Whatever happens before it, the finale is a doozy, almost certain to be satisfying to fans and impressive even to the casual Twilight viewer.
But so much of what comes before that payoff in Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, the conclusion to The Twilight Saga, is mundane, dull, all talk and no action.
It's a made-for-Lifetime movie about teen vampires, with talk-talk-talking leads muttering romance novel lines, a vast clutter of late-to-the-saga new characters, that same blue-grey production design, more digital wolves and incessant, insipid music.
In other words, pretty much what we've come to expect from this finally ending never-ending saga.
Director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) never quite overcomes the sense that he feels this is all beneath him with this second half of the book he got to film to finish Twilight off. He's still too quick to look for the joke, and none too subtle when looking for excuses to have Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner strip. But the barely-concealed contempt of Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 doesn't show.
Bella's baby, Renesmee, is growing up fast, but mostly outside of her grasp. A "newborn" vampire herself, Bella (Kristen Stewart) doesn't know her own strength, so others nurse her child. Bella revels in her heightened awareness of nature, her sharper senses. She can toss hubby Edward (Robert Pattinson) around and have her way with him any time she wants.
"I was born to be a vampire," she narrates. Then, she kicks the brawny Emmett's butt (Kellan Lutz) at arm wrestling to show she's wholly Cullen-ized.
Bella's clueless dad (Billy Burke) has to be clued in. Sort of. The third corner of the love triangle, werewolf Jacob (Lautner), must be placated and insulted. He calls the fast-growing tyke "Nessie." ("You nicknamed my baby after the Loch Ness Monster?")
And the Volturi, the ruling coven of vampires, must be convinced that this child of human-and-vampire desire with the absurd name and silly nickname is no threat. And as is the way of Twilight, the Volturi (Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning) aren't listening. Thus, the Cullen clan reach out -- north to south, east to Middle East -- for "witnesses" to the child's true nature. These vampy vampires -- Brazilian rainforest folk, Arabs, Russians -- each have their own "special" powers, according to the needs of the always slight but increasingly unwieldy plot. It's as if novelist Stephenie Meyer were using the growing, evolving Harry Potter bag of tricks and trick characters as her model.
Lee Pace and Rami Malek are standouts among the legion of newcomers hurled into the saga. And I have to say, after four films and untold tons of heavily made-up heavy-breathing close-ups, the casting of that original corps of Cullens and humans has worked out wonderfully. The gorgeous supporting players, from Peter Facinelli and Nikki Reed to Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone, never treated this teen romance as anything less than War and Peace.
The movies around them, however, have veered from tepid to time-stands-still tedious. The passionate, panting first love of the first films has settled into an embattled but lusty couple setting up housekeeping, the effects have improved marginally and, as said at the outset, the ending and the epilogue pack a punch.
Thanks to that, Edward gets the last line on this Saga. Coping with some new pain that's inflicted on his tormented immortal soul and oft-shirtless immortal body, he provides this epitaph -- "It's painful, but it's bearable."
-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Excerpts from select reviews of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II:
This fifth and mercifully final instalment features so much idle anticipation that it's unclear whether we're watching a movie or an Apple product launch.
-- Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
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.
-- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
Good riddance Twilight, may it be an eternity before you're relaunched or rebooted.
-- Adam Graham, Detroit News
As for you, dear reader, the symptoms of our long national nightmare should begin to fade as you're heading out of the theatre, dissipating by the time you clear the concession stand.
-- Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II
Starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
Grant Park, McGillivray, McGillivray VIP, Polo Park, St. Vital
3 stars out of five