Whatever happens before it, the finale is a doozy, almost certain to be satisfying to fans and impressive even to the casual Twilight viewer.
But so much of what comes before that payoff in Breaking Dawn — Part 2, the conclusion to The Twilight Saga, is mundane, dull, all talk, and no action.
It's a made-for-Lifetime movie about teen vampires, with talk-talk-talking leads muttering romance novel lines, a vast clutter of late-to-the-saga new characters, that same blue-gray production design, more digital wolves, and incessant, insipid music.
In other words, pretty much what we've come to expect from this finally ending, never-ending saga.
Director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) never quite overcomes the sense that he feels this is all beneath him with this second half of the book he got to film to finish off Twilight. He's still too-quick to look for the joke, none-too-subtle when looking for excuses to have Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner strip. But the barely concealed contempt of Breaking Dawn — Part 1 doesn't show.
Bella's baby, Renesmee, is growing up fast, but mostly outside of her grasp. A "newborn" vampire herself, Bella (Kristen Stewart) doesn't know her own strength, so others nurse the child. Bella revels in her heightened awareness of nature, her sharper senses. She can toss hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) around and have her way with him any time she wants.
"I was born to be a vampire," she narrates. Then, she kicks the brawny Emmett's butt (Kellan Lutz) at arm wrestling to show she's wholly Cullen-ized.
Bella's clueless dad (Billy Burke) has to be clued in. Sort of. The third corner of the love triangle, werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), must be placated and insulted. He calls the fast-growing tyke "Nessie." ("You nicknamed my baby after the Loch Ness Monster?")
And the Volturi, the ruling coven of vampires, must be convinced that this child of human-and-vampire desire with the absurd name and silly nickname is no threat. And as is the way of Twilight, the Volturi (Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning) aren't listening. Thus, the Cullen clan reach out — north to south, east to Middle East — for "witnesses" to the child's true nature. These vampy vampires — Brazilian rainforest folk, Arabs, Russians — each have their own "special" powers, according to the needs of the always slight but increasingly unwieldy plot. It's as if novelist Stephenie Meyer was using the growing, evolving Harry Potter bag of tricks and trick characters as her model.
Lee Pace and Rami Malek are standouts among the legion of newcomers hurled into the saga. And I have to say, after four films and untold tons of heavily made-up heavy-breathing close-ups, the casting of that original corps of Cullens and humans has worked out wonderfully. The gorgeous supporting players, from Peter Facinelli and Nikki Reed to Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone, never treated this teen romance as anything less than War and Peace.
The movies around them, however, have veered from tepid to time-stands-still tedious. The passionate panting first-love of the first films has settled into an embattled but lusty couple setting up housekeeping, the effects have improved marginally and, as said at the outset, the ending and the epilogue pack a punch.
Thanks to that, Edward gets the last line on this Saga. Coping with some new pain that's inflicted on his tormented immortal soul and oft-shirtless immortal body, he provides this epitaph — "It's painful, but it's bearable."
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Directed by Bill Condon. Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the Stephanie Meyer novels. A Summit release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, and Woodland Mall Cinema. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality, and partial nudity. Running time: 115 minutes.
Critic's Rating: ** 1/2
Bella ..................Kristen Stewart