Beginning from where The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1  left off, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have given birth to their daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) and Bella has successfully been transformed into a vampire. But the law - vampire law that is - stipulates that a child cannot be born immortal and so when a governing body of vampires called the Volturi, led by the ruthlessly intimidating Aro (Michael Sheen), discover this the Cullens must band together with all their budding clans from near and far to make a stand to protect the child. Unbeknownst to the Volturi though, the child is not immortal and was conceived and born while Bella was still human, making her something of an anomaly (as far as half-human/half-vampire babies go).
The fifth and final installment in the Twilight franchise marks the first occasion where the same director has returned for a second innings. Bill Condon, director of Part 1 returns to facilitate the conclusion to the series and points must be given for being consistent in his vision of a gothic fairytale of epic heartbreaking proportions. The stakes have never been higher now as it is essentially do or die for Bella, Edward and the entire family. All the regular players return in full force, complete with white, pasty skin, trendy attire and searing red/orange eyes that look as if they could burn through your skull. Except Jacob (Taylor Lautner) of course, who continues to hang around and offer snide comments just to remind the audience he's still a part of it all. There are even scenes that suggested to me that he's posing as some sort of second Dad in the hope that Edward will perish in the imminent battle between the Cullens and the Volturi.
The whole family stands up to the vicious Volturi Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment).
I won't spend a lot of time and words on dissecting performances for two reasons: 1) they aren't any better or worse than the shallow, soap opera-like performances of the prequels, and 2) the target audience aren't focusing on such a thing. However, in this case it works to the film's advantage somewhat and director Condon knows this. He has chosen to focus on what the audience will be looking at (i.e. the trendy clothing, the actor's bodies, the sex scene and a 'happily ever after'). In these departments you will not be disappointed - it's just a shame that Condon didn't give the same attention to the special effects, most of which look like more like a work-in-progress than a finished product. Once again, it's not a film about the special effects but come on, the newborn baby at the beginning is so fake that it's actually hilarious.
In the lead up to the awaited stand-off, the pace is consistent and doesn't become bogged down too much like at times in Part 1. There is a swelling source of tension that underlies most of the important scenes and plot points which informs the growing seriousness of the situation well. When the stand-off does occur however, Condon plays a huge trick - one that will divide audience members dramatically. If you're seeing this in a theatre, it will be at this point that you will immediately be able to identify who has read the book and who hasn't. Without giving too much away, I will state that I have not read the book and I absolutely hated what the director did at this point in the story - you'll know what I mean when you see it.
Aro (Michael Sheen), the supremely intimidating Volturi leader Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment).
In spite of all its superficial credibility and shallow conceptualisation, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 is a step-up from Part 1 in terms of sheer interest and pace. At a runtime of two hours, the action comes and goes quite efficiently and has some genuinely tense moments. A special nod must be given to Michael Sheen for his performance here of a sincerely threatening figure - the moments involving his character are among the film's finest. This is a solid and trying conclusion for an otherwise dramatically misconstrued franchise that fans are sure to leave the cinema waiting for their second viewing - especially (and only) avid fans of the book, perhaps.