When director Bill Condon promised that part two of the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s genius novel “Breaking Dawn” would surprise those who read the book, I had no idea how true that statement was.
I sat down expecting mopey teenagers and demon vampire babies, but was astounded to instead see the film open on a Civil War battlefield and proceed to detail passage of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Werewolf hunk Jacob and vampire half-breed Renesmee are nowhere to be seen. I could only guess the older gentleman spearheading the fight for the amendment’s passage was Edward Cullen and the bipolar harpy constantly yelling at him was Bella.
It is never explained in the film, but my assumption was that the vampiric lovers escaped to the 19th century and were stripped of their immortality as a side effect of time travel. Ever since coming to the 1800s, Edward has become President of the United States and has taken up the cause of freeing the slaves. To do this, he has to team up with a gay Tommy Lee Jones and that guy who played Mr. Pendanski in “Holes” to convince a gang of racist rednecks to vote to pass the 14th Amendment.
It is was a stroke of genius to cast Daniel Day Lewis as Edward. For the first time we get to see the vampire in a truly vulnerable, almost human light. I never expected him to make a poop joke to the House of Representatives, but perhaps this shows the true scope of his character arc. Sally Field’s Bella seems capable of emoting, unlike Kristen Stewart, but I can’t help but note how much easier the old Bella was on the eyes.
Haters of Twilight will be pleased by the ending, though. No spoilers here, but Edward is shot in the head while watching a play. The ending ties off the saga quite well; I’m not the only one who has been waiting for someone to inflict grievous bodily harm on the emo vampire since the first film. The film takes many risks and most of them pay off, creating one of the most surprising cinematic experiences of the year.
Make sure to stick around after the credits. Edward is resurrected by Nick Fury in the present to tell him about the Avengers Initiative. It seems the saga isn’t over after all.