I can't speak for every other non-fan of this franchise who also somehow wound up seeing every single one of the films, but for me this final official two-part chapter is the best. Here's why (some spoilers coming, but nothing major):

1. Bella (Kristen Stewart), at long last, leaps off the sidelines and gets to be a vampire, demonstrating some of that mega-bloodpower every other Paleface Redeye just throws around like it's no big deal. All prior (and completely justified) feminist mortification regarding this young woman's agency and self-direction can now be laid to rest. When she pulls Edward (Robert Pattinson) toward her in the opening moments and nearly shatters his sternum, then wipes the floor with walking MET-Rx bar Emmett (Kellen Lutz) in a friendly arm-wrestling match before punching a giant boulder and turning it into gravel, you realize that she is now Wreck-It Ralph. This is extremely satisfying.

2. We finally get a chance to be slightly less creeped out by the way Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has "imprinted" his wolfness onto the bizarrely digital-faced baby Renesmee (did none of that sentence make sense? then you are reading the wrong movie review and should know that Expendables 2 hits DVD next week and the new Criterion Blu-ray of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend is available as we speak). Because, after all, it wasn't his fault; the call was coming from inside Bella's uterus and would not stop ringing until the right werewolf future-mate answered. But then Jacob goes and nicknames the child "Nessie," which just turns it all gross again. Bella's not down for that either, as it reminds her of the Loch Ness Monster. Whatever, girl; you were the one who named your kid Renesmee.

3. Returning director Bill Condon does right by his Bella. He met her where she was, with all her Stephenie Meyer-installed adolescent ideas about love and weirdo fairy-tale conceptions of "forever," and then took her seriously when earlier installments openly courted scorn from all sides by keeping her small and weak. Best of all he continues to bring his sense of creepy fun to the otherwise predictable proceedings. He splashes the opening credits with blood and seems eager to make some pain happen so that there can be even more blood. He adds wit and horsepower to a story that has always needed and rarely been given both at once, and he turns talky text cinematic in a way that might anger a handful of the more rigidly literalist Meyer purists* but that provides a fitting climax, one that cried out for some extreme killing, no matter what form it had to take. (*I say "some" because black-clad throngs of superfans surrounded me at the advance screening and it was clear that they were simultaneously taken by surprise and happy about it).

4. The Volturi continue to bring the comedy. They're coming for Renesmee because they think she's one of the dangerous "immortal children," vampire babies who can't control their bloodlust. Their plan is to kill her and the coven that keeps her. What they don't realize is that Bella has turned Mama Grizzly and will probably punch them all like they're a bunch of fanged boulders. And seriously, anyone who's ever taken this prancey cape-gang of thirsty hairstyles seriously as a fighting force is giving them way more credit than they deserve. None of this, however, stops Michael Sheen from having a fantastic time mugging it up as Aro. When encountering the rapidly growing Renesmee, he squeals a squeal that should replace all former understandings of the word "squeal." It's disturbing and funny and rightfully vampiric, the elation of a monster. And it's the best moment in the entire film that doesn't involve decapitation or discussions of Taylor Lautner's body odor.

5. It's over! At least until Summit decides to move forward with The Renesmee Conundrum or whatever they'll wind up calling it.


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