There are many challenges associated with executing a single story arc over multiple movies, but typically, there’s also one huge advantage. By the final chapter, the filmmaker doesn’t need to include all the little tidbits to get to know characters because basically everyone involved is familiar. The payoff from sharing all those fears, likes, hopes and dreams over the previous films is that these people can be used in small moments to maximum effect because their relationships with the leads doesn’t need to be explained. We watched Neville grow up for seven Harry Potter movies; so, when he confronts Nagini, we know why it’s uniquely important for him to do so.
Unfortunately, Breaking Dawn—Part 2 discards much of that natural advantage. Not only does the script fail to include numerous characters who ate up plenty of screentime in previous movies, it introduces more than a dozen new faces in order to more densely fill out the ranks after an unfortunate misunderstanding upends the Cullen’s universe. Back in the day, some less than intelligent vampires bit little kids. Without the ability to control themselves, these immortal children tore through entire villages and threatened entire covens with exposure. Unfortunately for Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Rob Pattinson), their daughter Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy) shares a lot of features with this cursed lot, and it’s not long before the deliciously evil Aro (Michael Sheen) takes notice. Naturally, our heroes need more muscle to battle the Volturi, and that’s where all the strangers come in.
With a runtime at a shade less than two hours, the chaotic meet-and-greet should sink the momentum of the overall film, but screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg actually does as well with the balancing act as she can. The new characters are well-established enough to eventually feel familiar, and the focus never drifts completely away from Bella, Edward and to a lesser extent, Jacob (Taylor Lautner). All three leads are comfortable and competent in the roles they’ve returned to over and over again, and each receives the fitting closure their individual trajectories warrant.
Much of the credit for keeping this dicey ship afloat belongs to director Bill Condon, as well. Adapting a book so cherished by fans is never an easy task, but Condon is able to find a balance between doing the source material justice and making choices in the film’s best interests. What works on the page doesn’t always work on the screen, and the helmer is able to acknowledge and maximize the humor within some of the more ridiculous plot points. These moments of levity provide a nice balance against the final, more serious apex of the larger work.
By now, most of us are keenly aware of what Twilight fundamentally is. We know the brooding, slightly melodramatic tone, the overall story arc and the young adult characters. Condon doesn’t attempt to change any of that. He clearly cares about and appreciates the source material and the movies that came before including the one he directed. So, instead of altering things, he simply makes the best possible Twilight movie he can make following the same constraints. Regardless of your feelings on the franchise, that’s a feat, and it means Breaking Dawn—Part 2 is about as good as it could have possibly been.
The Twilight Saga has never been better than this. That might not be enough to get your into the theater, but it is enough to give the film a thumbs up.