The “Twilight” franchise has always excelled at pleasing its swooning fanbase, the hordes of young (and not-so-young) women who read Stephenie Meyer’s literally deathless prose and sign up for Team Edward or Team Jacob. And the series’ finale, “Breaking Dawn, Part Two,” is no different.
The good news is that, for a brief moment at least, director Bill Condon gives the “Twilight” haters something to enjoy — and manages to create the most lively, action-packed movie in the series.
“Breaking Dawn, Part Two” picks up where Part One left off, at the moment our heroine Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is transformed into a vampire. She discovers new powers, like being able to body-slam a mountain lion and block other vampires from reading her mind. She also glows while having nonstop sex (albeit of the gauzily discreet PG-13 variety) with her husband, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).
But all isn’t bliss in the Cullen clan. Bella’s a little freaked out (as are we all) at how her old werewolf pal Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) has “imprinted” on her baby daughter, Renesmee. And the whole Cullen clan is a bit disturbed to see that Renesmee, a human/vampire hybrid born when Bella was still human, is growing so fast that she looks like a 6-year-old after only a few weeks. (Young Mackenzie Foy is quite striking as the eerily calm child.)
Then along comes fellow vampire Irina Denali (Maggie Grace), who spies Renesmee and thinks she is an Immortal child — a human child bitten and turned into a vampire. Immortal children never mature and have ravenous appetites, so their existence is particularly threatening to the secrecy of the vampire world. Irina reports her fears to the ruling Volturi clan, whose leader, Aro (Michael Sheen), sees an opportunity to wipe out the rival Cullens in a big final showdown.
Condon doesn’t try to hide the inherent silliness of Meyer’s narrative. (Predicating a four-book epic’s big finale on a wacky misunderstanding? Seriously?) Instead, he embraces it by, for example, mining comedy from the Cullens’ search for far-flung allies from Ireland to the Amazon. (Kudos to “Pushing Daisies” star Lee Pace, who adds dry wit to a minor vampire role.)
Condon also gives “Twilight” fans exactly what they want: Lautner going shirtless, Stewart smiling for once, and Stewart and Pattinson getting lovey-dovey to drippy love songs by the bastard children of Sarah MacLachlan.
Then there’s the big surprise in the finale: an action-packed battle sequence that will shock readers of the book (because Meyer didn’t put it in there) and delight the anti-“Twilight” viewers reluctantly dragged into the theater by their significant others. Then Condon pulls the rug out, toying with his audience as only a director who knows he’s helming an unstoppable money machine can.
That’s followed by an ending that makes the conclusion of “The Lord of the Rings” look like an exercise in brevity. Condon serves up a montage of Edward and Bella’s greatest hits, then presents an extended curtain call in the closing credits featuring every minor character ever to appear in a “Twilight” movie. (Anna Kendrick, I missed you so much!) It’s a chance for “Twilight” fans to say goodbye to their favorites, and a chance for everyone else to delight in the knowledge that this consistently underwhelming saga is at long last over.
‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part Two’
The sparkly-vampire saga concludes, with more action but the same overwrought romantic silliness.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity.
Running time • 115 minutes.