Sorry it took so long to get the review up for this film; it’s been out for ten days already, but Fluffy prefers to avoid crowds (see my entry, I Hate Hate Hate Movie Theaters, as to why), and better late than never, right?
Anyway, I was really psyched for this final film in the Twilight Saga. The first Breaking Dawn did a fine job of setting up the finale, though having read the books, I was a little curious as to how some elements would play onscreen. (WARNING: Spoilers from here on out.) On the page, the final confrontation with the Volturi was only exciting on a psychological level, as it’s essentially just a bunch of random vampires standing around in the snow. However, the film does action fans a solid by capturing the content of what Alice shows Aro will happen if he does not alter his plans. This in itself makes for a compelling, tight sequence that will leave fans of the books screaming “NO! That didn’t happen!” Haha, turns out they’re right, but it’s some cool special effects porn nonetheless. A LOT of heads get twisted off, vamps and direwolves (oops, wrong franchise– werewolves…) display their unique fighting abilities in excess, and the very elements get drawn into the fray. It’s an fx maven’s wet dream.
However, there’s a lot of movie between the moment newborn vampire Bella opens her now-red eyes and this big-budget (and entirely manufactured) confrontation, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Where the film shines is in its depiction of Bella’s adjustment to her new way of life, and Kristen Stewart has never appeared to be more comfortable in Bella’s skin as she does now. I am not sure if this is the difference between Human Bella and Vampire Bella so much as Stewart at last having fun stuff to do onscreen, which admittedly there’s been little of in the past films. In the first film, Bella didn’t do much, besides bite her lip a lot and nearly get (passively) killed a couple of times. In New Moon, she rode some motorcycles and tried to (passively) kill herself a couple of times. In Eclipse, she got to punch Jacob (Taylor Lautner) but spent most of the movie being protected from this and that, and in the first Breaking Dawn she got married, had a baby, and sorta died. But none of this looked particularly fun to play, in the way that portraying Bella as a vampire looks fun. Stewart looks to be actually enjoying herself, no matter what Bella is doing this time around. The lip-biting thing seems to be over, replaced by a real smile. Bella, in becoming a fantastical creature, has never seemed more realistic.
However, the film is not without its flaws. The passage-of-time voiceover Bella delivers feels painfully contrived, and the absence of Ashley Greene’s Alice from most of the proceedings, though storyline-dictated, leaves a big hole in the Cullen family dynamic. (I could say the same for Jackson Rathbone as Jasper, but he has been criminally underused on screen throughout the series anyway. TEAM JASPER!) All the Volturi, with the exception of Dakota Fanning’s Jane, and a few of the Cullens’ vampire allies are overacted (though this is lampshaded somewhat when Jacob notes to Bella that the Transylvanian vampires are “creepy” and has a big laugh about it). But for all of this, the movie gets more right than it flubs. Bella’s delight in her newfound abilities is a joy to watch, as she takes down mountain lions, beats Emmett (Kellan Lutz) at arm-wrestling, and flings werewolves around like stuffed toys. There are difficulties in how she adjusts to her condition– her craving for human blood, as seen when she and Edward (Robert Pattinson) accidentally encounter the mountain climber, frightens her; no less challenging is how she copes with keeping her father, Charlie, in her “new” life while being unable to tell him the whole story (as usual, Billy Burke’s Charlie gets some funny lines), and the very natural rage she feels when she learns Jacob has imprinted on her baby daughter. Bella’s motherhood feels believable despite her young age and her daughter’s rapid growth. Mackenzie Foy is charming and ethereal as Renesmee, whose very existence, through a misunderstanding, elicits the wrath of the Volturi, and who has a special ability of her own. And of course, since at its core The Twilight Saga is Bella’s and Edward’s love story, there’s some tastefully presented sex, handled less awkwardly than in the first Breaking Dawn.
Overall, the film was a satisfying ending for the franchise, which finally came into its own with this installment. It’s been a long trip, but the series saved the best for last. And for those suffering a withdrawal from movies based upon the works of Stephenie Meyer, this spring we have the film version of The Host to look forward to. Completely different universe and characters, but the first trailer looks good. So cheer up, fans! The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade: A-