By the finale, 'Twilight' vampire series is mostly anemic ★ 1/2

Child care issues abound in the final Twilight film, "Breaking Dawn 2." Worth your time? Michael Phillips says...

The fifth and very likely final "Twilight" picture boasts one moment, perhaps three or four seconds in length, so delightfully intense and uncharacteristically juicy that the rest of the film — most of the rest of the whole series, in fact — looks pretty pale by comparison. Not vampire pale. Paler.

I refer to Michael Sheen as Aro, chief executive officer of the undead Volturi and the president of the Gleeful British Ham Actors Union. At the moment in question Aro mistakenly believes the daughter of Bella Swan, the human turned vampire, and Edward Cullen, the Byronic bloodsucker, to be an immortal child who must be killed. Everyone's standing around outside under gray skies, and there's snow, and it's cold, and Sheen's Aro spies the child, and his red eyes light up and he concocts this fantastic combination of a giggle and a cackle. It's a great close-up, scary and funny both. Now there's a technician at work! An actor, actually acting. Overacting, actually. But who cares?

With so much somnambulant underplaying going on around him, with so many scenes of well-dressed vampires sitting or standing, stiffly, while Taylor Lautner or Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart passes another micro-slab of dialogue like a kidney stone, the overacting's greatly appreciated, thanks.

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2" picks up where "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1" left off. Newly vampired Bella is adjusting to her new powers, her new life, her new extended family, the uneasy truce with the wolves led by Lautner's man-wolf Jacob. And the kid! The kid is a huge adjustment. Also, it must be a huge disappointment to Bella that all the vampires in "Twilight" look sillier in each successive movie whenever one of these superfast creatures runs superfast through the woods of the American northwest, in pursuit of a deer or a mountain lion. Or simply scoots over to a bookshelf in a hurry.

How can they move so fast while the fifth film, not two hours in length, feels so slow? Director Bill Condon, who handled "Breaking Dawn — Part 1" with a modicum of sly camp, returns here, arranging everyone in the group scenes like eerie poseurs in a particularly smug fashion shoot. He has made stylish, interesting films. His "Twilight" films are not two of them, though Condon does muster some head-snapping panache for the film's climax, in which an informal world council of vampires shows up to do battle with the Volturi. The touchingly misguided folks at the Motion Picture Association of America classification and ratings administration have allowed this melee of decapitations to get by with a PG-13. Presumably this is payback for all that earnest abstinence in the first few hundred minutes of the "Twilight" saga.

I harbor some affection for the first two "Twilight" films, but by the third, the crushing solemnity of the storytelling started to grate. This franchise hasn't much in common with the "Harry Potter" films, beyond the supernatural appeal. But those efforts earned a casual Potter fan's trust and buy-in, most every time. With the "Twilight" movies, taken from Stephenie Meyer's books, it's different; you really do have to sign some sort of pre-adoration contract before buying a ticket.

OK, and this is bugging me for some reason: The Volturi are somehow stupid enough to mistake Bella's daughter for something she isn't? What kind of stupid vampires are these vampires? And now that I've been sucked into this petty mythological trivia question, I suppose it proves that some part of me will miss "Twilight." I can't wait for the franchise reboot.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2' -- 1 /2 stars
MPAA rating:
PG-13 (for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity)
Running time: 1:55
Opens:
Thursday midnight

CHICAGO

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