downside to these scenes is having to put up with the normally distinguished British actor Michael Sheen going for broke in a remarkably silly and campy performance.
However, the film then opts for the most ridiculous plotting twist in the entire series. [PLOT SPOILERS]. Here we learn that the massive confrontation between the Cullens and their allies and The Volturi has only been a clairvoyant vision that Alice has imparted to Aro. We have spent some twenty minutes of action, tragedy and bared confrontation only to be told … it didn’t happen. This is a groan worthy plot twist on the order of the old “it was all a dream” ending – or the modern equivalent of “it was all a virtual reality illusion.” It is ridiculous plotting – not to mention that it allows the film to both have its cake and eat it. It provides the big spectacular confrontation that the series has been building up to, does some shocking and unexpected things. But then it retreats to the emotional safety that most Disney animated films operate under, which dictates that no good characters should ever be allowed to die and unwinds all of this. For all the big confrontation that the series has built to, in the end, all it does it take the astonishingly wimpy path of walking away from it and saying “Well, that’s what could happen – but it doesn’t have to be that way.” Not to mention, the film spends the better part of an hour introducing an entire army of new characters, each with interesting abilities and quirks – only to give them precisely nothing to do.
The general consensus at the preview for Breaking Dawn Part Two was that the best part about it would seem to be that the series had come to an end. One cannot help but wonder what the legacy and lasting influence of the series is going to be. It has given birth to an industry of classic horror themes and fairytales being retooled for teenage pin-up idol audiences. It has seen the vampire watered down from a sexual monster that attacks and devours maidens to become a good-looking adolescent moping about and lost in love – it is a tarnishing of its classic image that would surely have Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi turning in their graves and may well take some years for the vampire genre to recover from. It (and J.K. Rowling with a slightly younger demographic) has also given birth to a new industry of films that are construed from the outset as franchises adapted from popular young adult novels, spread over multiple films and pitched principally to the teenage demographic.
The other thing you cannot help but wonder is what is going to happen to its star players. Stephenie Meyer is an author whose writing is so unskilful that she will almost certainly be a one-hit wonder who will never find the same success again. Within a decade, one predicts, she will be churning out further Twilight adventures – but by then her core audience will have grown up and these will fall on the disinterested ears of a new generation unaware of the originals. Of the cast (at least those under the age of thirty), one doesn’t predict many great things. Kristen Stewart was a name on the rise before Twilight but the series has revealed her substantial limitations as an actress and she will in all likelihood fade away into anonymity. Of Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Rachelle Lefevre and the others who seem under the impression that thousands of adoring teenage girls amounts to launching a career that is of interest to anybody else in Hollywood, the series’ habit of putting a focus on pretty faces and fashion cool over acting will have the lot of them forgotten by tomorrow, at best left scouring bit supporting parts and the convention circuit trying to make a living. (The sole name to stand out from this blanket condemnation is the previously moderately known Lee Pace who imbues his brief scenes here with an appealing degree of rakish charm). The only one likely to emerge from the saga with any lasting name will surely be Robert Pattinson who has started to demonstrate the same acting smarts that took Johnny Depp from pin-up prettyboy to genuine superstar by choosing quality directors to lend his name to, a similar path that Pattinson has started to follow starting with his work on David Cronenberg’s superb Cosmopolis (2012) earlier in the year.