THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (Bill Condon). 116 minutes. Opens Friday (Novemer 16). See listings. Rating: NNN
Maybe it was my expectations, which couldn't have been any lower after the previous four Twilight movies. Or maybe it was the outsized green-screen battle sequence, in which vampires pull each other's heads off at a remarkable clip. But Breaking Dawn Part 2 doesn't suck.
Honestly, I'm as surprised as anyone.
Picking up two days after the events of Part 1, where Bella (Kristen Stewart) was transformed into a vampire by her beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her from the lethal delivery of her parasitic monster baby, Renesmee - yeah, there's a lot of stuff going on, but don't worry, none of it matters that much - we now find Bella and Edward able to regard each other as equals for the first time.
This is really important, because it means Stephenie Meyer's psychosexually icky abstinence metaphor can finally be shoved into a drawer, allowing Stewart and Pattinson to drop all the slouching and brooding and just have fun. There's a bounce and a playfulness to their interaction here that simply wasn't possible before; vampire Bella is a lot more lively than human Bella, and both Stewart and the movie get to goof around with that notion.
But things in Forks get serious right quick when Renesmee is misidentified as a powerful but uncontrollable type of vampire known as an Immortal Child, which means the ruling Volturi - the aristocratic vamps led by Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, whom we first met way back in New Moon - will come to kill her and anyone who stand with her.
In their defence, Edward and his family reach out to their fellow vampires and build an army, leading to a long second act where various new characters appear and demonstrate special "gifts" like energy powers and control over the elements, and the film briefly turns into an X-Men movie.
Once the good guys are properly assembled - oh, and the Forks wolf pack is there, too, with Taylor Lautner as pack leader Jacob making a series of faces that are meant to imply complex thought and emotion - the film launches into its final movement. While it isn't good, exactly, the long battle sequence that comprises the bulk of the finale is awfully enjoyable.
Maybe it's the shameless camp energy Sheen brings to his every scene as the leering, wide-eyed Big Bad of the series. Or maybe it's director Bill Condon's shrugging, what-the-hell embrace of general silliness as he squeezes another two hours of fan service out of Meyer's paper-thin text.
Whatever. Breaking Dawn Part 2 is easily the best of the series. Though I'm obviously grading on a curve.