Robert Pattinson’s name is on-screen …
Taylor Lautner’s name appears …
Later, Lautner’s taking his shirt off …
That should give you some idea of how it was to watch Breaking Dawn, Part 2, the last of the Twilight movies, in a Cleveland theater on Wednesday night. Quiet contemplation of cinematic efforts it was not. Rather, it was participatory moviegoing, where some people in the audience expect to be heard as clearly as the film’s dialogue, bonding enthusiastically with other spectators, whether over the hunks in Twilight or the junk in Magic Mike.
The makers of Breaking Dawn 2 implicitly acknowledge that this is not just a movie but also the conclusion of a social rite of passage for its fans. One of the last scenes is a series of flashbacks to earlier moments in the love of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Pattinson), reminding the audience of how young these stars were in the beginning — and by extension, how young the fans were when they first encountered the movies.
And the closing credits include not only the cast of this film but also performers from the four previous movies: yet another way of saying, “Look what we’ve all experienced together” — and offering one more chance for screams or, in Stewart’s case, scattered boos.
During a more serious film, the sighs and shouts of Twi-hards might have been distracting. But while Breaking Dawn 2 tries at times to be a somber affair, it is more often quite silly, sometimes admittedly so, and very violent.
Humorous lines pop up in the middle of dramatic scenes. Pattinson and Stewart, perhaps feeling that the end of this phenomenon was near, seem more relaxed than they did in previous films, especially the unendurable Breaking Dawn 1. But the actor who most clearly understands this whole business is Michael Sheen, who puts aside his quality-film cred in favor of a smiling hamminess reminiscent of Vincent Price or John Huston when the bank account needed an infusion.
At the same time, there are some quite brutal scenes of beheadings, burnt bodies and severed limbs, particularly in a climatic battle sequence that is genuinely exciting. As various characters were dealt with, the screams and cheers resumed.
As for what the screaming is all about, Breaking Dawn 2 concludes the saga based on the books by Stephenie Meyer, picking up at the end of Breaking Dawn 1 when Bella, having given birth to a child with vampire Edward, has herself become a vampire as part of an effort to keep her from dying. In addition to having more elaborate makeup, vampire Bella is tough, fast and stronger than some of the older vampires. She is also often hungry, not only for blood but also for the unleashed vampire sex she and Edward can now have (and so do in one discreetly shot scene).
But their rapidly growing child Renesmee (played by several young actresses) looks like a threat to the dominant Volturi coven and its leader, Aro (played by Sheen), since immortal children are dangerous and must be destroyed before they wreak havoc. Renesmee is not in fact immortal, since Bella was still human when she was born, but the Volturi need to be convinced. So the Cullens begin gathering other vampires to attest to Renesmee’s benign nature — assuming the Volturi are willing to hear the truth.
It all leads to a snow-covered field where the Cullens, other vampires and werewolf Jacob (Lautner) and his clan face off against the massed Volturi. What happens next has its share of tension, plenty of gore and one nicely done twist on the way to the closing credits. It’s not Harry Potter, but by the standard of the previous Twilight movies, it’s pretty good. (I offer no comparisons to the books, since I’ve never been able to get through the first one.)
That being said, there are still moments when Stewart in particular seems to drift away from the required emotion, awkward lines, less-than-impressive special effects and laughs that do not seem intentional. But none of that will matter to the fans who will fill cinemas this weekend, celebrating not only the movie, but also their connection to it.
So get ready: EEEEEE-EEEEE-EEEEEEE.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.