Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More 'Breaking Dawn Part 2' Reviews added




Here are the reviews of 'Breaking Dawn Part 2'! #VampireBella #Theepicfinalethatwillliveforever

Please keep in mind that reviews can contain spoilers, lots of spoilers, and that negative reviews can be interesting to read.
If you have more reviews, feel free to email me. :)


REVIEWS

•• Screendaily, Brent Simon: The hugely successful serial adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s teen-friendly vampires-and-werewolves soap opera winds its way to a conclusion with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, one of the better entries of a middling series. There is a certain ceiling for melodrama in this programmatically plotted film. But after a rather sluggish opening half, director Bill Condon delivers a rousing finale that will work fans into a tizzy. More satisfying than objectively good, the movie serves as a fitting capstone on a five-year, $2.5 billion film franchise whose robust embrace not only helped launch the careers of its young stars but also solidified young adult and tween-lit as among the ripest properties for cinematic exploitation.

In a similar November release slot last year, Breaking Dawn – Part 1 rang up $281 million domestically against an additional $424 million internationally. It was the first movie in the franchise to dip in Stateside theatrical gross, but “Twi-hards” will no doubt turn out to bear witness to the story’s wrap-up, and another high-nine-figure gross is guaranteed. Ancillary value will also be huge.

Meyer’s 750-page Breaking Dawn novel was split into two movies, the first of which — in concentrating on nuptials between human Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), and Bella’s subsequent pregnancy — lacked much in the way of foreboding darkness or danger. Not surprisingly, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 possesses more downhill momentum.

After having barely survived childbirth, saved by Edward transforming her into a vampire, Bella is now immortal, and her ability to use her mind as a shield further enhanced. As she recuperates and learns to hone her powers, the Cullen vampire coven, overseen by Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), helps take care of her and Edward’s unique half-breed daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Meanwhile, the other side of Bella and Edward’s love triangle, werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), has involuntarily “imprinted” upon Renesmee, marking her as his soul mate. Bella at first does not take kindly to this.

When outcast vampire Irina (Maggie Grace) misidentifies Renesmee as an immortal child, the Volturi, a vampire clan of blue-blooded enforcers led by Aro (Michael Sheen), set out to destroy the Cullen brood and consolidate their power. In an attempt to head off bloody conflict, the Cullens frantically begin to gather witnesses from vampire clans all over the world who can attest to Renesmee’s true nature and harmlessness.

Returning director Condon, who seemed especially ill at ease with action in the previous film, here imparts a better sense of spatial understanding. The film’s rip-roaring snowy field battle sequence, testing the limits of its PG-13 Stateside rating, represents its indisputable high point. Multiple character arcs and conflicts are paid off in this fulfilling set piece.

And with some characters shunted to the side, scribe Melissa Rosenberg, a veteran of the entire series, mostly avoids the sorts of pitfalls in simple logic that hamstrung earlier efforts. It’s only when the movie seems to reach outside of its prescribed genre confines for grander statement (“Only the known is safe, only the known is tolerable,” intones Aro cunningly) does it seem especially ridiculous.

Unfortunately, many other problems from the series’ prior installments still persist. Most notable among these is the unconvincing deployment of special effects. A big part of the book concerns Renesmee’s advanced development, in which she ages at a quickened clip. Early on, the filmmakers attempt to convey this through facial mapping (putting an older child’s face on a younger baby’s body), but it comes across as silly, and phony looking. The scale and shimmery details of the film’s wolves also sometimes seems off.

Continuing its predecessors’ dispiriting trend, the film uses light rock songs under entire scenes, refusing to trust its actors or allow viewers to feel more naturally for themselves. This unrefined, saccharine approach is best suited for the small screen.

The acting styles of the main players (and especially Sheen, who draws big responses of his own with a couple reactions) still tilt a bit toward manifestly expressive — and in some ways this works, since the Twilight series is essentially a metaphor for the overwhelming hormonal surge of young love. But if there isn’t much room or encouragement for nuance built into the story, it is Stewart who most blossoms, delivering a more grounded and self-assured performance that reflects the settled heart of a perfectly requited love. Her journey is ably sketched, and that identification will be highly pleasing for series devotees.


•• The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy: The final installment of the immortal Bella/Edward romance will give its breathlessly awaiting international audience just what it wants.

If the entire five-part, 608-minutes-all-in running time of The Twilight Saga means anything at all, it is that vampires are the ultimate fairy-tale characters, as this is a story that literally ends happily ever after and forever for all concerned. Anyone who has seen even one of the previous cinematic installments of Stephenie Meyer’s endlessly protracted cross-species love story basically knows what to expect here, and the multitudes who have seen them all will jam theaters the world over in the coming weeks to experience the consummation so devoutly to be wished: the ultimate and imperishable union of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. The $1 billion generated by the first four entries in the U.S. and $2.5 billion generated worldwide will be increased considerably by the time Breaking Dawn finally reaches its dusk.

Shot by director Bill Condon concurrently with Breaking Dawn — Part 1 over six months in 2010-11, Part 2 picks up right where its predecessor left off. Having given birth, Kristen Stewart’s Bella awakens with her new vampire eyes and immeasurably jacked-up strength and perceptions. Taken on a run in the woods by her husband, Robert Pattinson’s Edward, she delights in her sudden speed, unbridled energy and inhuman powers. Advised by Edward that, “We need to get your thirst under control,” Bella amusingly exhibits a craving for a vulnerable mountain climber but settles for the blood of a mountain lion, of all things, as her first meal on her new restricted diet. And once she gets a sample of vampire sex -- unlimited endurance, off-the-charts intensity, no need for sleep -- she’s totally sold on her new life. “I was born to be a vampire,” she contentedly proclaims.

However, there are those who would view Bella’s baby, Renesmee, much as most people saw Mia Farrow’s spawn in Rosemary’s Baby: as a threat, an “immortal child” whose lack of self-control could reveal vampires to humans. These spoilsports are the imperious members of the Volturi, the ancient Italy-based aristocrats and self-appointed arbiters of vampiredom. Alerted to the great danger posed by this intolerable case of miscegenation, the Volturi, led by the preening Aro (Michael Sheen, in the series’ most entertaining performance), make haste for the snowy wastes of the Pacific Northwest for the ultimate showdown.

One of the distinguishing factors of the whole Twilight Saga has been its unerring ability to prevent four directors of variable talent from demonstrating any real cinematic flair. The prevailing approach in the many romantic interludes has been one of moony dourness in which the yearning and romantic platitudes that dominate novelist Meyer’s prose have been faithfully rendered, while the action/combat scenes concentrate more on vampire and werewolf speed, as well as abrupt, relatively bloodless deaths, than on creative representations of violence.

Although the new film builds to a massive confrontation on a wintry field between more than two dozen vampires, backed up by their hirsute werewolf allies, and the more numerous and gifted Volturi, this remains the rare popular series without any great set pieces or even memorable scenes; from the beginning, it all has just sort of chugged along in a stylistically mundane way that has not infrequently slipped over into dullness.

And yet, this has been an astonishingly successful series, the repository of coursing emotions for countless teenage girls and evidently others as well. This was amply on display at the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre, where peals of screeching and screaming greeted the appearance of every name on the opening credits, from all the castmembers to the production designer and executive producers. Granted, it was a radio promotion-heavy crowd, but the exuberant reaction of the Twihards was testimony enough as to the heavy-breathing enthusiasm the series has generated, a phenomenon that will continue for a few more months until conclusively taking its place in history as a series most remembered for its extraordinary financial success as well as for the on- and offscreen romance between its two beautiful leading actors that sustained, with one embarrassing hiccup, throughout its five years of existence.

As for this last installment -- for which, as was the case with the Harry Potter series, the final novel was split in two to double the money -- the first hour is devoted to Bella’s period of adjustment, the rapid growth of her lovely daughter (played by 10-year-old Mackenzie Foy), the latter’s cautious introduction to Bella’s in-the-dark father (Billy Burke) and the rounding up of far-flung allies who will try to help convince the Volturi that little Renesmee represents nothing to worry about.

The second half sees the gathering storm come to a head in a test of inhuman powers that makes you wonder whether the MPAA was looking the other way when it handed out a PG-13 rating. Everyone in the cast gets into the act, but Ashley Greene’s Alice Cullen gets some special moments in the spotlight as she facilitates a neat plot twist as an intermediary with Aro. Taylor Lautner gets to take off his shirt one last time as the now-reconciled Jacob Black, while a returning Dakota Fanning, as a key Volturi, again proves that, in acting, the eyes have it.

The end credits feature the very nice touch of presenting a visual parade of all the actors who have played any kind of significant role in the entire series, building from the smallest bit players to Pattinson and Stewart at the end. They acquit themselves here just as they have throughout the saga, which has captured the peak of their youthful beauty. Now it’s time for them, and the audience, to move on.


•• Variety, Justin Chang: Laughter, disbelief and a sort of horrified exhilaration are all perfectly sane reactions to “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” a doozy of a finale to a series that, until now, has largely taken its dramatic cues from its maddeningly inert heroine. Not anymore: With Bella reborn as a bloodthirsty, butt-kicking vampire mama, this second of two Bill Condon-directed installments clears a low bar to stand easily as the franchise’s most eventful and exciting entry. Admittedly, much of the credit should go to a jaw-dropping extended climax that will give fans something to chew on besides the delicate matter of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s offscreen romance — not that a movie this commercially invincible requires too many talking points.

As demonstrated by last year’s “Harry Potter” capper, the conclusion to a book-based fantasy phenomenon can be counted on to do even bigger biz than usual, and “Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the fifth and final film in a property that has already grossed $2.5 billion worldwide, should prove no exception. Summit can expect plenty of repeat attendance, and it’ll be interesting to monitor reactions beyond author Stephenie Meyer’s distaff fanbase, this being perhaps the first “Twilight” picture that some men in the audience might find themselves actually enjoying.

Transformed into a vampire by the Cullen family at the end of “Part 1″ so as to avoid near-certain death in childbirth, Bella (Stewart) opens her cold red eyes on a strange new world. Now possessed of superhuman strength, speed and senses, she can sprint, fly, disembowel large mammals and even overpower her hulking vampire brother-in-law Emmett (Kellan Lutz). Best of all, she and her husband, Edward (Pattinson), can retire to their Thomas Kinkade-style cottage and enjoy a life of uninhibited carnal pleasure, as demonstrated in a borderline-explicit love scene notable for its cloying soft-rock accompaniment, amber-lit closeups and artful methods of vampire junk concealment.

But Bella 2.0 also has her disadvantages, namely a nagging thirst for human blood that results in some mild complications with her dad, Charlie (Billy Burke), as well as with her rapidly developing half-mortal, half-immortal daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). In a twist of fate that really brings out Bella’s aggressive side, Renesmee’s destiny turns out to be intertwined with that of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the abdominally superior teenage werewolf who once rivaled Edward for Bella’s affections.

The considerable humor with which Condon and scribe Melissa Rosenberg tackle these developments has a disarming, even invigorating effect on the proceedings; on occasion, the film skirts so close to self-parody (the context in which Lautner’s Jacob loses his shirt gets a laugh as well as the usual screams and swoons) that it stops just short of expressing contempt for its audience. It’s a nervy approach and also the right one, grasping the intrinsic entertainment value of material that has never begged to be taken too seriously.

Yet things do turn serious, gravely so, once Renesmee’s existence draws the attention of the Volturi, the Italy-based vampire clan that has posed a dormant threat to the Cullens since the events of “New Moon.” And so “Breaking Dawn — Part 2″ builds to its most audacious stroke, a lengthy showdown that, as already teased for months on Internet message boards, at once subverts and honors the outcome of Meyer’s source novel. In the context of a series whose pleasures have always been predicated on delayed gratification, this howlingly effective sequence can be viewed as a climax to roughly nine hours’ worth of foreplay. Even uncommitted viewers who have begrudgingly followed the movies up to this point will find themselves jolted awake, so unsparing and frankly mesmerizing is the picture’s stealth attack on audience sensibilities.

However auds wind up feeling about the denouement, there can be no denying that Condon, in fully embracing his genre-filmmaking roots, and not being afraid to go a little nuts in the process, has succeeded in drawing real blood from the franchise at last (while staying just barely within bounds of a PG-13 rating). Playing to the story’s cinematic strengths rather than its literary limitations, the helmer stages a coup that gives the picture the feel of something more vital than just a perfunctory sendoff.

Even before that point, however, “Part 2″ has the bonus of a livelier Stewart performance than fans have been accustomed to. No longer a mopey, lower-lip-biting emo girl, this Bella is twitchy, feral, formidable and fully energized, a goddess even among her exalted bloodsucker brethren. With the tedious Edward/Jacob drama now settled, Pattinson and Lautner are largely decorative presences here, giving some of the ensemble’s supporting players room to shine.

As Aro, the devious leader of the Volturi, Michael Sheen offers another exquisitely controlled study in courtly malevolence, while Burke, as the ever-quizzical Charlie, can do more with a raised eyebrow than most of his younger co-stars manage with whole mouthfuls of exposition. Casey LaBow, Lee Pace and Rami Malek make strong impressions among the influx of actors donning pale makeup and red contact lenses to play the Cullens’ vampire allies.

The integration of CG and live-action, never one of the series’ strong suits, shows some improvement in the visual design of Jacob’s dependable wolf pack. Yet the f/x work reaches a nadir in the rendering of Renesmee, played by bright 10-year-old actress Foy, her features digitally tailored to suit the character’s many different ages. The result resembles a PhotoShop experiment gone wrong, especially during the child’s infant stage; Renesmee is supposed to be an otherworldly being, but that doesn’t mean she should evoke Marlon Wayans in “Little Man.”

D.p. Guillermo Navarro’s lush establishing shots of the Pacific Northwest (interiors were largely filmed in Louisiana), Virginia Katz and Ian Slater’s propulsive editing, and Richard Sherman’s woodland-chic production design demonstrate just how far “The Twilight Saga” has come, at least on a technical level, from the rough indie aesthetic of Catherine Hardwicke’s original “Twilight” four years ago. A lengthy roll call, singling out cast members across all five pics, ends things on a classy note.


•• Roger Ebert: Rating 2,5/4
If for no other reason, "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" deserves credit for providing the takeaway dialogue line of the year: "Nessie? You named my baby after the Loch Ness Monster?" Since the infant has been named Renesmee, what mother would so mistake her infant's nickname?

There are other laughs as this fifth and finally final installment grinds to a conclusion, but "Breaking Dawn, Part 2" must be one of the more serious entries in any major movie franchise. I suspect its audience, which takes these films very seriously indeed, will drink deeply of its blood. The sensational closing sequence cannot be accused of leaving a single loophole, not even some we didn't know were there.

This movie begins right after "Part 1" ended, and indeed director Bill Condon shot the films back to back. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) awakens after giving birth to little Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), the half-human, half-vampire daughter who was fathered by — but let's not get into that. Having now been fully transformed into a vampire to prevent her death in childbirth, Bella also has been miraculously transformed into a much more interesting character, physically superb and emotionally uninhibited.

We see the new Bella in an entertaining sequence when her husband, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), takes her on a test drive, so to speak, as a vampire. She can run from place to place instantaneously, see details of nature in great and speeded-up detail, win in hand-to-paw combat with a mountain lion and has a taste for blood. That point is made in a scene when she and Edward see a mountain climber slip and dangle from his rope. In a flash, she's climbing the mountain barehanded, and my hopelessly idealistic assumption is that she was racing to save his life. Not precisely.

Edward shows Bella their new honeymoon cottage, which unlike most brides, she decides is "perfect" even before looking inside. When she does, it's stocked with wall to wall books, and you'll never guess which one she eventually takes down from its shelf. Never ever.

Edward and Bella spend a great deal of time posed around a living room with such as Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Emmett (Kellan Lutz), and a roll call of other major vampires (the movie ends with photo credits for every actor in the series). They exchange a great deal more dialogue than I required, but students of the Stephenie Meyer novels, who made this 700-page-plus volume a best-seller, really like that stuff, I guess.

The depiction of little Renesmee is rather curious. I learn that special effects were modeled on the actress to age her, and sometimes she looks a little curious to me. Also to her grandfather, Charlie Swan (Billy Burke), who observes, "My, how you've grown! You must be six inches taller!" And so she seems, although by my reckoning, it happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas. A human child like that, you take to see a specialist.

All leads up to a fraught climax between the Washington State vampires and the leaders, an Italian-based group named the Volturi, presented with some of the same trappings as an order of monks. They seem to be in charge of the vampire world, and are concerned that their secrets will get out now that a half-breed has been born among them. They're led by Aro (Michael Sheen), who even among top vampires, has an impressive presence. A few hundred Volturi square off against several dozen international vampires across a vast snowy plain, while one of the vampires says, "The redcoats are coming!" Well, he can be forgiven his mistake; he fought in earlier British invasions.

Look, the "Twilight" series is not my thing. As I wrote of "Twilight" (2008), "It's about a teenage boy trying to practice abstinence, and how, in the heat of the moment, it's really, really hard. And about a girl who wants to go all the way with him and doesn't care what might happen. He's so beautiful she would do anything for him. She is the embodiment of the sentiment, 'I'd die for you.' She is, like many adolescents, a thanatophile."

I have now seen something like 10 hours about these vampires as they progress through immortality, and I'd rather see either version of "Nosferatu" that many times. I must admit if you're going to bring the series to a close, "Part 2" does it about as well as it can be done. It must be hard for Summit Entertainment to drop the final curtain on a series that has grossed billions, but it bit the bullet, and I imagine fans will be pleased.


•• Newsday, Rafer Guzman: Rating 2,5/4
After four soggy, self-serious films in as many years, "The Twilight Saga" is coming to an end -- and just when it was getting good!

Finally, "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" pumps real life into this series, if only in its final third. That means an initial hour or so of soap-opera story line, which begins abruptly where "Part 1" left off, with newly minted vampire Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her undead husband, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), fretting over their child, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy).

Not only has the tot magically bonded with well-toned werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), she's being hunted by the Volturi, led by the sinister Aro (a deliciously hammy Michael Sheen).

"Part 2" is also the first time that Bella, a hitherto sulky and useless character, actually does something. She hunts, she fights and, in bed, she gives as good as she gets. ("You really were holding back before," she tells Edward.)

Stewart wears her blood-red vampire eyes well, and her newly mature beauty is striking.

ut director Bill Condon, who revealed glimmers of mischief in "Part 1," is just setting us up for what may go down as one of the best pranks in cinema, a sudden explosion of outrageous and horrific violence that pushes the PG-13 rating to its edge.

The audacious narrative twists toy with fans' emotions with such sadistic glee that you can almost hear Condon cackling (or maybe that's Sheen).

"Part 2" is a big, bloody kiss to fans, with all the familiar faces (Billy Burke as Bella's endearing dad, Peter Facinelli as the dignified Carlisle Cullen), plus a yearbook ending (remember Anna Kendrick as Bella's chatty schoolmate?).

The first "Twilight" film that could get non-fans' hearts pumping turns out to be the last.


•• Slate, R. Kurt Osenlund: Rating 2,5/4
"Immortality becomes you," Volturi leader Aro (Michael Sheen) hisses to red-irised Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), who's at last surrendered her body and soul to toothy hubby Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), vowing to be his bloodthirsty missus to infinity and beyond. Long before it's uttered, on the brink of a climax more riveting than anything this series ever seemed capable of, the sentiment is greatly felt in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, as vampirism looks real good on Stewart, in regard to both her alabaster beauty and feral performance skills. Shacked up with Edward's family while getting used to her newfound gifts, which include warp speed and hyper-keen senses, Bella is instructed to feign humanness when her in-the-dark dad (Billy Burke) comes to visit, told by Alice (Ashley Greene) to breathe, blink, and slouch like a mortal. It's tough work for Bella, as lo and behold, the promise of forever has knocked the hunched-over torpor out of the young-adult world's queen of angst, who can now dispatch mountain lions, exert animalistic rage, and leap tall cliffs in a single bound. It's plenty refreshing to see Stewart come to life as the undead, and the movie itself is uncommonly animated, having learned from the mistakes of such dreadful entries as The Twilight Saga: New Moon. Characters are better employed; emotions are, for once, palpable; and the selfishness of Bella, author Stephenie Meyer's avatar, is finally somewhat squelched.

The film is going to net a lot of undue, hyperbolic ink, simply because it's the first Twilight installment that's compulsively watchable. But there are ample problems here, beginning with the saga's pedestrian penchant for belaboring contrived drama. In Bella's first irate act as a protective mother (she gave birth to half-vampire Renesmee at the end of Breaking Dawn – Part 1), she goes ape-shit on chiseled werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), who apparently crossed the line by "imprinting" on the infant. For reasons that can only exist in Meyer's head, Jacob further fans the flames by dubbing Renesmee "Nessie" ("You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster!?" Bella roars, failing to realize the moniker is a vast improvement). Mistaken for one of the dreaded vampire babies of yore, whose creation is a crime against the crystal-skinned race, Renesmee winds up being the catalyst for the ultimate bloodsucker clash, prompting Volturi members to trek from Italy to Forks, Washington, presumably to kill the child and her caregivers. Thus, the whole shebang hinges on a case of mistaken identity, and while wars may well have been fought for less, this one speaks to the Twilight tradition of squeezing out conflicts like blood from a stone.

Well outnumbered by their Italian nemeses, who also include the pain-inducing Jane (Dakota Fanning) and skeptical adonis Caius (Jamie Campbell Bower), Bella and company begin scouring the globe for vampire supporters, with family heads Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme Cullen (Elizabeth Reaser) soliciting kinfolk from New Orleans, Ireland, India, and beyond. It's here that Breaking Dawn – Part 2 gets all X-Men: The Last Stand on viewers, shuffling through the niftiness of its various vamps' powers and affording them no more than wafer-thin ethnic characterizations. Look left and see the leather-jacket-clad, lightning-fast duo from Russia; look right and catch the ritual-ready Amazonian priestesses, whose mental projections can make the whole world look like Jurassic Park. The forces assemble as banally as can be imagined, right down to the good old, systematic standing-up, in which all vow to boldly fight to the death.

Adapted by series regular Melissa Rosenberg, who again teams with Breaking Dawn – Part 1 director Bill Condon, the script thankfully gives each fighter personal investment in the skirmish, as most have a Volturi bone to pick, and aren't just throwing themselves on the pyre of blind Bella Swan supporters. And in Biblical fashion, those loyal to the Cullens are all entranced by the child they're presented, like damned Magi united in unholy irony (the film is quite keen to appease Meyer's god-fearing followers, zooming in, for instance, on Bella's chunky wedding ring during her innocuous sex with Edward). The raised stakes are also coupled with an overall boost in performance quality, as even Lautner, who's long been the franchise's actorly nadir, is winning in virtually all of his scenes, finally landing a worthwhile task as Renesmee's protector, and effectively playing the audience surrogate by pointing and smirking at all the pale-faced killjoys. His character suddenly seems vital, as do most in this ultimately wild-and-woolly finale, which is even shocking in how it opts to both serve comeuppances and pull a last-minute switcheroo. Most alarming of all is how, after four agonizingly hollow trials, the saga manages to shape its central romance into something worth caring about. In a denouement that looks back over this silly fad that's left so many folks enrapt, Bella coos to Edward, "No one has ever loved anyone as much as I've loved you." We've heard it before, and now we hear it once more, only this time with feeling.


•• Los Angeles Times, Betsy Sharkey: From the moment Bella Swan blinks those blood-red eyes of a newborn vampire, you just know that "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2" is going to be vampirrific. Which is not quite the same as terrific, but for the swooning series that made heartthrobs of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, it just feels right.

In its fifth and theoretically final film, the mega movie monster spawned by novelist Stephenie Meyer's phenomenon spends virtually all of its 115 minutes feeding the unquenchable thirst its fans have for all things "Twilight." To give "BD2" its due, it is the best of the bunch and will be much loved by Twihards, which should by no means be mistaken for praise.

The movie has plenty of romance, which is what first hooked the teen set. But it is a far more ferocious brand now that Bella (Stewart) can put all of her new vampire muscle into making sweet mush with dreamy undead hubby Edward Cullen (Pattinson). It also has ab-rrific werewolf Jacob Black (Lautner) baring his body as well as his soul — prepare to hear screams when this happens. And there are sexy new bloodsuckers like Lee Pace's Garrett (why, oh, why didn't they introduce him sooner?).

The action is completely over the top, warming up with arm wrestling and rock climbing, then going in for the kill with a head-ripping, body-burning battle that pits the Cullen clan against those world-dominating Volturi, fashionably led by Aro (Michael Sheen, as devilish as ever), with Jane (Dakota Fanning) delighted to handle the dirtiest dirty work.

And — this is an important one — "Breaking Dawn — Part 2" does not take itself too seriously. There are cheeky nods to the entire series throughout, with the tendency toward campy excess becoming an ongoing punch line. There is more humor in general, and our newly minted warrior princess is responsible for much of it.

The film, directed by Bill Condon and adapted by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who has been there from beginning, picks up right where "BD1" left off, so if you're new to the franchise, you have a lot of catching up to do ("Twilight," "New Moon," "Eclipse," "Part 1," whew).

Here's what you need to know: Bella has given birth to the half-vampire/half-mortal wunderkind with the weird name, Renesmee, and has just recovered from Edward's life-changing bite. Jacob and Edward have joined forces, or at least stopped fighting. The rest of the Cullens (Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone and Ashley Greene) are thrilled with the way things are turning out. And Bella's dad, Charlie Swan (Billy Burke), is still in the dark.

As "BD2" opens we see the world as Bella does now. Since vampire sight is really, really sharp, it gives cinematographer Guillermo Navarro a chance for a lot of Nat-Geo-style close-ups of the flora and fauna (a.k.a. food, Bambi beware). Bella wants to see her new baby, but there's a matter of that deadly thirst, so first she must feed. A race through the forest at warp speed shows off only one of many new powers that Bella has picked up. Her ability to create a mind shield — critical when the Volturi battle begins — looks like a CGI-lite heat wave that would barely make Aro break a sweat, but hey, it seems to work.

At the center of the controversy that drives "BD2" is Bella and Edward's fast-growing sprite (nicely played by young Mackenzie Foy once the filmmakers get past the creepy CGI versions of her baby days). Immortal children (Renesmee isn't one, but Aro isn't convinced) are a major vampire no-no; let's just say their terrible 2s are truly terrible. Meanwhile Jacob's werewolf genes have kicked in and he's imprinted on Renesmee, which means she's destined to be his soul mate when she grows up — at the current rate, that should be in a couple of months.

Really that's about it, except for all the battle rounds pre, midst of, and post.

The battle is epic and quite the spectacle. It is exceptional in its staging, although considering the number of vampires who give their life for the cause, you'll be grateful they don't bleed. According to "Twilight" lore, death requires heads be brutally ripped off. Stakes through the heart definitely will not suffice.

The dialogue remains spotty and sappy, the effects still haven't caught up to modern-day standards, but "Twilight's" popularity is such that even when it falls short, it doesn't seem to matter. Condon, who is usually attached to higher-brow projects -- "Kinsey," "Gods and Monsters," "Dreamgirls" -- was first brought in to class things up for "BD1." Although he seems to have let down his guard and had more fun with "Twilight" the second time around, the filmmaker's greatest challenge was not so much creative but ensuring he did nothing to damage the golden goose.

Under his direction, the acting of the saga's all-important threesome has gotten more polished. If you doubt that, the film's flashbacks will remind just how awkward the earlier outings were. There is also Edward and Jacob's massive sex appeal and their impossibly romantic notions about love, roughly drawn from the Victorian era.

But Bella has always been the belle of this ball. In "Breaking Dawn — Part 2," Stewart is even more luminous in holding the screen, breathing vibrant new life into her undead beauty queen. She's gotten better working in the "Twilight" zone, elevating each new chapter as it comes along. It almost makes you regret that this is the swan song.


•• Dustin Putman: Rating 2,5/4
After four blockbuster movies and four reviews admonishing author Stephenie Meyer's staunchly anti-feminist, Harlevamp romance stance, the so-called "Twilight Saga" finally comes to a close with fifth-part hanger-on "Breaking Dawn Part 2." Directed, as with 2011's stretched-thin "Breaking Dawn Part 1," by Bill Condon (2006's "Dreamgirls"), this climactic curtain call breathes sudden last-minute new life into a franchise that has been rather inert and emotionally bloodless up until now, a fantasy of antiquated beliefs that has somehow sent a portion of the female population into a passionate frenzy of, first and foremost, hornball desires. If they were to stop and actually consider the messages behind the pretty guys, some of them might very well be alarmed at how flimsy and childish and downright disturbing the premise is. No mind, "Breaking Dawn Part 2," for what it is, works. It's still as foolish as its one-track-minded heroine, but Condon brings style, an elegiac lushness, and a sneaky sense of fun to the proceedings. As for returning screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, she's still not above including some doozy lines of dialogue—"Now we're the same temperature" is close to skin-crawling, and in a bad way—but she has also concocted a few sly surprises for viewers who think they know where everything is going each step of the way.

It hardly seems worth it at this point to mourn teenage simpleton Bella Swan's (Kristen Stewart) decision to give up all ambitions and end her mortal life to be with a hot, brooding (and very much dead) twenty-first century answer to Luke Perry. After all, at the start of the film she's already gone through with the transformation, a last-ditch effort on new husband Edward Cullen's (Robert Pattinson) part to save her during the fatalistic childbirth of their half-vampire/half-human hybrid daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Now Bella is a beautiful, super-strong, red-eyed bloodsucker, training herself to drink animals rather than humans; Renesmee is aging at an abnormally fast rate, a fact that worries her parents; and frequently bare-abbed lupine Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) is an unofficial new member of the family, having imprinted on Renesmee the moment she was born.

All is reasonably well—Bella even figures out a way to still see her father (Billy Burke) without having to tell him what she's become—until the Volturi receive word that they are harboring an immortal child, a major no-no that puts all of their vampiric kind in jeopardy. What they do not know is that she was born when Bella was still human, a rarity that might be their savior. As Aro (Michael Sheen) and his clan draw near, the Cullens' set out to gather as many witnesses to the truth as they can. They hope they can convince the Volturi to see reason, but if they can't, they're not about to go down without a fight.

Something feels slightly different about "Breaking Dawn Part 2" from the get-go, starting with a coolly concocted opening credits sequence matched by a sleek, haunting musical suite from composer Carter Burwell (2012's "Seven Psychopaths"). Perhaps because it is the final entry, director Bill Condon felt increased pressure to get things right while defying some of his naysayers. Notably less mopey that 2008's "Twilight" and 2009's "New Moon," and certainly less depressing than 2010's improved but funereal "Eclipse," "Breaking Dawn Part 2" does exactly what a conclusion should: build the stakes to a mounting crescendo and then pay off the loose ends. It's far from perfect and still a bit meandering—now that both parts have been seen, there is conclusively no reason to have split Meyer's last novel into two films beyond the shamelessly monetary—but it is nonetheless nice to, for once, see lead characters who smile and look generally happy. Said happiness, of course, is threatened, along with Renesmee's very life, in the second half, and this is where Condon finally pulls out all the stops. The third-act showdown between the good vampires and werewolves and the snippy Volturi goes above and beyond what is expected, giving a sense of epic grandeur and, dare it be said, elegance to a series that has been lacking in both up to this point. It's quite a show-stopper, worth seeing all by itself.

Kristen Stewart (2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman") has received a lot of flack for her portrayal of Bella, giving the part a gravity and seriousness it probably never earned based on what was found on the page. All, however, won't be able to accuse her of not letting loose here. Now forever young and a little on the chilly side—"I was born to be a vampire," she says—Stewart turns Bella into an altogether more self-assured and vibrant version of herself. As Edward and Jacob, Robert Pattinson (2012's "Cosmopolis") and Taylor Lautner (2011's "Abduction") have always had less to do, and neither one overexert themselves on the acting front. That said, it's nice just to see the two of them getting along, with Jacob having given up on romancing Bella and instead redirecting his energy to protecting Renesmee. Billy Burke (2011's "Drive Angry") finds his role as Bella's dad Charlie increased, sharing some nice moments with a daughter he's not at all willing to give up. As Volturi daughter Jane, Dakota Fanning (2010's "The Runaways") gets maybe two lines if she's lucky, but doesn't need them, emoting more with her eyes than most performers are able to achieve with their entire bodies. It's a shame that Fanning has been criminally underutilized otherwise, but what can a person do when the source material is equally emaciated? Finally, Michael Sheen (2011's "Midnight in Paris") makes for a particularly vivid villain; his turn as Aro has been workmanlike in the previous movies, but is ingeniously inspired this time while apparently channeling the maniacal Reverend Kane from "Poltergeist II: The Other Side."

It's a good thing that vampires do not exist in the real world, because if they did, all of these wayward "Twilight" pics would probably prompt an onslaught of daft teen girls to get themselves knocked up with immortal blood—a modern day version of a 1950s housewife, if you will. All kidding aside, "Breaking Dawn Part 2," like all of the past films, tells an immensely silly story. Were it not for the threat of consequences having everything to do with Stephenie Meyer's skewed vision of love and womanhood, it would be downright inconsequential. Jumping over this hurdle since the damage has been done—Bella claims to be happier than she's ever been, though that could be her fiery loins still talking—"Breaking Dawn Part 2" is a sincere, handsomely mounted farewell that brings honest to goodness legitimacy—if only a very little—to its place in the cinematic history books. On final assessment, "The Twilight Saga" has been one pop-cultural fad difficult to figure out the appeal of, but one thing is for sure: all involved saved the best for last.


•• View London, Matthew Turner: Rating 3/5
The final instalment of the Twilight Saga shares many of the problems of the previous movies, but it's also a lot more fun than the last few films and it does at least deliver a genuinely thrilling finale. Sort of.

The Good - Sexy Vampire Bella turns out to be a great deal more fun than Mopey Human Bella ever was and her transformation gives the film a welcome new energy that was previously lacking; consequently, Stewart (who's clearly enjoying herself for once) gives her best performance since the first film, while Pattinson also seems a lot more relaxed this time round and Lautner does a great job of not making the whole imprinting business seem quite as creepy and weird as it might have done.

Basically, with the love triangle angst safely out of the way, the film is finally able to let its hair down a bit and as such, there are several enjoyable sequences; gloriously, the film even finds time to add vampire arm-wrestling to the franchise's list of enjoyable vampire activities (piggy-backing, baseball, etc). On top of that, an inspired rewrite of the book's anti-climactic ending means that the film gets to deliver a terrific action-packed finale, though die-hard Twi-hards are likely to find it as frustrating as it is thrilling.

The Bad - The film's biggest problem is its bewildering surfeit of characters; as if there weren't enough to keep track of already, Breaking Dawn Part 2 introduces a whole set of new ones (notably Lee Pace as Garrett and Joe Anderson as Alistair) but gives them precious little of any interest to do. Similarly, the effects and dialogue are as laughably dodgy as ever, while the script is content to leave entire seemingly important sub-plots (Bella's father completely disappears from the story, for example) dangling in the wind.

Worth seeing? - This is undeniably cheesy and frequently ridiculous, but at least there's a sense of fun that was missing from the previous films. The fan-pleasing final credits are a nice touch too.


•• Access Hollywood, Scott Mantz: …And that’s a wrap for “The Twilight Saga.”

After four years and four prior movies that grossed more than $2.5 billion worldwide, the series comes to a rousing finish with the fifth and final entry, “Breaking Dawn – Part 2.”

While the decision to break the fourth book in Stephanie Meyers’ literary series into two films might have seemed like a blatant cash grab at the time, it actually appears to have done the last movie a world of good. That’s because returning director Bill Condon (who directed “Breaking Dawn – Part 1”) infuses the final entry with a refreshing balance of fun, vibrancy, action, humor and genuine emotion, making “Part 2” the best of the bunch, by far.

If the first four installments – 2008’s “Twilight,” 2009’s “New Moon,” 2010’s “Eclipse” and 2011’s “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” – were about the melodramatic love triangle between the brooding vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), the sensitive werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and the confused Bella (Kristen Stewart), this last movie finds Bella embracing her new roles as a vampire and as a mother. That makes “Part 2” Bella’s movie all the way, and Stewart’s reinvigorated, empowered and sexy performance infuses the movie with a higher level of entertainment that was missing from the previous installments.

Not that it mattered to devoted Twihards, but the first four movies set the bar pretty low where their production values were concerned, making it hard for non-fans to embrace (or more likely, understand) the massive appeal of the series. On the other hand, one could argue that the movies simply gave the fans what they wanted, and on that level, they most definitely succeeded.

But for general moviegoers who merely tolerated the previous films (most likely because they were dragged to them by their wives, girlfriends, sisters or kids), their patience will be rewarded with a fun finale that thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously. And with a budget of $75 million, it’s also the most expensive installment of them all, and the higher standards pay off with an exciting showdown between the Cullens, the Wolfpack and the Volturi that strays quite far from the final book – or does it?

Whether you enjoyed the “Twilight” phenomenon for the last four years or merely went along for the ride, there’s no question that the final scene of “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” packs an emotional wallop that brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. But it’s not really the end; it’s more like a new beginning for the devoted fans, all of whom will have the books to read and the movies to watch on DVD…

…forever.


•• Film Journal International, David Guzman: There’s a lot in this vampire saga’s swan song for fans to sink their teeth into.

Team Jacob knows it doesn’t take much to get the lupine lover-boy Taylor Lautner plays to take his shirt off, so it makes sense that he’d end up going one step further for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2, given how it’s the finale of the franchise and all. While it’s odd that any film in this series would make audiences wait 23 minutes to bask in his beefy glory, he ups the ante by pulling down his pants, revealing the one piece of clothing he apparently doesn’t mind having to replace after turning into a wolf: underwear. They’re gray, by the way.

That’s how everything works this time around—Twi-hards will get everything they’ve come to expect from the other four films based on Stephenie Meyer’s bodice-rippers for young readers, but there’s enough extra kick here to give the franchise the send-off it deserves. Sure, the good Twilight movies aren’t exactly classics, and Eclipse, the only bad movie, was forgettable, but those who don’t think there are any tricks this franchise can pull off to impress them never saw Lautner in boxer briefs.

Part 2 doesn’t dawdle as much as Part 1, now that the honeymoon that almost ruined the earlier film is over. Plus, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), the rapidly growing child Edward Cullen’s (Robert Pattinson) human wife Bella (Kristen Stewart) died giving birth to, is at the center of lots of drama now that Bella’s getting accustomed to life as a vampire, starting with Jacob’s role as Renesmee’s caretaker. As if it weren’t inconvenient enough to bring her not-so-secret admirer into the family, Bella isn’t happy to find out he’s nicknamed her "Nessie": "You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?!"

Renesmee, though, has bigger problems, namely vampires from Italy who call themselves the Volturi. When Edward’s psychic sister Alice (Ashley Greene) gets wind of their plans to kill Renesmee under the theory that kids who become immortal obliterate everyone around them, the Cullens round up creatures of the night from all over the world to see that she’s half-vampire, and therefore not a bane to their existence. Still, given how devious Volturi ringleader Aro (Michael Sheen) is, it’s a good thing they’ve got those vampires in their corner.

For all the risks that pay off, the left turn in the climax is so laughable it might have audiences howling even louder than the wolves. Fans of The Lord of the Rings know how long it can take to get a climax off the ground, but this film proves that if there’s anything more annoying than a battle with false starts, it’s one with a false finish.

Sheen doesn’t let audiences in on the fun he seems to be having either, so why bother putting up with so many rough edges? Perhaps because the chemistry between Stewart and Pattinson is stronger than ever, making the whole thing more satisfying. Also, given that Dakota Fanning can bring so much spunk to her role as a Volturi member without opening her mouth, it’s interesting to see how much talent this movie has at its disposal. The potential to be as entertaining as this may have come too late for Twilight agnostics, but let no one accuse Breaking Dawn of giving moviegoers too little.


•• Spirituality & Practice, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat: The Twilight Saga comes to an end with this movie based on the second half of the final book in Stephenie Meyer's mega-bestselling series. When we last left these characters, Bella (Kristen Stewart), a human, has married her first and only love, Edward (Robert Pattinson), a vampire. They have planned for her to be transformed into a vampire, but not until after the honeymoon. When Bella discovers she is pregnant, they have to make a tough choice. She must deliver the child while still human but he fears it will kill her. Immediately after the birth, Edward changes her into a vampire.

Breaking Dawn, Part 2 opens as Bella sees the world through new eyes. All her senses, in fact, are heightened, and she discovers wonders all around her. "I was made to be a vampire," she declares, as she flexes her new powers. She is no longer the moody and vulnerable youth of the first movies; now she's a strong, speedy, and resourceful vampire. Running through the woods with gay abandon and leaping over chasms, she experiences the exhilaration of speed and prowess. Hunting for the first time, she demonstrates amazing self-control when she picks up the scent of a human rock climber and turns instead to feed on a mountain lion. This is not the first time in the story that Edward will be very impressed.

