Before she stepped down as ComicsAlliance's Editor-In-Chief, Laura Hudson -- the chief architect of my misery over the past three years -- made one final edict. When Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2
was released, I would be required to finish what I started
and write a review for ComicsAlliance. For the past year, that thing's been hanging over my head like a death sentence (or a crappy movie sentence, at least) and today, it has finally happened. I have seen the fifth and final Twilight
And as shocking as it might be, I'm actually pretty glad about that. Because finally, four and a half movies into this godforsaken franchise, Twilight has finally gone from mind-numbingly bad to hilariously awesome
When it was originally announced that the last Twilight
movie would be split into two parts, I just assumed it was a shameless attempt to wring every last possible dime out of the fan base. Between Harry Potter
and the Hobbit
-- and Atlas Shrugged
, I guess, which is as much of a fantasy as those other two -- that's sort of become the go-to move for adaptations. Now that I've actually seen the second half, though, it makes a lot of sense. It's not really a question of length, but of tone: splitting the movies allowed director Bill Condon to get all the egregiously offensive stupidity out of the way -- the heavy-handed vampire abortion debate, Edward performing a C-section by tearing open Bella's womb with his teeth, Jacob falling in love with a fetus
-- so that he could spend this one getting weird. Even by Twilight standards.
That's not to say that it's an entirely enjoyable experience, especially for the first half, which drags its heels like Fred Flintstone at a red light. The entire foundation of the story is still dumber than a sack of hammers and may actually be at its dumbest when this movie starts. The first twenty minutes are the hardest to get through by far, as they're built around stuff like Jacob trying desperately to explain to Bella (and the audience) that "imprinting" is something wholesome that baby ducks do, and not just a fancy word for werewolf pedophilia. He doesn't have a whole lot of luck with that, largely because a) assuring someone's parents that you just intend to hang out and watch out for their baby daughter until she's old enough to f**k doesn't really make it sound better, and b) dramatic acting is not exactly Taylor Lautner's strong point. That dude seems nice, but he is decent at comedy, good at karate and great at abs, and that's about where his skill set ends.
I will say, though, the actual hooting that went on in my theater when Lautner took off his shirt was easily one of the funniest things I've ever heard at the movies.
For her part, Bella continues to be one of the worst characters in fiction. She opens the movie by hunting a mountain lion in a cocktail dress (she's wearing the cocktail dress, not the other way around) and standing around while everyone tells her how great and different she looks even though she just looks like regular Kristen Stewart with a little more makeup and a slightly different hairstyle. This is the closest her character will come to making sense for the duration of the film.
See, while there's been a lot written about Stephenie Meyer's non-standard concept of vampires, they're basically just straight up X-Men at this point. It was established way back in the first book that Edward could read minds and Alice could see the future, but they hit a point in Breaking Dawn that's just this insane parade of ethnic stereotype vampires -- including Lee Pace and two dudes in leather waistcoats named Stefan and Vladimir with actual honest-to-God Count Chocoula, blah!
accents that are just fantastic -- that all have lightning hands and control over the elements and the ability to cast illusions. It's like they're gearing up to take on the Sentinels, I swear.
This, incidentally, also points to one of the many major flaws in how the Twilight universe was built. There was a huge chunk of the last movie (and all the ones before that) that were devoted to Bella, Edward and Jacob agonizing over whether or not she should be turned, but there is absolutely no downside. And not only do you become a super-strong, super-fast, impossibly beautiful (if you're Ashley Greene) immortal who does not actually have to kill people to survive if you don't want to, you also get actual f**king super-powers to go along with it! There's someone in this movie who has psychic mist, and Dakota Fanning shows up with pain vision! PAIN VISION!
I spent half the movie waiting for them to put on capes, and then they actually put on capes
And because Bella is Bella, and is the most beautiful and perfectest and specialest vampire of all, her super-rare special power is that other vampires' powers don't work on her. To be fair, she does have a limitation in that she can only use it to protect herself, until she tries really hard and learns how to protect other people in the span of about five minutes, without even the benefit of a montage. It's such a ridiculous bit of elementary school playground "nuh uh!" plotting that the only reaction I could have was to not want to invite Meyer to my seventh birthday party.
