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Rome Review: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2’ Probably A High Point For The Franchise, Still A Low For Cinema

Festivals
by Jessica Kiang
November 13, 2012 5:58 PM
20 Comments
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The final installment of Stephenie Meyers' 'Twilight Saga' has hit the screen with an audible, if Italian-accented "Squee!" here in its packed hormonal World Premiere at the Rome Film Festival. Destined to make a jillion dollars in its first six minutes of release, the film is already such a juggernaut that voicing an opinion on whether it's any good is a little like examining the fenderwork on the 20-wheeler that's bearing down on you at 100mph: it doesn't matter, because either way, you're going to be flattened. But hardy fools that we Playlisters are, we're going to damn well tell you what we think anyway: "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" is as thrilling, scary and swooningly romantic as this series gets. But it's still dire.

Considered within the warped microcosmic universe of the Twilight films, (imagine no other films had been made, ever), 'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' has lots to recommend it, mainly that it ends this blight on our culture, if only temporarily. Haha no, seriously. Also in the plus column, here Bella (a positively glowy Kristen Stewart, who has genuinely given the series something of a meta-arc by simply growing more beautiful with each episode) finally gets to do something aside from be adored, and even participates in a fight or two (in defense of her family and child, of course, but still, where Ms. Swan is concerned we'll take what empowerment we can get). In that regard it continues the incremental upward trajectory of Bella's character from blank, self-pitying nonentity to, you know, a person of somewhat independent thought, and this can only be a good thing. It's just a shame that her power, when it is revealed (because here vamps mostly get a kind of X-Men-style power in addition to their regular ol' vampire powers), is one that requires her to pretty much stand stock still and look really hard at something while death-battles are going around her. In this arena Stewart simply hasn't had as much practice as Dakota "terrible eye make up" Fanning, and so gets a little upstaged. 

Teen mother Bella Swan got vampire-ized at the very end of the last film, the wedding video known as 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1.' So now that she's an immortal, she gets to run really fast, break rocks with her fists and suppress her desire for human blood, because she's a good vampire, who won't even kill a deer to feed, she'll kill the nasty beast that's about to kill the deer instead. She also gets to have proper vamp sex with hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson), which they apparently enjoy. But freaky uncanny valley CG baby Renesmee is growing up super quick, which has two main side effects: it turns Jacob (Taylor Lautner) from being a creepy weirdo in love with a baby into being a creepy weirdo in love with a toddler really quickly, and it makes them all assume that the lil' moppet is not long for this world. The Volturi get wind of Renesmee's existence, assume she's a child vampire which is against their law, and decide to wipe the pesky Cullens off the map for good. And so the Cullens flit to the four corners of the earth to bring friends back to bear witness that Renesmee is not an immortal, she's just a regular kid with a werewolf boyfriend and the ability to project her memories through cheek-touching. Most of the friends have natty X-Men powers too.There would appear to be a battle coming. 

So let's leave aside the silliness of the plot, which has the kind of holes that the aforementioned 20-wheeler could drive through (a lot of them involving Alice and the ever-problematic seeing-into-the-future power). There's still enough terribleness here that we presume is not even carried-over terribleness from the book, from the ugly CG (the wolves are better this time out, but the fast-running vampires still just look wrong, and the baby's face is all kinds of unintentional weird), to the way the majority of the film is written and edited so that scenes often bear no relation to the ones that immediately precede, to the hilarious stereotyping of the far-flung friends (the Irish couple are dumpy and have red hair! The ladies from the Amazon are Amazons!). Lee Pace gets to have a tiny amount of fun as a vampire who actually still kills people, but there's not enough of him. Michael Sheen, too, gives it the whole ham as the head Volturi, even giving a girlish scream at one point that eerily echoed those that sounded out when Jacob (inevitably) took off his shirt. 

But what of the principals? Well, Stewart and Pattinson seemed fractionally more at ease here, and after a series of affirmations of Bella and Edward's unprecedented love for each other, the spotlight is somewhat shifted off them in the second half anyway. Perhaps we were imagining it, but we'd swear their red eyes were lit with relief at the franchise's approaching end, possibly because they are both promising young actors who have been grossly underserved by these films. Lautner, not so much, but he really does get the mother of all shit jobs here: in love with a baby, getting naked in front of Billy Burke, beaten up by the paramour who rejected him and will at some point presumably become his mother-in-law -- there's no humiliation this poor character doesn't suffer. 

The climactic battle, when it comes, however, is surprisingly well done, and might have even served to nudge the film up half a grade if our eyes hadn't fallen out of our heads with rolling at a thing that happens at the end. It's pretty nasty too, lots of cracking spines and jaws ripped apart and stuff -- you know, the kind of things vampires did back when I was kid, before they became all sparkly and looked like they walked out of an Evanescence video. It might make the PG-13 rating look a bit suspect, but it's put together with more zip and life than anything else in the series, perhaps, and Bill Condon deserves some credit. It's just a shame it's so severely undercut by the ending.