Bella's new status delights her vampire family, the Cullens headed by Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser). She learns that her sister-in-law Alice (Ashley Greene) has stocked her closet, while Rosalie (Nikki Reed) has been taking care of her baby, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). Challenged to an arm-wrestling match by her very muscular brother-in-law Emmett (Kellan Lutz), Bella surprises everyone by overpowering him with her incredible "newborn" strength.

After Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella's best friend who can shapeshift into a werewolf, tells her father Charlie (Billy Burke) that she is back, she has to learn how to act like a human to hide her vampire identity from him; any human knowing about her will be targeted by the vampire authorities, the Volturi. So Bella practices moving slowly, blinking, and slouching. They tell Charlie they have adopted Renesmee, and he chooses to ignore the fact that the child is growing so rapidly. Jacob, meanwhile, has imprinted on Renesmee as his soul-mate and is very protective of her.

This happy coexistence of the vampires, humans, and werewolves is threatened when Alice, who has the gift of seeing the future, announces that an army of the Volturi are coming for them. Aro (Michael Sheen), the imperious head of this Italy-based guard, has been told that the Cullens have broken the vampire law by creating an "immortal child."

Edward realizes that they might be able to ward off a battle by taking Renesmee on the road and gathering vampire witnesses willing to testify that she is half-mortal, born not bitten. The child is gifted with the ability to share her memories with others through telepathy, and soon an assortment of vampires from around the world are ready to stand with the Cullens. Still, fearing that a confrontation will be inevitable, they all practice their special skills — manipulating the elements, giving electric shocks, blinding others. Bella discovers that her gift is to be able to throw out an energetic "shield" around her loved ones. It and more are needed in the rousing, and surprising, ending.

Breaking Dawn, Part 2 leaves us both satisfied and gratified to have journeyed with Bella and Edward through four books and five movies. They have incarnated for us the universal yearning that animates romantic and passionate love. They have given us a glimpse of how to build an intimate relationship between a man and a woman from two very different worlds. They have shown us how even the most committed couples must weather challenges to their relationship and make difficult choices about their future. They have demonstrated the value of family bonds and the blessings of deep friendships. And Bella, the central character through it all, has shown us the path of growth. Beginning as an insecure loner, she matures into a determined young woman, confident in her choices, and finally to a wife and mother who knows her strength and freely uses her gifts.


•• Movie Habit, Robert Denerstein: Before the screening of the final chapter of the Twilight series — The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part II — I chatted with a devotee of the Stephenie Meyer novels, who encouraged me to read the books, which she preferred to the movies for a variety of reasons that I’m in no position to judge. I haven’t read any of Meyers’s books, and, despite encouragement from a perfectly nice fan, I plan to keep it that way.

On screen, the series wraps with a multitude of soggy scenes that build toward a climactic final battle as Hollywood bids farewell to Bella and Edward, who, by this time, have been joined in matrimony.

The movie begins with Bella awakening after her conversion from human to vampire. It seems that Bella and Edward also have become parents of a daughter, Renesmee. It’s just here that the movie sinks its teeth into the semblance of a plot: The Volturi — nose-in-the-air vampires who reside in Italy — want to snuff out poor Renesmee because they think kiddie vampires are so uncontrollably destructive, they’re likely to give more decorous vampires a bad name.

But Renesmee is only half vampire. She’s not immortal. And it’s up to the Cullen clan of vamps either to persuade the Volturi that Renesmee poses no threat or to battle them to the death, with a little help from werewolf friends. Or something like that.

I find it nearly impossible to pay close attention to the story points in these movies because I’m too busy waiting for what have become a series of obligatory audience responses — oohs, ahs and screaming, not at the horror of a vampiric threat, but at the sight of Taylor Lautner revealing his carefully sculpted abs.

This time, Lautner’s Jacob — a werewolf — spends a lot of time hanging around the Cullen clan because he has “imprinted” himself on young Renesmee, who grows to maturity at an alarmingly fast rate. It takes Bella time to accept the fact that Jacob will retain a lifetime connection to her daughter.

The movie has a full plate: It must somehow settle things between Bella and her father; it must set Renesmee on some sort of life course, and it must let us know that Bella and Edward will remain undead in some perpetual happily-ever-after.

Director Bill Condon has some fun showing how Bella discovers her vampiric powers. Her senses are heightened. She develops extraordinary strength. Like other vampires, she also can move at hyper-speeds. My favorite lesson: Bella has to learn how to make believe that she’s breathing so that she can pass as a human when necessary.

By now, the cast has become comfortably familiar. Robert Pattinson’s Edward gets to watch as Kristen Stewart’s Bella evolves as a vampire, but he’s still capable of falling into moments of swooning adoration. Stewart grows Bella’s confidence as she masters a new skill set.

As head of the Volturi, Michael Sheen gives the movie’s most archly entertaining performance.

The Twilight series has proven itself critic proof. Its fans don’t care what critics think — and they’ve turned out in large enough numbers to create a phenomenon that has sustained high box-office levels since 2008.

The most enduring lesson I learned came in the final chapter when it became apparent that vampires can be killed by ripping their heads off and throwing them into a fire. No stakes through the heart for these folks.

As for love between Bella and Edward — which oozes adolescent ache like an overripe piece of fruit that’s being squeezed too hard — I bid it a fond, if relieved, farewell. Unlike the movie’s legions of fans, I have no desire to see it go on forever.


•• The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: Heads pop like Champagne corks in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” the final chapter in the megamillion-dollar series about love, war and franchise immortality. And why not? Even with the lavish blood bath that slathers this movie red and pops those tops, these are joyous times for Bella (Kristen Stewart), who has risen revived, restyled and stone-cold dead after dropping a new addition to the Cullen family, those veritable vegan vampires who snack on woodland creatures instead of humans. After Bella nearly died during pregnancy in the last movie, her undead husband, Edward (Robert Pattinson), saved her by piercing her neck, thus at long last making a vampire out of her.

Now, with newborn Renesmee, baby makes three. Played by what look like digitally altered tots and an actual flesh-and-blood girl (Mackenzie Foy), Renesmee is the nominal centerpiece for the final movie and its reason for being. As half-human, half-vampire, and conceived while Bella was still breathing, Renesmee turns out to be an instant problem child. Not only does she look as creepy as the baby Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” she’s sprouting as fast as a magical beanstalk and, worse yet, has attracted the attention of the Volturi, a vampire coven in Italy with papal-like authority. Led by Aro (a fabulous, flamboyant Michael Sheen), the Volturi come to believe that Renesmee is an “immortal child” whose milk teeth will instigate a large-scale calamity.

The decision to squeeze two generously padded movies (this one runs a swollen 115 minutes) out of the concluding volume in Stephenie Meyer’s four-book series never made story sense, even if it has lucratively served the studio bottom line. (The first movie raked in more than $700 million internationally, and the series has topped $2 billion.) The director Bill Condon, however, who brought wit, beauty and actual filmmaking to Part 1, along with those enormous receipts, has nicely cultivated the art of the stall for Part 2. Working from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, who adapted all the “Twilight” books, he doesn’t have a lot to play with here, but he makes do and sometimes better than that, largely by turning his cameras into surrogates for the franchise’s adoring fans.

From the first extreme close-up of Bella fluttering open her dark, feathery eyelashes, Mr. Condon makes this “Twilight” an intensely tactile and intimate experience. Taking his cues from the Golden Age of Hollywood — the close-ups of Bella and Edward bring to mind those of Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in “A Place in the Sun.” He bathes his stars in a gleaming light that gives their pale faces a luxurious alabaster sheen. This is one movie that should have been shot in 3-D if only to allow the fans to caress the air. The glammed up Ms. Stewart, hair flowing and jaw squared, finally looks like the star she has become over the course of the series.

Alas, she also acts kind of dead. Apparently becoming a vampire robs you of the power to put across an emotion persuasively, and while Bella looks lovely or at least strikingly styled, she’s also pretty much a stiff. Mr. Pattinson, by contrast, has rarely appeared more relaxed, and his character has never seemed more, well, human. You have a lot of time to look at their faces, to examine their micro-movements, the cut of their clothes, the curl of their hair — and also idly to wonder what was going on between these two tabloid favorites during production — because, beyond a quick hunt and an alfresco nosh, not much happens during the initial, narratively thin stretch.

Watching the Cullens pose and smile in their modernist digs, gathered around the piano with frozen aristocratic languor, grows tedious. But, much like the scene of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the franchise’s favorite pinup, strolling into the story with visibly erect nipples, this family album serves a conspicuous purpose. It quickly becomes evident that Part 2 is primarily an extended final bow — part victory lap, part farewell tour. Drawing out the inevitable gives fans the chance to linger in a world that has become a passionately beloved cult complete with its own conventions, Web sites (and their inverse, hate shrines, dedicated to loathing the series) and academic tomes (“Interdisciplinary Approaches to Twilight: Studies in Fiction, Media and a Contemporary Cultural Experience”). It’s a fan base that has again also proven the might of the female movie audience.

Despite the slow start Mr. Condon closes the series in fine, smooth style. He gives fans all the lovely flowers, conditioned hair and lightly erotic, dreamy kisses they deserve. Just as smartly he also shakes the series up with an unexpectedly fierce, entertaining battle that finds the Cullens, flanked by their wolf friends and various vampire allies, facing down the Volturi. Set on a snowy field, this whirlwind of clashing fangs and flying fur rouses Bella to action. It also injects the movie with an invigorating energy that the movies have rarely sustained since the first “Twilight,” when Catherine Hardwicke, a messy but spirited director, introduced Bella and Edward. It turns out that there’s something to be said about watching these two lovebirds tap into their inner monsters. It’s bloody good fun while it lasts.


•• London Evening Standard, Charlotte O'Sullivan: Rating 3/4
A frightfully fangtastic finale for the Twilight franchise.

Woohoo! The fifth and final instalment of the Twilight saga has the best climax of any blockbuster this year. True, it also has the worst second act but, luckily for the film-makers, last impressions count. The twist in the tale earned its own round of applause at the world premiere on Wednesday night. Bill Condon (who also directed Part 1) has done this brazenly peculiar, fitfully brilliant franchise proud.

For the past five years, the teen-centric series has touched on many things (including addiction and, somewhat compulsively, Taylor Lautner’s firm pecs). But, in keeping with Stephenie Meyer’s novels, it is above all concerned with the thrilling perils of joining a cult. Heroine Bella (Kristen Stewart) seeks eternal life so she can snuggle with boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) for ever. Only to discover that vampires, rather like Scientologists, struggle to get along with regular folks and are prone to fits of paranoia. Which brings us to Breaking Dawn — Part 2. This episode of the soap opera would work perfectly in a double bill with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

We rejoin the action as Bella gets to grips with conversion. To paraphrase the mum in Shaun of the Dead, she’s gone “a bit bitey”. She’s also keen to bed Ed and spend time with their daughter, Renesmee (the terminally pretty Mackenzie Foy).

But then the control-freaky Volturi, convinced the child is a threat to the vampire species, declare war on the Cullens. The race is on to assemble witnesses from around the globe to prove Renesmee is harmless. Which is when the drama lurches to a halt. The various contingents finally gather in one room, resembling nothing so much as the figures in the “It’s a Small World” Disneyland ride. The three Oirish bloodsuckers are laugh-out-loud funny. But not in a good way.

Then it’s time to rumble in the snow and everything clicks. Michael Sheen has grown into the role of Volturi chief Aro; his manic-urchin smile is delightful. It’s a pleasure, too, to see Stewart at the centre of the action, whizzing furiously through the air instead of slouching on the sidelines.

How long will the Twi-hard cult last now that the plug has been pulled? My guess is that fans, thanks to this canny film, will find it easy to keep the faith. Love it or hate it, the Twilight zone is here to stay.


•• TimeOut, Guy Lodge: Rating 3/5
There’s much talk of ‘forever’ in the fifth and final instalment (or so we’ve been promised) of ‘The Twilight Saga’, the screen’s most vanilla vampire chronicle. It’s an apt word to stress, signifying both the deathless devotion the series has inspired in legions of ferocious fans and the interminable tedium these rather inelegantly protracted films present to the unconverted. Neither camp’s minds are going to be changed by Bill Condon’s alternately thudding and thrilling closer, but that is as it should be: right down to the celebratory parade of every participating player across all five films in the end credits, ‘Breaking Dawn – Part 2’ is less a freestanding film than a victory lap for a franchise that hasn’t wavered in its commitment to its fanbase.

That’s a gentle way of saying that ‘Part 2’ does little to prove the necessity of splitting Stephenie Meyer’s concluding novel, ‘Deathly Hallows’-style, into two halves. The bulk of the book’s most savoury action – sullen teen Bella Swan’s long-delayed sexual awakening, mutant pregnancy and conversion to the bloodsucking faith – was covered in last year’s gratifyingly bonkers exercise in junior Cronenbergia. That leaves the follow-up a rather talky affair for its first half: while the Cullen clan pad around their luxury woodland lodge, discussing intricate global vampire politics and wearing gilets, the film most resembles an underexposed Next catalogue.

By and by, however, an engaging sense of humour emerges, even flirting with self-parody when Taylor Lautner’s lupine Jacob – whose eerily marzipan-like consistency, even in wolf form, remains his sole interesting feature – perfunctorily gets his kit off before Bella’s horrified dad. Across both the ‘Breaking Dawn’ films, that playfulness has been Condon’s chief gift to the series. It pays off grandly in a riotous showdown between the heroes and the malevolent, Michael Sheen-led Volturi tribe, which finds an absurdly ingenious way both to preserve and subvert the contentiously passive climax of Meyer’s novel.

Most energised of all, for once, is Kristen Stewart, often unfairly maligned for a performance restricted by the maddeningly morose behaviour of Bella in human form. Reborn as a vampire, her newly red eyes visibly glint with the pleasure of finally getting to kick some ass, leaving all memories of Edward-Jacob love tussles for the inconsequential dust they are. If we learn anything from this silly but satisfying finale, it’s that everyone could stand to get some vampire in them.


•• Jo Reviews: Rating 4/5
It has been an amazing ride that fans will not soon forget. The final installment of the Twilight Saga will hit theaters this weekend leaving Twihards aching for more. In “Breaking Dawn part two” Bella (Kristen Stewart) has joined the Cullen’s as the newest member of the clan. Bella awakens and finds her senses have intensified and a new challenge of dealing with her thirst for blood. Somehow her control is much easier for her to gain and she seems to out power her fellow vampires.

When Bella meets her daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) she has grown significantly in just two short days. It is obvious that she has special powers of her own and is a gift to be cherished. Bella and Edward (Roberta Pattison) are living a fairy tale. However with this fairy tale you can expect evil to be waiting in the wings to strike. In this case it is the return of the Volturi. They are out for blood when they discover Bella and Edward have a child, one they believe to be immortal.

When Renesmee is threatened by the Volturi the Cullen’s are prepared to go to war. They will not be fighting alone as they enlist many other vampires to convince the Volturi that Renesmee poses no threat and to let Edward and Bella raise her in peace. In case back up is needed the wolf pack is there which includes Jacob who has imprinted on Renesmee and refuses to leave her side.

“Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2” has perfected the end and will have fans falling in love all over again. There was enough drama to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. The dramatic fight sequence was a show stopper with remarkable special effects. Pattison and Stewart had their fiery chemistry and the young Renesmee portrayed by Mackenzie Foy was impressive. This young beauty was a great addition. “Breaking Dawn Part 2” offers readers and moviegoers the ending they hoped for. Only problem is most will be asking for more and wishing it was not the final chapter.


•• Atlantic City Weekly, Lori Hoffman: Rating 2,5/4
Series ends with a Twihard approved finale, but not before a twist that had fans moaning.

Twihards, don’t rip my head off for saying this, but I enjoyed your reaction to the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, Part II more than the actual movie, although it was a major improvement over the SNL spoof that was Breaking Dawn Part I.

Director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg concocted a scary little plot twist to freak out Twihards during the final Cullen family feud with the icy Volturi. This twist turned the theater into a talk-back-at-the-screen audience participation event the likes of which I hadn’t seen since viewing a center city Philadelphia screening of the original horror classic Halloween over thirty years ago.

The distressed fans were yelling at the screen at each disturbing moment, literally moaning as they saw their beloved characters overwhelmed by the bad guys and in turn cheering when vengeance was earned.

Twihards, I salute you for your passion; as a lifelong film fanatic it is a passion I have been lucky enough to channel into the workplace as a film critic for the past 37 years.

Now back to the “job” part. Breaking Dawn Part II stretches the credibility of the Twilight universe with an ambience of designed absurdity on top of the obviously planned laughs. There is plenty of fun to be had in the final chapter, a necessary change since the whole intense Bella, Edward and Jacob romantic triangle has been long settled.

Seeing Bella (Kristen Stewart) enjoying her vampire gifts under the amused, watchful eye of Edward (Robert Pattinson) and exploring her power, while learning to control her thirst for blood, makes for an enjoyable opening portion of the film.

That Bella isn’t cool about Jacob’s (Taylor Lautner) romantic imprinting on her newborn Renesmee (played by Mackenzie Foy after an impressive hybrid baby growth spurt), is a major element of the effective comedic side of the film. And yes, Bella is right, it is a little creepy.

Meanwhile, those haughty Volturi vamps, led by Aro (Michael Sheen), just can’t leave the Cullen clan in peace. They see Renesmee as a particular type of vampire threat and plan to wield their power to prevent that threat from coming to fruition.

The Cullens prepare for the final showdown by encouraging the other clans to support their belief that Renesmee is special and not in a way that threatens the vampire kingdom. This allows us the chance to meet the cool Amazon women vampires, and a couple of classic Dracula-style bloodsuckers from Romania.

And yes, the loyal werewolves of Jacob’s clan are always ready to tear into some vamps if needed.

The twist that had Twihards in an uproar has imprinted on my film critic’s psyche in a good way, so that while I have trashed the series in the past for good reason, my final impression is favorable.

To the Twihards out there, I hope you find cinematic passions to embrace in the future.


•• SFGate, Mick LaSalle: You can only kill a vampire by pulling off his head and setting his body on fire, something that happens with comic frequency in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2." It's a movie so dull you might start yanking on your own head after about an hour.

By now, "Twilight" is a closed club, which means that a "Twilight" movie doesn't have to operate according to the rules of drama. The rules of a vacation video will suffice: A little wave, a little preening, a nod to the location and an affirmation of the principal relationships are all that's required. Like "Breaking Dawn - Part 1," this second installment was directed by Bill Condon, who has made some good movies ("Kinsey," "Gods and Monsters") and has earned the right to put away a little something for his retirement.

What started as the love of a teenage girl, Bella (Kristen Stewart), and a teenage vampire, Edward (Robert Pattinson), has now become a mature, married relationship. At the end of the last installment, Bella gave birth to a half-vampire child and then, like a wife assuming her husband's politics, became a vampire herself.

At the start of "Breaking Dawn - Part 2," Bella loves the vampire life and can't stop talking about how much she enjoys her heightened senses and being awake all the time, kind of like the way people used to talk about cocaine in the '70s.

In an early scene, Bella and Edward have vampire sex for the first time, after which she comments, "You really were holding back before." It's a cute line, but it's a measure of something lost. The power of "Twilight" was the power of metaphor. Edward's fear of having sex with Bella and potentially hurting her was an inversion of an adolescent girl's anxiety about a first sexual experience. Having Bella and Edward consummate their relationship transcends the metaphor and takes them into the realm of boring literalness.

"So beautiful ..." Those are the first words spoken in "Breaking Dawn - Part 2." Edward, ever affectionate, speaks the words to Bella, who is as casual and mystifyingly average as ever, and thus a perfect surrogate for the audience's romantic projections. As always, Stewart is regally confident and has an appealing intelligence, but it's Pattinson, as Edward, who has a spring in his step, a newfound ease. Perhaps it's just Edward, happy to have the girl of his dreams. Or maybe it's the relief of a good actor knowing he'll never have to make another one of these awful movies again.

The story of "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" is very simple, almost like a parable. The Volturi, a huge coven of Italian vampires, find out that Bella and Edward have a child, and they assume the child is 100 percent vampire. Apparently that's forbidden - vampires can't have babies - and so they set out to kill the child. The bulk of the movie is taken up with Edward and Bella assembling a team of vampire associates who will testify to the Volturi that the child is mortal - or fight the Volturi if necessary.

Be honest: You didn't read the above paragraph, did you? I can't blame you.

Basically, we're dealing here with a movie about a bunch of thoroughly unappealing, sketchily created, unlovably eccentric vampire characters waiting around for the Volturi to show up so they can all pull each other's heads off. Here's the problem: Between Bella and Edward's friends and the Volturi ... there isn't really much difference, no real moral difference, certainly. The Volturi have better outfits. Long coats. They're Italian. They have fashion sense.

One final question: If they've been alive for 800 years, why does every female vampire sound like a Valley Girl? Are they endlessly adaptive, or did they all really stand out in Victorian England?


•• The Advocate, John Wirt: Rating 3/4
Like the film adaptation made from J.K. Rowling’s final book about boy wizard Harry Potter, the concluding movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s concluding book about glamorous vampires and working-class werewolves, The Twlight Saga: Breaking Dawn, has been split into two feature-length films.

So much happens in Breaking Dawn — Part 1, released in mid-November of last year. Human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) get married. Bella instantly gets pregnant. The perpetual tension between vampires and werewolves escalates to the breaking point.

Breaking Dawn — Part 1 is the fastest, most exciting and bloodiest film in Twlight Saga series. Being the first of two parts, it also has a great hook, a cliffhanger loaded with enough wow factor to keep audiences salivating for months.

Now that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 finally is here, moviegoers can see what they’ve been waiting a year for. Unfortunately, Part 2 simply keeps them waiting.

The two-part movie breakdown for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows resulted in the first Deathly Hallows film being a relentlessly downbeat dirge of a movie. Most of the good stuff ended up in Deathly Hallows — Part 2.

The opposite is true for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Its second half is mostly a movie waiting for a climactic battle scene.

In Breaking Dawn — Part 2, Bella, the vampire bride who dies in childbirth in Part 1, exists after death thanks to husband Edward’s last-second intervention. Rather than lose her forever, he bit Bella, transforming her into an immortal vampire.

Bella and her quickly growing baby daughter, Renesmee, are the new additions to the Cullen family of friendly vampires. Led by the benevolent Carlisle, this young, handsome, pretty, kindly clan of bloodsuckers defy the evil depictions of vampires that terrorized movie theaters for so many decades.

The bland vampires in Breaking Dawn — Part 2 are sanitized and mainstreamed to point of being toothless. They benignly dwell in a beautifully modern home in a lovely Pacific Northwest forest. It’s enough to make an old-school horror fan long for Bela Lugosi’s Dracula smiling in his crumbling Transylvanian castle like the spider who caught the fly or Willem Dafoe’s cave-dwelling old monster in Shadow of the Vampire.

The Cullens, like any human family with a new baby in the house, fawn and coo endlessly over Renesmee. The Cullens actually have two newborns in their midst. Bella, a young adult when she died, is, in her post-human life, a newborn vampire. When the Cullens aren’t marveling over Renesmee, they’re expressing delight about Bella’s growing and already impressive powers.

And there’s even more love in the house. Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the hunky young werewolf who’d been Edward’s rival for Bella’s affection, has become a tame member of the family.

Breaking Dawn — Part 2 marks time with its many niceties until a misunderstanding involving the innocent Renesmee puts the Cullens in mortal danger. The Cullen coven lands in the sights of the powerful and genuinely wicked Volturi coven of vampires. Aro (Michael Sheen), the remarkably pale-faced leader of the Volturi, is at his weirdest in this Twilight finale.

After all that clingy vampire family love, Breaking Dawn — Part 2 resurrects itself through an epic battle between the Cullen coven and out-for-vampire-blood Volturi coven. Part 1 is the best movie in the Twilight films, but the series’ greatest battle rages in Part 2. The battle, plus a little storytelling sleight of hand, makes for a satisfying Twilight Saga conclusion.

On a local note, the snowy, effects-packed battle scene was filmed inside the Southern University Agriculture Center Livestock Arena in Baton Rouge. Both parts of Breaking Dawn were filmed primarily in and around Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as well as in Vancouver and Squamish, British Columbia, Canada.