November 21, 2012 -- At last, we come to the end of the Twilight saga, at least for now. I'm afraid there will be more of these, since these particular kinds of films provide a way for studios to make tons of money with very little effort or talent. It's too bad, because it could have been a good series of movies with a greater creative effort, and more money spent, but the studio took the easy way out, similar to the approach taken with popular “Hunger Games” franchise, which also has a fool-proof, built-in audience. The Hunger Games series is better, and it has better acting talent, but it is also being done on the cheap.
If you want to see how to turn a popular juvenile fiction book series into a good series of movies, check out the Harry Potter series. The studio did not skimp on the Harry Potter films. They were first-class all the way, with solid acting talent and top notch production values. Even better is the series, directed by Peter Jackson, based on the books about Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien. The award-winning “Lord of the Rings” trilogy set the gold standard in this field.
The last film in the series, based on the books of the same name, is a little better than the average for the series, and far better than the last film, in which nothing much happened very slowly. In this film we have the big showdown between the Cullen clan of vampires and the Volturi, a kind of vampire ruling council that sets the laws for all vampires. The Volturi are afraid that Bella (Kristen Stewart, reprising her role from the other films) and Edward (Robert Pattinson, also reprising his role) are raising a child which threatens the existence of vampires. The child, Renesmee, is the biological child of Bella and Edward.
The Volturi think the child is a vampire which could go out of control, as vampire children have done in the past, threatening to expose the existence of vampires to humans. However, the child is half-human. Instead of discussing this with the Volturi, the Cullen clan of vampires seeks witnesses who can confirm the child is not a threat. These witnesses will try to convince the Volturi not to hurt the child, who by this time is growing at an accelerated rate. The child (Mackenzie Foy) looks weird in some early scenes, a victim of cheesy special effects. If I was a vampire, I'd feel threatened by this kid, who looks in some scenes like she was the victim of bad plastic surgery.
There is a great deal of plotting and scheming by the Cullens and the werewolf, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner, also reprising his role), who gets to hilariously take off his shirt again in this film, and his pants too, this time. This has been a running joke in the whole series. It may even be an intentional joke by now. Black used to be Bella's boyfriend, but now has pedophile-like designs on the child. He goes to great lengths explaining “It's a wolf thing” and avows he's not a pedophile, while Bella kicks him around violently in disgust. How romantic. It was kind of nice to see Kristen Stewart get to do some facial expressions other than sullen pouting in this film, but she still managed her usual glum look in some scenes.
After a whole lot of this kind of stalling, we finally get to the big showdown between the Cullens and Volturi. There is a whole big bunch of Volturi lined up in robes, like monks. On the other side, you have the Cullens, along with Black and his growling werewolf clan. There are also a few other vampires with their own old scores to settle with the Volturi, like Vladimir (Noel Fisher of “Battle: Los Angeles”) and Stefan (Guri Weinberg of “Munich”), former vampire rulers in Romania until they were thrown down and made outcasts by the Volturi. Vladimir and Steffan have funny Transylvanian accents, kind of like more traditional movie vampires (like Bela Lugosi and his imitators).
Even after the two sides line up on a great field in the wilderness, there are more negotiations and more fooling around. There is a final battle, sort of. It is, and it isn't. Without an actual battle, nothing is risked, nothing is gained and nothing is settled. This situation merely postpones the inevitable battle between the Cullens, who seek freedom, and the Volturi, who seek power. The ending was unsatisfying. I felt sorry for Vladimir and Steffan. I would have liked to see them get their revenge. The conclusion, I'm afraid, left some room for sequels.
The film's highlight was probably the campy performance of Michael Sheen (“Fost/Nixon”) as the leader of the Volturi, Aro. It shows that a good actor can do a lot, even with such a poorly-written role. In most of the other Twilight films, the best humor tended to be unintentional. In this film there was more effective humor of the intentional variety. This film rates a C.
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