When it comes to Twilight, there is a point where one must either make the conscious decision to abandon the series forever or break from reality and commit to this uniquely weird supernatural romance once and for all. If the former is chosen, life goes back to normal. Otherwise, life still goes back to normal, but only by default. Pretty much everything is normal compared to a world where vampires sparkle in the sun, the undead procreate with the living, Renesmee is a real name, and creating an impenetrable force field with the power of love is actually possible. Whether novel or film, Breaking Dawn means letting go and embracing the madness.
Widely considered the most controversial book of the series, fans continue to debate if Twilight author Stephenie Meyer went in the right direction while writing Breaking Dawn. Bill Condon (the Oscar-winning director of Dreamgirls) had a difficult task in adapting The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1, in which protagonists Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) left the complexities of high-school romance behind for those of marriage. They had intimacy issues (Edward had difficulty refraining from accidentally killing Bella during sex). They butted heads over Bella's unexpected pregnancy (the baby was unable to refrain from accidentally killing Bella during birth). The tone was relentlessly serious, but the tale was more ridiculous than ever. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 isn't really like that, and works all the better for it.
One of the biggest reasons for that improvement is that Bella has finally become a vampire. Baby Renesmee successfully killed her during birth (thanks, Renesmee!), breaking her spine and presumably removing the stick that has been up Bella's you-know-where for so long. Kristen Stewart, no longer playing a passive, depressed schoolgirl, is allowed to be funny. Now that she isn't faced with choosing between the two hottest guys in school and pesky issues of mortality, Bella is a lot more fun to watch. The same can be said for Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Everything feels so much lighter this time around. In contrast to previous installments, in which the story was prone to angst-related slackness (Bella's grief coma comes to mind), this film's only real pacing problem is the Cullen family's rather lengthy period of domestic bliss.
The story picks up again when the Volturi -- a sort of vampire monarchy -- hear news of Renesmee's existence. Under the mistaken impression that the girl is an immortal child (that is, a child who was bitten and turned into a vampire too young to be able to control its killing urges, and thus threatens to expose the existence of bloodsuckers to humans), the Volturi plan to slaughter the entire Cullen clan for egregiously breaking the law. When Alice (Ashley Greene) gets wind of this via a psychic vision, the Cullens decide to assemble an army of vampires that can hold back the Volturi long enough to explain that Renesmee is a human/vampire hybrid and does not pose the same danger. As it turns out, there are pro-Cullen, albeit non-"vegetarian," vampires around the world, each with their own unabashedly clichéd sense of style. Rather than take itself too seriously, the gathering of the vampires is a conscious, unbridled display of campiness that falls just short of a 1980s sports-drama montage. Somehow, it works.
Although the film follows the novel relatively faithfully, the finale deviates from the original story in a truly outrageous way that needs to be seen to be believed and will undoubtedly have its naysayers. Yet it remains true to the books by being entertaining in spite of itself. Condon, the cast, and the crew of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 have made something they can be proud of.