By now, you probably know the story; awkward teen girl meets brooding romantic vampire, they fall in love, and together face numerous supernatural challenges armed with copious eye-rolling and a perfectly coiffured do respectively. The final installment of the hugely successfully Twilight series however uses its final breath to experiment with the formula somewhat, with the introduction of Bella (Kristen Stewart) as a vampire herself.
Twilight’s appeal to its chosen demographic has always been the transparency of the Bella Swan character, an empty space of a teen to whom readers and viewers can project their own emotions and thus invest themselves within the love story. What does this mean now Bella is a vampire? Firstly, gone are the plaid shirts, angst and sighing. In a largely unsubtle wardrobe decision, vampire Bella struts around in heels and skirts for the majority of the movie whilst the rest of the Cullen clan coo around her about how beautiful she is now. Like Edward (Robert Pattinson), her vampirism seems to exude mainly from her hair, as Stewart amasses most of her screen time peeking out from under a Cheryl Cole style bouffant. It’s a transformation echoing Lindsay Lohan’s character arc in Mean Girls; all shallow gloss at the expense of what sincerity was once there. Ironically, Bella’s often irksome lip-biting and awkward aura of the first films retrospectively inspires more empathy than the immaculate Barbie doll of this finale. As such, never has the chemistry between Bella and Edward seemed more…well…dead.
So as the motivation of the previous films finally comes into fruition, how then does the narrative choose to proceed?
Well, not much at all really. We’re treated to a hilariously farcical introductory ten minutes in which Edward leads Bella around the forests of Forks for a tutorial in snarling, panting and grunting. It’s a pity that 5 movies in, there’s still no way of producing the running vampire sequences in a way as to inspire anything but laughter. Twilight is a series not particularly noted for its special effects achievements, but all that we’ve seen previously is no match for the sheer creepiness of Bella and Edward’s half vampire child, Renesmee. The computer generated baby sits so jarring and unevenly in the actors’ very real arms that one can’t help but shake the idea that you’re watching some kind of Playstation tie-in game. The child is explained as having accelerated growth which allows the film to conveniently side-step becoming an episode of Teen Mom, and indeed allows Edward and Bella to frequently shrug the responsibilities of young parenthood to retire to their honeymoon lodge. Whilst there they engage in soft focus vampire sex, which proves just as boring as the vampire-human copulation in the previous film and is once again accompanied by a wistful indie soundtrack.
When a threat befalls their ludicrously named child, the film’s second act plays like a vampire version of Ocean’s Eleven, as the Cullens recruit their supernatural friends from across the globe to attest to the child’s harmlessness. And, like Don Cheadle’s poorly judged Cock-a-ney accent in that film, so too does Twilight rely on stereotype to portray its posse’s varying roots, with the ginger-haired, flat-cap-wearing Irish fighting it out with the Eurovision contestant Russians for the crown of silliest. Helping the vampires is Jacob Black’s (Taylor Lautner) team of werewolves, and for the first time in the series, the human representation is largely gone. Billy Burke’s portrayal of Bella’s dad, one of the most consistently likeable of the franchise as a whole is sadly confined to the outskirts. Even his introduction to his newly vampiric daughter and her surprising offspring is all too brief for a character that has spent most of the series with the highest concern for his kin. He does however get a charmingly played scene with Lautner which is knowingly humourous, unlike the rest of the film.
Like most of the series, Breaking Dawn Part 2’s structure is uneven but the final act of the film rests on a plot device so bizarre that it confounds its audience to the point of bemusement. It’s a risk that instead of gaining kudos, serves only to show how dull and unexciting this is as a final part to a successful film franchise. Any energy in the film’s denouement is also undone by its following a saggy middle section from which the only respite is Michael Sheen’s deliciously evil Aro. A performance that straddles both quiet menace and out-and-out histrionics, Sheen is a highlight throughout the film and a great counterbalance to the overall lifelessness of all around him.
So whilst the attempts to deviate from formula are appreciated, it’s really a case of too little, too late, and as with most film franchises, if you weren’t on board with the first installments, you’re not going to start investing now.