What director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg do with this final film is basically just let go of the idea of sticking nearly scene-by-scene to Stephenie Meyer's book. Condon and Rosenberg instead opt to tell a more entertaining story, one that's slightly darker than Breaking Dawn the book and not so G-rated romance-y. When Bella discovers she loves having sex with Edward now that she's a vampire, the film adaptation grows up a bit. And never in the previous Twilight films has anything resembling a real relationship between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella come across on the screen the way it does in this last film of the series. Condon did this one right, and not just by Twihard standards. With Breaking Dawn Part 2, Condon and Rosenberg finally bring a Twilight film to the screen that feels alive.
The Basics and the 'Breaking Dawn 2' Cast:
There's no real need to discuss the story. If you've read the books, you know it. And if you haven't, it's probably because you're either being forced to go to the films by your spouse/date/significant other or you have friends making you go who're holding something over your head that forces you to attend. The basics that you need to know, just to be up to speed, are as follows: Breaking Dawn 2 does pick right up immediately after the events of Breaking Dawn 1, with Bella now a sparkling vampire/new mom and Edward finally feeling like he can touch her without breaking her. Jacob's creepily imprinted on baby Renesmee - the worst name for a character ever - and the Cullens think life...death...life...whatever is going to be all hunky-dory from now on. But the Volturi (boo-hiss) have other plans and it'll take the Cullens, all their 'good' vampire friends, and the local werewolves to defend Bella and Edward's baby and save the family from final death.
Condon somehow makes even the horrible CGI wolves not so laugh-out-loud bad this time around by embracing their silly, always-changing-in-size CG ways. We see a lot of the wolves, but only one or two very short scenes of the actors who play the wolves in their human forms. Also missing this time around are the high school buddies of Bella's, which is fine because Breaking Dawn Part 2 introduces us to some outlandishly wild characters with a new batch of vampires hitting Forks to stand with the Cullens. Some fade into the woodwork, most likely because there are too many to devote screen time to, but Rami Malek's 'Benjamin' and Joe Anderson's 'Alistair' stand out a little from the pack. Also making the most of their limited screen time are Noel Fisher as 'Vladimir' and Guri Weinberg as 'Stefan' - otherwise known as Dracula 1 and Dracula 2. Fisher in particular sinks his teeth into the role, vamping it up as a vampire who hates the Volturi and is itching for a fight.
Twilight would have been a much better film series had it 1) introduced Lee Pace's 'Garrett' much, much earlier, and 2) given more screen time to Michael Sheen. You want to see a man who knows how to make something memorable out of a one-dimensional supporting character? Look no further than Sheen who, it has to be said, delivers one of the most bizarre, maniacal laughs ever to be heard in a feature film. And Pace is not only sexy as hell, he's another actor who can take a throw-away role and make it one that deserved its own film. I can see the spin-off now, can't you? Sheen and his evil Volturi minions turn their wrath on Garrett, and he out one-lines them until they're forced back to Italy. Works for me.
The Bottom Line:
The actors who play the Cullens have been forced into very minor roles throughout the first three and a half films, but Condon and Rosenberg seem to apologize to them with Breaking Dawn Part 2. Each gets more than one opportunity to shine and each actor takes that opportunity to show why they were chosen for The Twilight Saga in the first place. And as Bella's long-suffering, mostly kept in the dark dad, Billy Burke has always been a bright light in each of the films and continues to be a joy to watch in Breaking Dawn 2.
As for the three leads, Breaking Dawn Part 2 shows they've settled into the characters even though it hasn't always been the most comfortable fit. Stewart doesn't play with her hair, displays a beautiful smile (why does she always keep it hidden?), and for the first time of the series actually has us believe she's Bella from the books. Robert Pattinson has grown into Edward and grown up as an actor, while Taylor Lautner gives the ladies what they want by stripping out of his shirt and down to his undies in this final Twilight in a scene in which everyone is in on the joke.
Condon also does well with the action, pushing that PG-13 rating to its absolute limit as the pivotal clash between the Cullens & friends and the Volturi plays out with completely over-the-top action sequences. There's no blood shown as Meyer's sparkling, non-fanged vampires don't bleed (and they can't be killed with a simple stake to the heart), but there's plenty of heads being ripped off and body parts tossed around. Breaking Dawn Part 2's second half veers sharply away from Meyer's book, and in this case the results are infinitely better than what the author crafted for the characters. Everyone knows the showdown's coming but how it actually plays out had the Twihards in the preview audience crowd alternately gasping in astonishment and squealing with glee.
This is a Twilight movie that absolutely does not take itself too seriously. I never thought I'd be saying this but Breaking Dawn Part 2 makes me a tiny bit sad the series is over. If only the previous four films could have worked as well as this one does, maybe the Twilight series wouldn't have been the brunt of so many jokes over the years. Maybe.
Graded on the Twilight-Only Film Scale: A-
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was directed by Bill Condon and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity.
Theatrical Release: November 16, 2012