Let's just acknowledge that reviewing 'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' for this site is a no-win situation: regular Indiewire readers don’t believe we should even cover it, while the fans who anxiously scour the net for early reviews rarely are those who are willing to hear a single bad word said about it, and will vehemently go three or four times no matter what is written here, or anywhere. But we did kind of love the idea of surprising everyone and suddenly saying "You know what? This is terrific!" and went in with optimism and contrarian bravado. But it's not. 'Breaking Dawn - Part 2' ends a bad series with a bad film, but in relative terms: it's better than 'New Moon' and 'Breaking Dawn - Part 1,' maybe as good as 'Eclipse,' and worse than 'Twilight,' and that's about all we can say for it. [C-]

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20 Comments

  • Courtneyn | November 16, 2012 4:07 PMReply

    I thought that the Twilight saga Breaking Dawn pt. 2 was worth seeing i really enjoyed all of the movies that showed on Nov.. 15th an i am really looking forward to the dvd release. I am now starting a short twilight marathon at my place and i am really enjoying it at the moment but owning the 2nd movie for the twilight saga will be amazing!! I thought that bella and her vampire powers was great and very fabulous i so want too see it again sometime soon it was epic and i thought that Dakota's make up in the movie was amazing Steph.

    ~Courtney

  • Steph | November 14, 2012 11:25 PMReply

    Cracking up at "Dakota - terrible eye makeup Fanning" .

  • Frank | November 14, 2012 10:45 AMReply

    Shocker that this movie was terrible.

  • cirkusfolk | November 13, 2012 10:29 PMReply

    All of these films, save the first one which wasn't that bad actually, are rated like 4.8 on imbd. They are truly awful. The sad thing is I have to take my wife to see it for her birthday. Shoot me now.

  • Emma | November 14, 2012 2:40 PM

    No one gives a shit about IMDB ratings. At least, one shouldn't.

  • fui | November 13, 2012 9:59 PMReply

    Good riddance, this series was the fucking worst.

  • Mohammed | November 13, 2012 9:36 PMReply

    PA4 and this movie are on top of my list of movies that are on my list of " Willing to disown my child over it if I ever found out that he/she saw it with the money I gave them". Die Hard 5 on the other hand, is a must-see in our household. Perks of being a parent.

  • Jason | November 14, 2012 2:55 PM

    You kinda sound like a child yourself.

  • CP | November 13, 2012 8:03 PMReply

    Finally!! A sensible review from a sensible critic, thank you so much for your discretion Jessica!! I can't tell if these early reviewers are all fans of the previous installments, or if they're so relieved that it's over that they've been overwhelmingly positive about this final addition to the series or what. But I really needed to come to a realistic review of all that this tepid Twilight series encompasses, so that I was sure that I hadn't completely lost my mind. I just hope that the rest of these critical admissions are as realistic as this, so that this film is not rated any higher than masterpieces this year such as Avengers and TDKR.

  • anna | November 14, 2012 10:57 AM

    You're kidding right? Calling Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises masterpieces...

  • cmsarica | November 13, 2012 7:01 PMReply

    I hate reading reviews frompeople that want you to watch movies that you can't even understand. They never go for films gthat normal people like. BLACK SWAN won mivie of the year and to me it was a porn movie that made absolutely no sense.

  • coke | November 14, 2012 10:54 AM

    *Apparently

  • coke | November 14, 2012 10:53 AM

    @ OCT

    Aparrently stupid....

  • Griss | November 13, 2012 11:26 PM

    Define "mivie".

  • Oct | November 13, 2012 8:21 PM

    Define 'normal'?

  • Alphabet | November 13, 2012 7:09 PM

    Explain how Black Swan was porn.

  • Lily | November 13, 2012 6:53 PMReply

    Dear Jessica Kiang, I thank you for giving me a good laugh. Your review is a perfect combination of blunt and condescending with perhaps a sprinkle of diplomatic and a good splash of objectivity. You can probably write a book about it. I suggest the title, "How To Review a Bad Movie With A Hormone-Fueled Fanbase And Possibly Get Crucified for It (But Not Giving A Damn Because You're Too Busy Watching Movies With Artistic Integrity).

  • michèle | November 13, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    Well, I like indie movies and I like the Saga, I'm weird, I know! LOL
    I even appreciated your review, because after all we've went through, no fan of Twilight is still expecting a good review, from nobody.
    The story was weird at times and had to be followed very closely due to the passionate fanbase. The quality of the movies could've been better. But... they brought us, fans, Edward and Bella and their love story. That's all we needed. Oh, and they brought us Rob Pattinson, one of the most genuine, gentle and (IMHO) talented young actors of this moment.
    What I like the most though is what you said in your article: whatever the critics may write, how negatively the movie might be received and how much the hate of many is: the fans turn their back and put their middlefinger high in the sky. So it has to be, people choose how to spend their money wether others might agree or not. Many of them, just like me, will go see indie movies too, Twilight was just their guilty pleasure.

  • Ilona | November 13, 2012 6:46 PMReply

    As a fan of both Pattinson and Stewart - still - in my bones I know this review will mirror my own when I see it on Friday. And you're right, it doesn't matter.

    Which is just weird.

  • Elizabeth | November 13, 2012 6:30 PMReply

    I'm so excited to see this movie. I love Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black!! :)

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