By Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
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.
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.
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 the 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.
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. The greatest challenge for Condon was not so much creative but ensuring he did nothing to damage the golden goose.
Under his direction, the acting of that all-important threesome has gotten more polished. If you doubt that, the 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.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN - PART 2
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes