We carry on where we left off a year ago, at the end of Part One. The film, like its predecessors, assumes that you will have seen the earlier ones, so newcomers do not start here. Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are the parents of child Renesmee, and Bella is growing into her newfound role as a vampire. But meanwhile, vampire aristocracy the Volturi are gathering their forces...
This film, scripted as before by Melissa Rosenberg, splits Stephenie Meyer's final volume of her tetralogy into two, following the example of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The film of Mockingjay, the last of Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games trilogy, will do the same. While that for me worked with Potter, I'm unsure that it does here. Admittedly Breaking Dawn is the one novel in the series that I haven't read, it does follow the series pattern that each novel is longer than the previous one. Even so, there doesn't seem to be four hours of material here, and it might have been better to have boiled it down into around two and a half or so. There are definite pacing problems, with the main threat – the Volturi – not even being mentioned until over half an hour in. Director Bill Condon has form in the horror genre, which helped in Part One with its lurch into body horror issues and gruesomeness that pushed at the limits of a 12A rating. This time, we get a climactic battle and heads are ripped off CGI-style, but it seems much more tame.
The love triangle that dominated the earlier episodes takes something of a back seat, with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) becoming more of a third wheel than he was before. One thing is sure: the makers of this series do know their audience. If Pattinson is not enough eye candy for you, then Lautner gets to do the gratuitous topless scenes. After depriving the viewers of that in Part One, here he strips down to his underpants before transitioning into a werewolf. (At which point his underpants disappear – but then we are still in 12A territory.) Stewart and Pattinson have shown their acting ability elsewhere: they give capable performances here, though their roles are not that much of a stretch. Michael Sheen, meanwhile, enjoys himself by going completely over the top as chief Volturi Aro. Condon and Rosenberg don't avoid ludicrous moments, though some of those are knowing ones. I'm not sure if a line about the Loch Ness Monster is to be blamed on Rosenberg or Meyer though.
And so it ends. Before the end credits we see, either one at a time or in twos and threes, the principal cast of all the series. Whether this carries the weight it's intended to, as a goodbye from the makers to their audience, will depend on how much you have invested in this story and these characters over four years and five films. While no one will call them great, the Twilight films – in the hands of some able directors – have been capable adaptations of one of the most prominent young-adult fantasy series of the last decade.