Babies on bonfires! Decapitations! Bunk from The Wire! Yes, somehow, we're talking about the Twilight finale.
It's still hard to fathom how the awkward wet dreams of a Mormon housewife have provided the most hysterical pop-culture phenomenon in 21st-century cinema so far. But in this last bite of Stephenie Meyer's quadrilogy of novels, the Twilight saga finally grows some fangs.
Right from the stylish opening credits – monochrome flashing to blood red, frost engulfing foliage – Breaking Dawn Part 2 finds a new pace and purpose that's been missing for the last eight hours of the fairytale franchise.
Having dropped a half-mortal sproglet by going full-vampire herself, Bella (Kristen Stewart) finds herself super-sprinting through the forest, brunching on mountain lions, moving into a dreamhome full of shoes and handbags and having softcore montage-sex with her husband (Robert Pattinson) in front of a log fire.
Sure, her ex-boyfriend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) has, ahem, "imprinted" her daughter Renesmee – awkward! – but a weight has been lifted: released from the agonisingly tedious emo-angst of the Edward/Jacob love tangle, both Bella and Twilight gain a gratifying new energy and direction.
First glimpsed as a freaky CG infant whose face looks like it was created in Microsoft Paint, Renesmee grows supernaturally into a child (Mackenzie Foy) who breaks vampire law (or something) and the Volturi's aristocrat army march forth to throw Bella's baby on a bonfire. This time, it's war – and Stewart's bloody mama morphs from the worst female role model in cinema history into a feral heroine whose first battle sees her trying not to eat her own dad (Billy Burke).
Don't get us wrong. It's still ludicrous. Really, really ludicrous. Watching the Cullen assemble an Avengers-style posse of multicultural vampires is an eye-roller: Gap models in nice rollnecks, foppish Russians, possibly the lead singer of Nickelback and – ah, beggorah! – even dee Oirish.
Every time the banality of Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay starts dragging you down, though, there's usually something to hang on to. Ab-fab Lautner pulls one last striptease – amusingly, for Bella's dad. Glinting through a deranged razorblade smile, Michael Sheen is exquisitely evil as Volturi overlord King Aro. And is that a cameo by Bunk from The Wire?
Then, after so many mopey swoons and toothless snarls, Breaking Dawn lets rip – literally. In a genuinely epic battle royale that catches you cold, vampires and werewolves tear into each other on a frozen lake. Suddenly, Breaking Dawn thinks it's Alexander Nevsky and its lead characters start violently popping each others' heads off like packets of Pringles.
Oddly bloodless but startling, exciting and brutal, it also comes spring-loaded with a cute twist that allows Twilight to have its cake and eat it. Twi-hards might even squeeze out a tear during the music-video montage that finishes the franchise. For the rest of us, happily, it's time to wake up.
Breaking Yawn. This is the last one, right? Please say yes.
Surprise: Twilight has discovered a fresh sense of danger and energy. We lost count of the decapitations.
(Faint) praise be: this is the best Twilight yet. Wait, this is the last one, right? Please say yes.