The long awaited finale to the popular Twilight saga rewards fans and makes few concessions for newcomers.

Following the birth of her child, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), we rejoin Bella (Kristen Stewart) when she awakes as a vampire. But as Bella takes her new body out for a spin, Breaking Dawn Part Two feels like an absurd check list of vampire skills. Bella hunts a mountain lion, scales a sheer cliff and arm wrestles a muscular vampire opponent. While this feels ridiculous and adds little to the plot, it passes as a reward for devoted fans who have waited a long time to see Bella grapple with her newfound speed, strength and glittering skin.

When the Volturi – Twilight’s cape-wearing bad guy vampires – make an appearance the plot begins to take shape. The Volturi, led by the weird and unflinching Aro (Martin Sheen), believe that Bella and Edward have created an immortal child that cannot be trained or taught. With the Volturi planning to kill their daughter, Bella and Edward develop their own plan to prove Renesmee was ‘born and not bitten’. As a concept, an immortal child with an unquenching thirst for human blood is potentially terrifying, but Breaking Dawn Part Two quickly skims over this horror story, instead focussing its efforts on the sweeter aspects of Bella and Edward’s saga.

For fans of Bella and Edward’s love story, there are some well placed love scenes, but a shower of cringe-worthy jokes shatter any illusions of romance. Plenty of similar ‘must see’ moments litter this final installment, slowing down the pace of the movie. The onset of battle sees Breaking Dawn Part Two pick up speed and excitement but this is swiftly diminished by a frustrating turn of events.

While Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have shown their acting skill elsewhere, performances in Breaking Dawn Part Two feel stunted and forced. Bella’s emotional outbursts are at times excessive, while her narration is drab and emotionless. The couple’s family dynamic also suffers from the relatively short amount of screen time provided to Renesmee and her interactions with Edward and Bella. It follows that this family feels unconvincing, with little emotional connection – something that seriously damages the main plot-line which centres on a mother and father’s love for their child.

But Breaking Dawn Part Two is not without character development. For the first time in this collection of five films, Edward begins to put faith in Bella’s abilities, acknowledging ‘I’ve had a bad habit of underestimating you’. Bella remains a strong and powerful character who continues to drive the Twilight series along.

Werewolf, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), also accepts Bella’s life with Edward for the first time in the franchise. Instead Jacob’s sub-plot revolves around Renesmee in an awkward and often uncomfortable storyline that, despite being intended as the source of much comedy, feels creepy and unnecessary.

Set amidst the scenery of Forks, Washington, the Twilight series should be visually arresting with lush forests and snow-swept landscapes. But, with the exception of a stunning opening sequence, visually, Breaking Dawn Part Two offers little improvement on Twilight’s unconvincing earlier installments. Landscapes, high-speed running and werewolf action remain flimsy and unrealistic. In a franchise reportedly worth over two billion dollars, this is disappointing.

Much of Breaking Dawn Part Two plays out as a reward for fans who have waited four years to witness Bella and Edward’s romantic finale. But if you’re not already a fan of the Twilight franchise then it’s unlikely that this final offering will tempt you. While the Twilight franchise has often been love or hate, this finale’s stilted performances, absurd plot developments, poor visuals and final, frustrating cop-out will do little to win over newcomers.

 VERDICT: ✭✭✩✩✩ 2/5

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