I couldn't count how many characters had their heads ripped, kicked, punched, chopped or eaten off in "Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2," but the sheer volume of gleefully horrific decapitations in the movie must be meant to signal something: Everyone involved with this film – from the dutiful filmmakers to the rabid fans to Stephenie Meyer, the author of the immensely successful young-adult books on which the movie is based – clearly has lost their minds.
The fifth film in the series, adapted from the second half of Ms. Meyer's fourth and final book, is spectacularly, stupefyingly bizarre, like some gooey, saccharine hybrid of David Cronenberg's eruptive bodily horror and Nicholas Sparks' glazed-over festivals of adolescent infatuation.
As the final entry in the series gets going, the story's central love triangle has taken a turn for the weird. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), the series' pouty hero, has chosen between her two supernatural suitors, and the rich, boring, immortal guy won.
Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), her chic and ultrapowerful vampire lover, has beaten Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a rugged young werewolf. Bella and Edward have finally married, and after an awkwardly violent, bed-destroying honeymoon romp, have had a child together – the half-human, half-vampire superchild Renesmee.
Complicating things further is that Jacob has "imprinted" on Renesmee. Which means, well – it's not entirely clear. Jacob cryptically explains that "it's a wolf thing." Whatever kind of thing it is, it's apparently not normal for it to happen between an adult male wolf and a newborn baby.
It's hard to describe how creepy this is – not in a haunted house sense, so much as a "Come here, little girl," leered the old man in the trench coat kind of way. The series has long tiptoed along the border of creepiness with its central romance between Edward, who, despite his youthful appearance, is more than a hundred years old, and Bella, a high-school girl. But Jacob's wolf-thing relationship with Renesmee charges up to the creepy line and then gleefully leaps past it.
Thankfully, the movie chooses not to focus too much on the imprinting. Instead, it splits its time between a growing external threat – the Volturi, a clan of vampires easily identifiable as bad guys because they all wear black hoods – and Edward and Bella's newfound life together as a married couple.
The inter-vampire conflict with the Volturi, an arcane affair over social rules and slights, resembles nothing so much as a dispute between two rival high school cliques. But the core of the series remains the relationship between Bella, now a vampire, and Edward, her dour dud of a husband.
Not that she thinks so. More than anything, "Breaking Dawn – Part 2" is a picture of upper-middle-class domesticity, with an emphasis on elegant home furnishings that appear to have come straight out of Bram Stoker's Crate and Barrel. Edward and Bella have a comfortable vampire life, reading vampire bedtime stories to their cute vampire hybrid child and relaxing in their wooded vampire home. It's the best life that two red-eyed, blood-drinking immortals with inexplicable telepathic gifts could ask for.
It's not much of a movie, though. There's a cheap soapiness to the production: The final showdown with the Volturi against an animated snowy mountain backdrop looks like a scowl-off between rival factions of fantasy convention-goers dressed in homemade costumes. Sure, the bloodless decapitations keep things gruesomely interesting, but the rest of the movie is alternately banal and inscrutable.
TITLE: "Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2"
RATING: PG-13 for passionate married-vampire sex, sexual innuendo, too many decapitations to count
CREDITS: Directed by Bill Condon from a screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes