The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 opens with newly-vampiric Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) wrestling a mountain lion in mid-air and taking a bite out of its jugular as her first post-transformation meal. And the rest of the movie either matches or exceeds that level of absurdity. (Warning: There’ll be spoilers for the big plot twist later in this post, but I’ll give you another warning.)
Because Part 2 takes place mere days after Part 1 (which came out in November 2011), a quick recap is in order. Gawky human Bella gets her wish to marry her beloved vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), but on their honeymoon they somehow accidentally conceive a vampire/human fetus, which proceeds to break Bella apart from the inside. The only way to save her is for Edward to rip the fetus out with his teeth and then turn Bella into a vampire, which was her ultimate wish anyway.
As Part 2 opens, Bella is adjusting to life as a newborn vampire: The sudden super-speed and sensitivity to the tiniest whisper, plus the all-consuming thirst for blood. Ironically, however, the Volturi—the vampire world’s ruling guard, stationed in Rome—are more worried about Bella and Edward’s daughter Renesmee. After misidentifying her as an “immortal child” (a child turned into a vampire), they travel to Forks, Washington, to destroy her. The Cullens must call upon their vampire cousins from all over the world to testify to Renesmee’s hybrid status.
They’re also joined by the wolf pack and Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella’s one-time romantic interest who has since imprinted on Renesmee. Yes, the movie sticks to the most absurd twist from Stephenie Meyer’s novel, and Bella’s immediate assumption that Jacob is lusting after her baby is priceless. The scene where she uses her vampire strength to throw him into trees had our midnight screening audience cheering, but they laughed the hardest when Jacob calls Renesmee “Nessie” and Bella snarls, “You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?” (In any other series, the nicknaming would be the worst offense, but Bella has her standards for namesakes, apparently.)
The movies have always had a sharp self-awareness, but they really ham it up for the grand finale. You can thank screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for that; she worked on the early, delightfully awkward seasons of Dexter. Though Kristen Stewart is more expressive here than in the previous films, the dialogue is still clunky and the one-liners ridiculous. Meeting the Cullens’ “extended family” is a lesson in stereotypes you should never use: The redheaded Irish vampires wearing newsboy caps and the Dracula-wannabe Romanian vamps with their hilariously bad accents are both examples where you wonder, “Did they really just do that?”
Ironically, many of the new faces overshadowed the characters we’re growing tired of. I would have watched an entire movie devoted to Lee Pace’s boho vamp Garrett: His first appearance has him snacking on a human singing along to some bad music (perhaps One Direction?) and snarking, “I hated the British invasion the first time around. I hate this one, too!”
Despite having created its own vampire canon—and yes, there are sparkles aplenty here—Twilight still seems to treat its undead as parody. Bella’s feral scream when eating her lion lunch, like Volturi member Aro’s cackling laugh later, sound like something off a soundboard rather than sounds intended to provoke chills. The vampire sex—yes, Bella and Edward get a second go at it—literally had a moment that I termed “sparkly vampire orgasms.”
But if you want to talk about the most jaw-dropping display of vampire prowess, we’re going to have to enter spoiler territory. If you’re the kind of person who likes to be utterly surprised, then stop reading now. But if not, or if you’ve already seen the movie, join me in saying a resounding, “WTF?”
In the novel, the Volturi travel all the way to Forks to destroy Renesmee, only to find out she’s a hybrid and then turn around and leave. But because that would make a horribly boring final movie, we’re treated to an epic fight scene that has vampires fighting in mid-air and ripping each other’s heads off.
Really, I couldn’t count how many heads rolled in the snow in that sequence that had our audience screaming as beloved characters were mercilessly decapitated. Because apparently that’s the only way to make sure a vamp stays dead. Obviously Stephanie Meyer has never heard of staking, or decided to leave that to Joss Whedon. There are also some truly epic vampire/werewolf showdowns where both sides bring the pain.
The Breaking Dawn fight scene was a stunning piece of catharsis that spoke to our darker desire to see all of these characters bite the dust once and for all. There’s that same expectation with TV series finales, so it was smart of the producers to tap into that same kind of ending. Of course, if we’re talking tropes, it’s quickly revealed to all be a dream—or rather, Aro’s vision of what could happen if the Volturi try to take on the baddest vamps this side of Washington. Then the rest of the movie is so sappy you’ll almost forget your earlier delight.
Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is awful. Cinematically, there’s no redeeming factor; the acting is as wooden as ever, though the actors smirking through their lines is fun; and the plot is so shoddy that you wonder for the millionth time how this became a publishing phenomenon. But it’s entertaining as hell, and perfectly suited for both Twihards and detractors: Both sides get the closure they want, with a little more sex and blood than past installments. Thank God it’s over.
Natalie Zutter is a playwright, foodie, and the co-creator of Leftovers, a webcomic about food trucks in the zombie apocalypse. She’s currently the Associate Editor at Crushable, where she discusses movies, celebrity culture, and internet memes. Weekly you can find her commenting on pop culture on KoPoint’s podcast AFK On Air, and on Twitter.