Picking up where Bella's red glowing eyes left off, Breaking Dawn: Part Two explores Bella's new status as a vampire, her half-vampire child and the Cullen family's struggle for survival against the powerful Volturi.
That is, once you get past the creepy opening title sequence. We watch the landscape of Forks (extreme close up, time-lapsed, red hued- yep, creepy) for a painfully long time, then Bella wakes up a vampire, Edward is happy, baby is alive and well, everything is rosy.
But this franchise wouldn't be so successful with tweens if there wasn't a little love angst, a lot of drama and a fight for survival. Pretty soon we learn from future-seeing Alice (Ashley Greene) there is a great threat against the family and the life of Bella and Edward's small child, Renesmee. (Don't get me started on the name. You can tell Bella is a teen mom.)
This swings into motion a chain of events that draws in the Cullen family's vampy friends from all over the world, the wolf pack, and the Volturi, the evil vampire rulers (including Dakota Fanning and Michael Sheen). For a long time, we watch all the different characters interact and work together, preparing for the big climax.
While all that is going on, Bella gets used to being a vampire, practicing her skill of having no reaction to anything (you think I'm kidding - that's really her vampire skill. She is an unfeeling shield. Now I understand Kristen Stewart's characterization.) Bella also appears to love her new strength, as her triumphant arm-wrestle proves. Yeah, that actually happens.
As far as the characters go, they don't have the same edge as Part One. Everyone looks just a little tired, going through the motions of their role. In the first Breaking Dawn, there was real desperation felt by all when Bella was in danger, but even though the whole family is in peril this time around, there isn't a lot of emotion being displayed. When you're fighting for your freedom against tyrannical rulers whom you know will hurt your family, you better believe I expect to see some panic. But there isn't any. They don't seem to care, and neither do I.
Having said that, Stewart does an amazing job of being able to shout and scream without putting any expression on her face. I don't know how she does it, but keep an eye out for when she is yelling at Jacob because he nicknamed her daughter 'Nessie'- it's hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
After the long build-up of "tension" (we sort of just sit and watch stuff happen for a while) the Volturi finally show up.
I'll be the first to admit, this part of the film is gripping. The fight with the Volturi has been shot by director Bill Condon with epic intent, and I found myself thinking "Holy s***! I wasn't expecting THAT to happen!" For the first time in over an hour, I was feeling something.
But that part is cut short and rescinded in favor of a very dull happy ending. This is such a shame as it gives us a glimpse of how dramatic the film could have been, without having the courage to stick to it. The ending would have been better if not all of the characters lived and we felt a sense of loss; a bittersweet Bella and Edward left grieving and lucky to be alive with their child. The script has to stick to the book, I suppose.
So a happy ending it is, and we are treated to another long title sequence recognizing every character who was in any of the five films, ever. They were playing for nostalgia here, I think, signifying the end of an era. Hard to believe we won't be seeing anymore teenage girls lined up outside cinemas with 'Team Edward' or 'Team Jacob' written across their cheeks. No more sparkling in the sunlight, guys, this tale has been put to rest.