Twilight, Breaking Dawn Part 2 - A review by Ken Vazquez
(he promised his mother he'd take her, I took my daughter, its how real men roll.)
Vampires according to folklore, and my very own opinion (must stress MY VERY OWN OPINION), do NOT sparkle or walk in the sunlight (day dwelling vamps are a debatable possibility). Real vampires (as "real" as fiction allows them to be) are blood thirsty and ravenous creatures of the night. Again, according to folklore.
Thanks to the film 'THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART II', based on the fourth and final entry in the young adult book series by author Stephanie Meyer, Hollywood further perpetuates the overdone romantic notion of vampires. To be fair and accurate we have no one to blame for that stigma than the man who started the vampire horror sub genre, author Bram Stoker and his literary classic DRACULA. Beautiful actors, beautiful photography and acting which borders on soap opera meets Shakespeare are all over this last chapter in the story of a teenage girl in love with a vampire.
Let me make something perfectly clear, I'm not writing this to bash on 'Twilight' for to do so is to trample all over a fandom that so many across the globe hold so close to their hearts (I know two ladies in Florida and one in California who are avid fans). I wouldn't want for someone to consider my Star Trek, Wonder Woman and Doctor Who following as dumb and stupid. As a would be writer I have nothing but respect and admiration for Stephanie Meyer for creating a mythology that young women, and men, can latch on to and connect with. Although is not my type of fiction it is to someone else.
I like to possess a certain amount of knowledge on something outside the scope of my fandom before I scrutinize it. I will openly admit reading the first "Twilight" book and the gorgeously illustrated graphic novel by Korean artist Young Kim. Hell, I even own "Twilight: Director's Notebook" by filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Twilight, Red Riding Hood) who's the reason I enjoyed the first film. I tried reading the subsequent books, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn but I could not get passed the structure of the narrative since it's told through the female protagonist, Bella Swan's, warped point of view. Fortunately I was able to find a website were brief excerpts from all the books were posted that simplified the story for me and allowed me to learn what I felt was necessary.
There is one thing I do appreciate and like about 'Twilight' and that's the depth of certain characters. Dr. Carlisle Cullen, played with earthy gentleness by Peter Facinelli (Can't Hardly Wait, The Scorpion King), Rosalie Hale portrayed with ferocity and warmth by Nikki Reed (Thirteen) and Civil War veteran Jasper Hale brought to life with southern charm by Jackson Rathbone (The Last Airbender) are some of my favorite characters due mostly to their backgrounds and the actors behind them. The fact that the wolves (I refuse to call them werewolves) are Native American is awesome and intriguing. The vampires, despite their frail appearance, are more interesting than Bella who's being played by Kristen Stewart with the dullness of an old oak stake.
It's hard to like Bella who I think is one of the most uninteresting and less than appealing female characters I've ever seen in any form of narrative as of lately. She's self absorbed, depressing, has no regard for her safety or that of others, no redeemable qualities and no sense of self worth. Is sad to me that a woman would realize her importance because of a man when she should feel that way regardless. I have no idea what Edward Cullen, portrayed with rigidity by Robert Pattinson (Remember Me), a hundred and plus year old vampire sees in a seventeen year old girl like Bella. Maybe it has something to do with Bella's ability to "shield" herself from vampiric powers. Bella becomes slightly more bearable once she turns into a vampire AND a mother. Taylor Lautner grew and matured well into the role of Jacob Black, Bella's childhood friend and a member of a Native American wolf pack. Seeing him at one point begging Bella to choose him over Edward really got under my skin. Come on, he's a proud Native American who turns into a giant wolf!!
Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Candyman: Farewell to The Flesh, Dreamgirls) knows exactly how to photograph his actors as well as the lush and green outdoors sets in this movies. Even the opening, which features some rather bold and amazing visuals of the Washington state woods, is quite lovely. Say what you will about the slow narrative of 'Twilight' and it's diamond studded vamps, but these films actually look nice. The end credit sequence felt quite nostalgic with scenes and screen shots of ALL the actors involved in the entire film series.
As good as the movie may look it's biggest disappointment lies within one of the visual effects which should've worked. In the book, Renesme, Bella's and Edward's half human half vampire offspring, is described as almost magical in appearance and supernaturally expressive for her age. The digital effects used to bring that aspect of the baby alive were nothing short of atrocious and horribly executed. To say that the baby looked fake is too kind a word, it looked laughable and threw the movie off for a while. Is as if the filmmakers didn't even try to get it right nor put any real effort in the visuals. Actress Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring) was the basis for the baby and played the role as a grown child. They should have used a real baby from the start. Even the wolves looked cartoony in some scenes.
While the love story itself is the main attraction, this movie wouldn't be much without it's beautifully striking cast, specially the female vampires. Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Maggie Grace (Irina), Dakota Fanning (Jane), Andrea Powell (Sasha), MyAnna Buring (Tanya), Casey LaBow (Kate), Mia Maestro (Carmen), Angela Sarafyan (Tia), Andrea Gabrielle (Kebi) and Tracey Heggins (Senna) are absolutely gorgeous and divine looking women. The most enigmatic and hypnotic of all these ladies is British model/actress Judith Shekoni who played Zafrina, the leader of the Amazonian vampire coven. I'll go see the movie all over again just because of her.
Just when I thought that every male vampire in 'Twilight' was an accessory, actors Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, A Single Man) and Michael Sheen (Underworld, Frost/Nixon) steal every scene they're in. Lee delivered the best one liners in the movie as vampire bad boy Garrett and quickly became one of my favorite characters. If Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment do make further 'Twilight' films I would actually go see them as long as Lee Pace's Garrett is the main character. There's something ironically funny and amusing about seeing Michael Sheen playing Aro, head of The Volturi vampire coven, after taking on the role of Lucien the leader of the werewolves in 'Underworld' and 'Rise of The Lycans'. His take on Aro is both eccentric and creepy.
Melodrama takes the forefront of these films while "action" is used sparingly here and there. The battle sequence between the Cullens, their allies and The Volturi is shockingly epic and downright visceral with plenty of on screen head chopping action. Truly the best moment in any of the films.
It's definitely not for everybody but 'THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART II' brings a proper cinematic end to the series in the process cementing a place for itself in pop culture. Some characters and the mythology might be appealing but the constant depiction of vampires as romantic and tragic pretty boys and "Cover Girls" gets way too redundant to the point that they're not scary. Yes, vampires, like any other gothic monster can be re-adapted and re-imagined in many ways...but sparkling?? Really? Anne Rice made them pretty with 'Interview With The Vampire' but even then she retained the monster.
To be honest I wouldn't mind an attractive vampire on film as long as it's beauty melts away to reveal a flesh eating, blood drinking demonic beast which would rip a person entrails out of their bellies instead of falling in love. Something along the lines of 'Salem's Lot', 'The Lost Boys', 'Fright Night', 'Near Dark', 'John Carpenter's Vampires', '30 Days of Night' and 'Let Me In'. You know, REAL vampire movies.