So it's over. The haters can rejoice that there won't be any more attention paid to this franchise for a while at least, and fans can feel some closure for a movie series that's done. Either way it's a reason to celebrate, at least until the inevitable reboot in a few years. I have to say that this was most definitely an ending, and I thought it was a good one. Will this installment change your minds about the series as a whole? Nope. Will fans love it? Absolutely.
This movie felt bigger, and there were some mildly epic moments. It was also wall to wall supernatural creatures for the first time. Gone was the teen angst love triangle, and in its place was a slightly more mature tale of the beginning of a family. Add to that several interesting new characters, a wildly different heroine, and some really impressive action moments and you have a movie with a much more cohesive tone. In a way this felt like a different franchise, even though all the characters and backgrounds that have been established over the course of the series remained intact.
Kristen Stewart tackled a completely different take on her character this time. She was no longer fidgety and awkward, and she displayed anger in a way that didn't feel like a puppy barking in frustration. I think that's why I liked this part of the story so much, Bella is no longer the fragile damsel in distress. She becomes the focus of the heroics, since she is finally able to stand with the rest of the characters in the story. Actually, for a good portion of the movie she's stronger than everyone else, which leads to a couple of genuinely fun scenes.
The rest of the Cullen family actually got a bit more screen time, despite the fact that nearly twenty new characters were added -- some secondary, relegated to background players, but the central additions were all a lot of fun. Garrett, Alistair, Benjamin, and the Romanian vampires stood out, but the Denali Clan were good as well. Those characters for the most part showed more personality in a few minutes of screen time than the Edward or Jacob did during the entire series. Okay, that might a bit harsh, but it felt that way to me.
So I should probably talk about Renesmee. The actress did a good job, even though she didn't speak much, and I thought the character worked. What was not so great was the way they handled the effects for her rapid aging. Those effects were very obviously computer-generated. They used several real children, and then transplanted Mackenzie Foy's face onto them. It was a little creepy, but it wasn't any worse than some of the spotty werewolf animations seen in the first four movies. Strangely enough, the wolves looked better than ever. And the rest of the effects work was actually pretty impressive, boasting some of the most extreme visuals in the entire series. The last act was also a departure from the book, and it was a nice, unexpected surprise. In fact, they fixed one of the big problems with the book's ending.
For me, this was the best entry in the franchise. Which isn't surprising, since it's my favorite part of the book series as well. This is the first, and only time, we get to view any of the larger world that Stephenie Meyer envisioned. There were intriguing new vampires, a wide variety of cool powers, and a taste of an oppressive vampire society that made me want to see more of it. Except this is it, there is no more to see. Which is unfortunate, because a lot of that expanded world appealed to me to a greater degree than rest of the series.
I guess what I'm saying, is that I enjoyed the heck out of this movie. Not that it wasn't without flaws, far from it. But as a fluffy, fun, and slightly silly vampire romance, it fulfilled its purpose entirely.
Taking into to account this is the second part of a two part movie, I'd still give it --
3 out of 4 Sets of red eyes.