This is it… or is it just the beginning of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan’s immortal romance? I don’t know. All I know is the release of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 means the film franchise is over and it goes out with probably the most enjoyable movie of the bunch. It’s out with the angst, and in with a newfound sense of fun. The previous movies struck me as overly ponderous; this one is actually quite funny, occasionally even bordering on camp. And that’s OK given that the story of vampire babies and ab-tastic werewolves is rather silly.
Picking up where the last movie left off—both films are based on a single book, Stephenie Meyer’s “Breaking Dawn”—the new one begins with Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) rebirth as a vampire following the arrival of her half-human, half-bloodsucker baby Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Bella loves her newfound life—or whatever it is the undead call their existence. She doesn’t get tired, doesn’t have to eat and vampire sexy time is supernaturally satisfying. Edward can’t stop smiling, the baby is growing by leaps and bounds—literally—but there is darkness afoot. An allegation regarding the child finds its way to the Volturi, an ancient, vengeful coven of vampires who enforce the laws of the vampire world. The film leads to a showdown between Edward and Bella’s extended family and the old ones which could lead to a culling of the Cullen clan.
It took five movies to finally get the tone of story right. The first movies were teen angst personified through brooding Bella and Edward’s ennui. It’s as if these popular movies contained the cinematic equivalent of a dog whistle, subtext that only teenage girls could hear and see, which left anyone over the age of thirty out in the cold. However, four movies of sad faces and staring off into space may have captured the pain of teen love, but, if you’ll excuse the pun, they also sucked some of the lifeblood from the story.
Director Bill Condon, who also helmed the part one of the story, embraces the ridiculousness of the premise without losing the horror Harlequin feel that made the star crossed lovers storyline so appealing to Twihards. Bella and Edward are still share and eternal love, and the addition of Renesmee has only strengthened that feeling, but now they’re having some fun. Edward, if you watch closely, even smiles occasionally.
It’s a big step from the first installments and, unsurprisingly, it makes for a fun movie. Intentional laugh lines—when Bella’s dad learns of Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) lycnthropian ability he says to his daughter, “You don’t turn into an animal too, do you?”—are mixed with some unintentional gags—Russian vampires anyone?—and topped off with some playful action—like Bella wrestling with a cougar.
The cumulative effect is the rare undead story that is life affirming with less of the stuff that made the previous movies tough going for non-romantically inclined fang bangers and more pure entertainment.