Four years and four films later, "The Twilight Saga" is finally coming to an end. That fact is hard to take for the legions of fans of the franchise, based on the best-selling trilogy by Stephenie Meyer.
But an even harsher reality awaits them at the cinema. "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" is as sickly sweet as the half-novel on which it's based -- but it's also far more brutal. Even viewers who braved the vampire birth scene from "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" won't be expecting the gory violence they'll see.
It's a double-edged sword. Younger "Twilight" fans might be scared witless by the added action on screen. But those scenes, added by director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, are the only ones worth seeing in an otherwise mediocre picture.
|'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2'|
|2 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner|
|Director: Bill Condon|
|Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity|
|Running time: 115 minutes|
"Breaking Dawn - Part 2" opens three days after part one ended. Bella Cullen (Kristen Stewart) has given birth to Renesmee, her child with vampire husband, Edward (Robert Pattinson). The half-human, half-vampire baby proved so difficult to birth that Edward had to turn Bella into a vampire to keep her alive.
Bella's red eyes are one obvious indicator of her changed status; her desire for human blood is another. "We need to get your thirst under control," Edward tells her, taking her into the woods to hunt. This Bella, hunting prey on all fours, is a far cry from the shy schoolgirl who fell in love with Edward in the first film.
But Renesmee has endangered the entire Cullen clan. The Volturi come to believe, wrongly, that Renesmee is an immortal child. The existence of such a creature is against vampire law -- vampire children can't control their thirst. So they assemble to travel to Washington State and destroy the child -- and anyone who stands in their way.
The Cullens' only hope is to collect as many witnesses as they can, vampires who can testify that Renesmee is mortal and are willing to fight the Volturi in her defense. These vampires come from the four corners of the world and provide a fair amount of comic relief, as does the fact that the Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has "imprinted" -- fallen in love with -- the young Renesmee.
The few laughs aren't enough to distract from dialogue that's simply painful: You'll get a headache from rolling your eyes so much. Edward is worshipful of his now-powerful wife. The couple regularly says things to each other like "Nobody's ever loved anybody as much as I love you."
But it's almost worth wading through the sugary syrup to get to film's climax, in which good guys and bad guys alike rip the heads off each other without mercy. Here, Michael Sheen turns out to be the star of the show. His Volturi leader, Aro, is at once camp and creepy.
This final film had the biggest budget of any in the franchise, though it's still oddly cheap-looking at times. But to the hungry, rabid fans of "Twilight," it's a charming fantasy they can fulfill only on the page and screen.