Friday, 7 June 2013

Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 – reviewed by Douglas J. Ogurek

The filmgoer hoping to evade Edward Cullen’s (Robert Pattinson) constipated-while-sucking-on-a-lemon smile or Jacob Black’s (Taylor Lautner) shirtless torso in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 (directed by Bill Condon) is out of luck. However, despite those and a few other minor irritations, the film combines suspense, violence and commendable acting to gracefully conclude the Twilight saga.

Heroine Bella Cullen (Kristen Stewart) must hone her newly-acquired vampiric powers. That means not only resisting the intense desire to drink human blood, but also keeping safe her newborn daughter Renesmee. The Volturi, an Italy-based coven of vampire rule enforcers, erroneously suspects that Renesmee is an immortal child (i.e. a human child turned vampire) with the potential to go on a bloodsucking blitzkrieg. That threatens the secrecy the Volturi strive to maintain among vampires. However, with their black cloaks and cadaverous faces, the members of the Volturi are not exactly the epitome of inconspicuousness.

The conflict between Edward and Jacob that fuelled the previous films has abated. Jacob, who has “imprinted on” – that’s werewolf speak for “declared himself a protector of” – Renesmee, hangs out at the Cullens’ Washington State home, where he keeps his trademark snide remarks and sneers to a minimum. Too bad.

The Cullens and Jacob spend most of the film gathering vampire “witnesses” to avoid bloodshed by convincing the approaching Volturi that Renesmee is half-vampire, half-human. Alas, the Volturi, in many ways resembling the upper-class, dislike anyone who is not a Volturi, and take an obvious pleasure in killing.

Though much of it is encased in a filming technique that many consider a no-no, the inevitable showdown between the Cullen clan and the Volturi in a snowy valley stands as the most thrilling scene in the Twilight series. Whereas the battle that concluded the Harry Potter series was chaotic and hard to follow, this one resembles a well-choreographed dance. It starts slowly, with individual Cullens crossing the snow-clad space between the increasingly tense battle lines in their attempts to persuade the Volturi. The conflict escalates to an intensity that would impress even the fan of eighties Schwarzenegger action films. Moreover, the stark white setting intensifies the viewer’s focus on the battle.

The true star of this film is Michael Sheen, who the filmmakers finally allow to unleash his talents as Aro, the ever-amused leader of the Volturi. As the wide-eyed villain clasps the hands of would-be victims to read their thoughts, his facial expressions resemble those of a necrophile at the morgue. At one point, he even giggles!

Cinematographic flourishes further galvanize the culminating scene. For instance, the camera positions Aro on the right side of the screen to create an imposing adversary who, despite Sheen’s five-foot nine-inch stature, seems as tall as the distant mountains. This technique also forces his clan (and the viewer’s eyes) away from the purity of the predominantly white landscape.

The film runs into trouble when it attempts to introduce so many secondary characters (i.e. the witnesses). Certainly possible in the 750+pp novel. Not so much in a 115 minute film. While some of these witnesses – the “creepy” (Jacob’s word) Romanian duo bent on revenge – add flavour, others seem as lively “as statues” (another Jacob gem). Additionally, the costume designers seem to have consulted with kindergartners before choosing some of the outfits for witnesses from other parts of the world.

The filmmakers took a risk in breaking Stephanie Meyer’s final novel into two films. The first four films focus on the development and consummation of Edward and Bella’s relationship. Many stories flounder when they attempt to move beyond this point. But Breaking Dawn Part 2 relies on an age-old strategy – the bad guys are coming! – to hold its own.

Many have argued that the Twilight films and their characters are overly dramatic. However, these are films about vampires, and vampires are dramatic! Just keep the lemons away from Edward.

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