It's also worth noting that for most of the movie, the special effects are just the worst. Seriously, these movies have made about a billion dollars, you'd think they could afford a better version of supernatural quickness than just speeding up footage of Kristen Stewart taking a leisurely jog in front of a green screen. I swear, it looks worse than Smallville
While we're on the subject of speed, the pacing of the whole thing could use an overhaul, too. I mentioned in the last movie that these characters will decide on a course of action and then wait around for a while before actually doing anything, but in this one, things get downright glacial. The plot, for those of you who haven't had the dubious pleasure, is that the ruling body of vampires known as the Volutri -- who look like a prog band and talk like the fops from '90s Weekend Update sketches -- want to kill pretty much everyone we know because of Edward and Bella's weird-ass half-vampire progeria baby. They make plans to do exactly that sometime in mid-summer, but don't actually get around to it until after Christmas.
Look. I realize that these are unfathomably old immortal beings for whom our entire lifespans pass in an eyeblink and other such nonsense, but Jesus, dude, some of us have things to do today.
When they do show up, though? Oh man. Oh man, you guys. It is amazing
When the Volturi and their army of Death Eaters finally roll into Forks for the climax, BD2
suddenly turns into a Neveldine/Taylor movie about werewolves and vampires just killing each other for 20 minutes. I'll tell you right here and now that it turns out to all be a crazy fakeout potential future because Stephenie Meyer loves nothing more than avoiding writing anything that might actually be interesting -- the part in Twilight
where Bella passes out and then wakes up later so that people can tell her about the awesome fight scene she slept through was the second time in my life that I have ever thrown a book across the room (the first time was also Twilight
) -- but that's actually okay. In a book, when you only get poorly written descriptions after being assured that there is no tension because everyone's standing around listening to the honeyed tones of Edward's alabaster mouth or whatever, that's one thing. But when they actually film it and project it on a giant screen in the middle of the movie? That actually works.
Here's something you might not have expected about Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2
: this movie has TWELVE ONSCREEN DECAPITATIONS
. TWELVE! Crank
and Crank 2 combined
do not have twelve onscreen decapitations. I'm not sure Master of the Flying Guillotine
has twelve decapitations, and that is a movie that is just about a guy who cuts peoples' heads off. It is a truly unexpected number of scenes where someone gets their head ripped off, and somehow, each time it's done is even more hilarious than the last.
The moment where I knew things had finally turned the corner for this movie was Decapitation #3, where Edward's dad and Aro (Michael Sheen, the guy from the Volturi who looks like a bad Loki cosplayer) square off and re-enact the opening scene from Ninja Gaiden
, and Aro lands holding Carlisle's severed head while one of his henchmen sets the headless body on fire with a torch. It is amazing, and then it happens nine more times
, sometimes with werewolves, while some other dude rips open an actual chasm and starts casting his enemies down into a river of lava.
I am not exaggerating about this at all, nor when I say that I was laughing so hard there were tears in my eyes at how ludicrous the whole thing is. Even when the big twist hit, it was still funny, and God help me, handled pretty well by the cast.
I mean, yes, it's all bookended by what my notes describe as "a bunch of f**king dhampir nonsense" that drops back into the creepy kind of weirdness when some shirtless dude shows up and announces that Bella's kid will stop aging when she turns 7 and that's when it'll be okay for Jacob to tap that (I guess?) and everyone wanders off for a slow dance. And Bella gets another super-power. For about 20 minutes, though, it makes up for every bit of ill-conceived lunacy by finally figuring out how to make that lunacy fun to sit through.
The end result is like a big budget version of Troll 2
: A movie whose logic I don't understand, with situations and plot points that are introduced and never really explained, full of characters whose motivation I cannot even begin to understand, but that I wanted to watch again the minute it was over.