Let's not forget the windfall for Forks, fictional home to the vampires and werewolves that populate Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster young adult novels. It doesn't matter that the movies themselves have mostly been shot in British Columbia -- tourists have been coming to Forks to get a scent of vampire skin and the glow of the overcast skies they love.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" is the second half of Meyer's final book, and it is a relief to report that this closing installment is livelier than the last few outings. We hit the ground running, because Forks girl Bella (Kristen Stewart) has given birth to her baby with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and also been turned into a vampire by him.
The Cullen family must marshal their fang-bearing brethren against the threat of the Volturi, who will surely arrive for an epic showdown. Wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is still around, sidelined by Bella's definitive choice in a husband, but nevertheless waiting in the wings for one of the unlikeliest arranged marriages in the history of young adult literature.
Director Bill Condon, a smart man, mixes up the expected heavy-breathing embraces, oddly jaunty one-liners, and trendy song soundtrack to keep this thing moving along. Everything feels too carefully in place, as though nobody dared disturb the billion-dollar machine while it's in motion.
For such a fancy franchise, the movie looks pretty bad. Most actors have their faces either caked in too-heavy vampire-pale make-up (rendered in detail by the digital photography) or digitally blurred to obscure blemishes that probably aren't there in the first place. Weird. And of course the computer-generated wolves still look too slick, but I've gotten more used to that.
Lautner's sarcasm has become the unexpected sign of life in the actors, as Stewart and Pattinson mostly still mope about each other. Michael Sheen serves up some ham as the chief hoodoo of the Volturi, which is about the only way to play the part.
There's one big-time audience fake-out in the grand final sequence, which works pretty well. The preview audience seemed thoroughly taken with the movie, and not at all fazed (or driven to inadvertent laughter) by the way these vampires use a pop-top method of decapitating their enemies. Makes me nostalgic for the days when a simple wooden stake was the method of dispatch.
"Twilight" can't possibly end here, not with so much money at stake (no pun intended). Things come to a resounding climax, all right, but look for a way ("The Next Generation"?) for this money train to keep on going. People of Forks, not all is lost.
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2" (2½ stars)
The conclusion to Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster series has a little more life than previous entries, maybe because it's obliged to wrap up the story of Bella (Kristen Stewart), who's now a vampire, and her showdown with the Volturi. It isn't a great movie, and everybody looks really bad in it, but with a franchise like this that hardly matters.
Rating: PG-13 for violence, subject matter
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Meridian, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.
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