Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and Breaking Dawn, Part 2 were shot back to back, as one big production. This makes these films the only ones in the franchise to have the same director (Bill Condon).
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 has a very good-looking opening sequence that picks up visual themes from the final minutes of Part 1. This is accompanied by a really good theme music, which is surprising given as Carter Burwell had not displayed much of his talent in either Twilight or Breaking Dawn, Part 1. While none of the score music in Part 2 is as good as the film’s opening theme, I find the score in general less annoying than Burwell’s work in his previous two Twilight projects.
The film’s opening scenes are rather fun. Bella is adapting to her new life – and so is Jacob, in a way. Yet like the previous film, this one also shows a weird obsession with Bella’s sex life; although that obsession is thankfully short-lived.
Half an hour in the film, the story’s actual plot is set into motion. The Cullens face their biggest threat yet, and so they try to gather help from other vampires around the world.
This leads to a long and rather muddled sequence of the story. The sheer number of distinctive vampire characters, some from far away places and different cultures, completely overburdens the film and crushes the world-building achievements of the previous films. A lot of it is too outlandish, too colourful. Maybe this worked in the novel, but it does not work on screen. There are far too many characters that we are told are in some way of importance, but who do not get properly introduced or developed. These vampire are given too little time to become interesting, yet they are all given just enough time to wallow in their lack of charisma.
These scenes are definitely the weakest of the film: lots of characters we do not care about telling stories we are not interested in. Script writer Melissa Rosenberg would have needed to lose at least half these characters in order to give the others room to breathe. Apart from that, I have no idea what to say about these scenes, which make up the entire second act – there is simply nothing here to talk about.
The whole affair ends in a final battle scene (of sorts) which, I have been told, differs from the book. I am quite happy with the way it looks and has been choreographed and shot; but, like with Eclipse, I am not sure these visual aspects hold up compared to today’s high standards. While this battle scene is certainly interesting – more interesting than anything we got to see in Part 1 – I believe that taken in its entirety (with precursory scenes and aftermath) it is simply far too long.
As for the acting, I cared for none of the performances of the “other” vampires – simply because there was no meat to the characters and there was nothing the actors could have done about that. As for the regulars, Peter Facinelli (Dr Cullen) gets a bit more screen-time in this film, but with a fairly two-dimensional character and a lot of mediocre dialogue he struggles to make much of it. That this is not his fault shows a look at Billy Burke, whose performance as Bella’s father had been one of the few silver linings of this franchise: in most of his scenes in Breaking Dawn, Part 2, he is fighting a losing battle against the absurdity of the situation and of the lines he has been given. As in the other films of the franchise, the script is the film’s weakest element, and this time it even managed to fell the steadfast Burke. Likewise, Ashley Greene (Alice) visibly struggles with the delivery of some of the “poignant” lines the script throws at her.
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is another of those films where the script contains a number of lines (or even scenes) that simply do not work on screen.
And since we are on the subject of things not working. The character of Edward is still not really working in the fifth film in a row. And the same could be said, to a lesser extent, of Jacob as well. Robert Pattinson (Edward) and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) are muddling their way through this film in the same manner as they did in the previous films (although Lautner gets the chance to show that he may have a hidden talent for comedy). In recent years, a number of commentators have argued that Hollywood screenwriters, most of whom are men, are unable to write convincing, well-rounded female characters. After having watched all the films in the Twilight franchise more than once since their DVD-release, I am beginning to wonder if the same could be said about female writers and male characters. Between Stephenie Meyer’s novels and Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplays, and with Catherine Hardwicke’s direction setting the groundwork for the characters in the first film, we have three women in charge of creating male characters (and specifically Edward) who turned out to be rather hollow and dull accessories.
Also slightly disappointing was Michael Sheen’s performance in this film. His character, Aro, has somewhat lost the underlying menace which Sheen had been able to keep lurking so nicely just below the surface in his previous appearances in the franchise. It must have something to do with the fact that he has so much more screen-time in this film – somehow things that worked well in his short appearances in previous films apparently do not work for a longer period of time. Much as I like to blame Melissa Rosenberg’s script for a lot of things, Sheen’s weaker performance is something I have got to pin on the director, Bill Condon.
Kristen Stewart likewise suffers under a combination of bad writing and unsupportive directing. Early on, there is a scene in which Bella is angrily shouting at Jacob. Stewart is not able to pull this off. The dialogue is silly, and her performance is not believable for even a second. It is one of her very few truly weak moments in this franchise. The script also does Stewart no favours in other respects: she has many scenes in which Bella is just standing still, trying to concentrate on using her powers. Stewart is not doing a bad job here, but these are the kind of “CGI added later” moments that rarely make an actor look good.
As was the case at other times in the franchise, Stewart is saddled with quite a lot of narration in this film. Something she is doing quite competently, while staying in character. But it does not make for captivating story-telling.
Stewart is much stronger in the very few scenes in which she actually gets something to do. One scene sees Bella drive into Seattle to meet with a shady figure called “J. Jenks”, and Stewart is giving a strong performance in that scene. Jenks is played magnificently by Wendell Pierce, who proves that sometimes it is possible to make a lot out of even the smallest of roles.
And since I am throwing praise around, I would like to talk about the writing in that particular scene. I know I have devoted a lot of time in my reviews to criticising the writing in this franchise – always adding that it is difficult for me to know if Stephenie Meyer is more to blame, or Melissa Rosenberg, because I have not read the books. But since Pierce’s performance intrigued me so much, I wanted to know more about Jenks and checked a few wiki-style and other fan-sites. From what I understand, the character, the meeting, and a very specific detail of the business transaction involved have been altered significantly, and it seems to me that Melissa Rosenberg improved this scene ten-fold as compared to the novel.
Other enjoyable scenes are very few and far between. There is a fun scene which deals with the kind of effort that is involved when vampires try to appear human in public, as there are many small details that have to be taken into consideration.
Like the rest of the franchise, this film is peppered with soft, sugary images and at times with cheesy score music (though, as I said, far less annoying than in Twilight or in Breaking Dawn, Part 1). The use of wolf CGI is scaled back to a “normal” level which makes it far more tolerable than in the previous film. But the (once again) completely botched CGI used for child-faces in this film is just embarrassing and painful to watch. I do not even want to know what this must have looked like on a big cinema screen.
Another sore point are the “fast-running” and “jumping” effects that occur early on in the film (in those early scenes that I found otherwise enjoyable). These are the same effects that looked so utterly ridiculous in the first film, and they have not improved one bit.
These shoddy effects are all the more surprising as the budget for the final Twilight films is said to have been quite substantial. But I am sure that time is another significant factor in these things, and the Twilight franchise is known to have always been tight on time. Whereas other franchises mostly stick to two-year schedules, young adult fiction franchises often try to churn out one film per year, probably because they fear their fan-base might grow out of their enthusiasm as they get older…
The Twilight films were also released at a one-per-year rate, making the entire production schedule rather tight – which is one of the reasons why no director stuck around for the next film, because there would have been no downtime in between productions. I guess that the tight schedule led to a rushed post-production which affected the quality of the effects. I am also willing to assume that the tight schedule throughout the franchise might not have allowed the directors to work with their actors more closely, or to put some more work into the characters, or even to shoot more additional takes of certain scenes that were tricky. All this affects the quality of the performances, the more so the more difficult (or poorly written) the character is.
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 has several endings, which unnecessarily protracts the film and does contribute to the feeling of relative emptiness. After the final showdown there are some good-byes, followed by one of Alice’s visions which is meant to give audiences a glimpse of the future. Then there is some kind of “declaration of love” scene between Bella and her husband, which involves lots of flashbacks to earlier films, and which is pretty much unnecessary. It is followed by two different sets of credits: the normal credits are preceded by franchise-wide credits, so that the filmmakers had the chance honour all those actors who had appeared at some point in the franchise but who were not part of this final film. This honour roll is illustrated with images from the previous films, and someone obviously invested a lot of thought and time into the design of this sequence.
While I like the idea of honouring all these actors, and while I understand that all those flashbacks and glimpses of the future are meant as fan-service, it has to be said that this “staggered” ending is just a bit too much and does, as I said, draw things out.
So, with very little actually happening in this film, and the few more enjoyable scenes mostly happening rather early on, I find Breaking Dawn, Part 2 rather boring. While I do not dislike Part 2 as much as Part 1, it is still not a good film. My rating for this film stands at 4.5 out of 10.