Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Maggie Grace, Dakota Fanning, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Ashley Greene
Rating: 4 Stars
After five movies, the series that brought abstinence back into vogue for teenagers concludes with a rebirth, a fair bit of tasteful sex within marriage, and a long and dramatic fight with the forces of darkness.
Admittedly, the two people getting it on are dead, or undead, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their newfound freedom.
Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) may have died at the end of Breaking Dawn Part 1, but her topaz eyes open as the first shot of the final film, revived by a vampire’s love. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) looks on with the gaze of a vampire who’s been waiting a long time for love. In vampire movies, if not in the lives of actors, romance can be permanent and perfect, and consummated in front of a log fire.
The final film satisfies on many levels. It is looser and funnier than its predecessors, less driven by boring action and fighting than the middle films and more confidently realised than its immediate predecessor.
Bill Condon has relaxed into the story and characters, or perhaps he has earned the right to make it his way – albeit under the watchful eye of Stephenie Meyer, writer of the books, who has a prominent credit as producer.
The series was always about the eyes, rather than the fangs. There has rarely been a prettier group of actors assembled on a movie screen. The film’s sensual close-ups were a part of the meaning. The sensuality, the restrained smoulder, was newish in teen movies when the first film appeared four years ago.
The series got tired along the way, veering into action and bad dog effects as the wolf pack Native Americans fought the middle-class vampires.
The final film restores order and balance, with a firm grasp of what made the series exceptional in the first place: the belief, the insistence, that teenage love could be as dramatic, life-threatening and complicated as any other love story. It was not trivial, even if it was between vampires.
That seriousness is the real achievement of the series.