The sex scenes between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart sizzle. The acting is a touch better. And, for once, a "Twilight" delivers slam-bang action and legitimate special effects.
But what makes "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" superior to the four-pack of "Twilight" films that preceded it is its brand of campy humor and a satisfying twist near the end that readers of the books will find an improvement. At least, the two I sat near thought so.
Rather than repeat past mistakes by handling author Stephenie Meyer's supernatural love story with kid gloves, this "Twilight" cuts loose and is as playful as a puppy. It never takes itself seriously, and that makes a world of difference. There are still issues -- length is one, pacing another -- but this turns out to mostly be an unexpected success.
At last, director Bill Condon -- who helmed the goofy, over-the-top "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1" -- and regular screen series scribe Melissa Rosenberg have come up with a winning "Twilight" formula, one that respects the fan base while unfurling the welcome mat for open-minded nonfans. It's an approach that has stymied previous directors. Too bad it arrives at the table as dessert is being served.
Regardless, the refreshing approach to "Breaking Dawn -- Part 2" proves to be a needed departure, invigorating the revered series' final chapter and its beloved characters and actors as well.
In the past, Bella (Stewart) has been an annoying drip, stringing along her bloodsucking soul mate Edward (Pattinson, so sexy here) while flirting with her beastly he-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner, more at ease).
Not this time. As a newbie vampire, she finally sheds her irritating tics and mumblecore speech patterns. Bella's new powers transform her into a bloodsucking Wonder Woman of sorts, as she takes down buffed-out Jacob during an argument and one-ups cocky Emmett Cullen (Kellan Lutz). Stewart has a heyday with the changes, giving her best, most lively performance in the series.
But Bella's not the only newborn with great powers. Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), Bella and Edward's half-human/half-immortal daughter, has special talents, including growing up very quickly. She catches the unwanted attention of the Volturi, the high-powered vampire coven led by Aro (Michael Sheen, hamming it up and looking perfectly ridiculous in what resembles Janet Jackson's jacket from "Rhythm Nation.")
This, of course, sets the stage for a tense showdown, with vampires and wolves squaring off against the small army of Volturi.
The scene provides a satisfying dramatic flourish near the movie's end and snugly puts a cap on the guilty-pleasure series. If only they'd uncorked that bubbly humor from the start.
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Mackenzie Foy, Dakota Fanning
Director: Bill Condon
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes