Contrary to popular belief it is not the job of the film critic to tell people whether they should or should not go see a film. People can make up their own minds and invariably they always do. We are not psychics, we don’t know what draws you to a film and we don’t know what turns you away. All we can do is tell you what we think as if our opinion matters. It doesn’t. Besides which you already drew your own conclusions the second you heard Twilight in the title. For what it’s worth here’s mine.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 is the most bat shit insane entry of the series yet, possibly the first in which it doesn’t try to pretend that the bat shit insanity doesn’t exist. Finally the franchise takes its fingers out of its ears and stops singing “La, la, la.” Instead of ignoring it, it indulges its sweet tooth and realises that the goofiness surrounding the mythology of Stephanie Meyer’s opus is perhaps the best thing going for it and not the brooding moroseness or ponderous meanderings the author would prefer you focus on.
While the previous instalments always had terrible moments to laugh at, the direction of Breaking Dawn Part Two suggests that those moments are in this movie for us to laugh with. It’s refreshing to see that a series whose biggest flaw after four films was a near terminal desire to be taken seriously, finally find itself in on the joke and using that to find a heart of fun in what was becoming a twitching corpse of creativity.
One of the biggest reasons this film has been allowed to succeed is the irreverence with which it treats its source material. As the last instalment it doesn’t have to worry about fan backlash. It’s not as if they have to worry about the core audience boycotting the next film. Let me give you an example. In the book, Jacob imprints on Bella’s infant child. This essentially means that he has found a sexual partner in a baby, barely a few months old. The books try to make some heavy handed point about love being forever and having meaning that transcends age.
The film however plays this for the laughs that are seemingly beyond the reach of its author. Barely any film cells are wasted on it but those that are turn it to slapstick humour with a side order of jokes about how Edward is now Jacob’s father in law. The film realises the silliness, plays with it and cooperates with the inevitable audience reaction instead of against it; whereas previous films would have arrogantly tried to steer viewers towards its own farcical way of thinking.
I enjoyed Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2, but that doesn’t mean I can call it a good film. The most relevant comparison I can think of is the 1990’s work of Steven Segal or Jean-Claude Van Damme: Exploitative genre pieces that know how to push the right buttons but precious little else. While franchise building for predominantly female audiences is a fairly new craft, those wanting to mine the pockets of this newly tapped market will have to start finding ways to approach this territory with more skill and confidence.
The main problem is that it tries to cater to both audience polarities. While the film embraces the inherent insanity of the franchise for the benefit of those who find Twilight awful, it still wishes to appeal to the Twihards by including the boring moments of endless contemplation. The result is a film with an inconsistent tone that makes it impossible for any real tension or emotion to build. Especially when the two tones are so incompatible.
When Twilight is giving you time to meditate on the themes of the series, it cannot guarantee where your mind will wonder. Unforgivable in a big blockbuster movie where there are so many dubious plot points for us to wonder about.
Worse than giving the audience time to think about plot holes is apologising that they even exist. Making weak excuses for massive narrative discrepancies draws attention to them. When your patriarch is admitting his own ignorance at not noticing the bad guys plan sooner when he really should have done weakens the narrative strand and destroys character credibility. Instead of apologising a film maker with more confidence would have bamboozled you, blinded you with misdirection and excitement so that instead of dwelling on plot contrivances we zip along to the next exciting set piece or development.
And if we’re going to talk about a lack of confidence we have to talk about the ending. Notorious in the novel for reaching an anti-climax where conflicts are resolved amicably through talking, persuasion, diplomacy and other ghastly concepts that while idealistic are completely lacking in drama and entertainment value. The film takes a different approach. It ends in an explosion of violence, an orgy of chaos, vampires and werewolves ripping each other to pieces. The visceral nature of the destruction is almost symbolic of the film breaking away from its allegiances to the source material, discarding it like a burdensome weight, freeing itself from the constraint of fan expectation. This is an ending; it has destruction, it has loss and most importantly it has deep and meaningful consequences to the world of Twilight and everyone in it.
And then all of that drama, all of that meaning, all of those consequences are ripped away from the viewer in not one but two of the most audacious acts of Deus Ex Machina ever conceived in cinematic history. Tricking you into believing that it has taken a stand for its own independence, then laughing at you for being fool enough to believe it had that much integrity. It could have had one of the greatest endings in blockbuster history. Instead we have a footnote, a film that will share a common place among the other bad to mediocre films in its series. And tragically a hint as to what it could have been had it the courage of its own convictions.