Actors Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson attend the 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2' (La Saga Crepusculo: Amanecer Parte 2) photocall at the Villamagna Hotel on November 15, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
7:18PM EST November 15. 2012 -- There may never have been a movie whose quality mattered less than this final chapter of The Twilight Saga.
Like hungry vampires, rabid fans of the massively popular fantasy romance stories seem to love pretty much anything put before them labeled Twilight -- as long as there's the slightest scent of lifeblood in it.
Given that voracious appetite -- and the low cinematic bar -- the fifth and final installment, Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 (** out of four; rated PG-13; opening Friday nationwide), should keep the customers satisfied.
A Twihard must-have list is duly checked off here:
1. Must have dreamily passionate -- but not overtly sexual -- scenes of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) early on to get the crowd swooning.
2. Hunky werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) must strip off his shirt at least once and show off his well-toned pecs and abs.
3. Vampire velocity must be highlighted, as they whoosh and sprint in their trademark rapid-fire style.
4. Most important, the vampire couple at the center of things, Edward and Bella (she became a blood-sucker at the end of Part 1), must conclude the conflict with a tender make-out session in a gorgeous natural setting.
The final chapter, based on Stephenie Meyer's best-selling novels, starts slowly with risible dialogue, but picks up in the second hour during an action-packed battle pitting Cullen's family and their new allies the werewolves against the Volturi, a rival troupe of vampires who see themselves as the arbiters of all things undead. Believing that Bella and Edward's baby Renesmee is some sort of vampire/human abomination, the Volturi are primed for a massive fight.
The finale features a diverse cross-section of Cullen kin from as far away as Russia and South America. But cousins from nearby Alaska (the story takes place in Washington state) look disturbingly like they just came from an audition for Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Hair and make-up are only a couple of factors that seem schlocky. Special effects -- particularly the computer-generated wolves -- look surprisingly second-rate. Worse are the bad screenplay, lackluster performances and turgid pacing. Lautner's abs are the only taut thing about this tween-centered soap opera.
Though Bella is now a super-strong, bloodthirsty vampire, Stewart's bored delivery and sulky expression remain intact. Her quips come off as bland snark rather than humorous asides. Better performances come from supporting players like Billy Burke as Charlie Swan, Bella's dad.
As Aro, the leader of the Volturi, Michael Sheen hams it up with a vengeance, a malevolent imp's glint in his red eyes. Dakota Fanning plays one of his key acolytes. She's supposed to send shivers down the audience's spine as she stands around and glares vapidly, perhaps having caught Stewart's dour-faced disease.
Amid the action are sweet moments with cute Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), the oddly named baby born to the now married Bella and Edward. The child passes speedily from infancy (where the digital enhancement makes her look like an alien being) to girlhood. Mostly, it seems she's on hand to make fans adore Edward and Bella all the more. Now, they don't just stare into each other's eyes, they have an angelic moppet to coo over.
But the final scene is all vamp love, all the time -- in a floral greeting-card setting.
Fans of the series, which has made more than $2 billion worldwide, will no doubt find it all terribly romantic and deeply meaningful. The rest of humanity will remain unmoved.