And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever.” Stephenie Meyer’s series of Twilight novels closes with that tenderly mangled sentiment, and it also flashes on screen at the end of Breaking Dawn Part 2, the second dose of a two-part film based on Meyer’s fourth and final book.
As bad writing goes, it’s unimprovable, and its appearance in unapologetic black and white perhaps shows how warmly director Bill Condon and his screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg have embraced the last chapter of the Twilight story in all its transcendent loopiness.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 is three fingers of supernatural teen romance served neat in a dirty glass with a sparkler and cocktail umbrella, and not a single concession is made to newcomers, or sanity. Within five minutes of the opening credits, the newlywed Bella, whom you may recall converted to vampirism at the end of Breaking Dawn Part 1, is hunting a puma in a figure-hugging blue cocktail dress. (Bella wears the dress, not the puma, although in the world of Twilight, the alternative is not unimaginable.)
Soon afterwards, the shapeshifting Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) decides to reveal his true nature to Bella’s father, the local policeman — by luring him into the forest and peeling off his clothes, while growling lustily about the world being a wilder place than he could ever imagine. Later still, a wolf karate chops Dakota Fanning’s head off. A film that features scenes like these is very hard to dislike.
Of course, Edward and Bella are played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, a young actor and actress whose not inconsiderable talents are best appreciated in films far outside the Twilight franchise, such as Adventureland and Cosmopolis. Trouble brews with the arrival of their daughter, who rejoices in the name Renesmee and to whom Jacob, an ex-love of Bella’s, is devoted much like a dodgy uncle.
As the offspring of a vampire and a human, Renesmee ages quickly, so the mildly alarming computer-generated baby of the early scenes is soon replaced by the 12-year-old actress Mackenzie Foy.
Her birth contravenes some ancient vampire law or other, and so the fiendish King Aro, majestically overplayed by Michael Sheen, minces the length and breadth of Europe, drumming up an undead horde who will bring the young family to justice.
Meanwhile, Edward and Bella raise a vampire army of their own: super-powered, fashionably tousled and able to shoot fire and lightning from their fingertips at will. Imagine the X-Men dressed by Topshop.
Condon has abandoned the half-hearted body horror tone of the last Twilight film for a glossier, spanglier aesthetic: Breaking Dawn Part 2 might have little in common with his Oscar-winning 2006 musical Dreamgirls, but the through-line is just about visible. He hoiks the camera around with soap opera clumsiness during the film’s exposition-heavy first act, but elsewhere there are flashes of real creativity.
Bella may be no Katniss Everdeen, the quick-witted, resilient young heroine of The Hunger Games, but unlike so many young female characters in fantasy films, she remains resolutely and unapologetically at the heart of her own story. If that is to be Twilight’s cinematic legacy then I’ll accept it gladly, miserable vampires, topless werewolves and all.