To be fair, even a sympathetic eye can see some validity in the complaint. The first movie in the franchise calls for the actors to stare silently at one another again and again, leaving plenty of empty space to be filled (and if you’re a member of the Rifftrax team, you fill that space by asking “line?”).
However, that assumption doesn’t hold up in relation to their performances in Breaking Dawn, especially in what might be seen as the supreme moment of the series. Author Stephenie Meyer’s conservative sexual imagination gave birth to the franchise, refracting a fear and fascination with sexuality into the non-threatening monster that is the vampire Edward. So when Bella gets married early in Part One, the consummation that follows carries tremendous weight. Director Condon, an aficionado of romantic monsters, shoots Bella walking alone into her bedroom with her bed in the center of the frame, looming like a gleaming white version of the 2001 monolith.
For both the characters and the devoted audience, the pressure builds to an absurd degree. So the duo plays the scene by leaning into the absurdity, letting their characters feel every pound of the enormous pressure on them. Stewart’s Bella fondles the sheets around her bed with religious awe. Pattinson’s Edward allows an awkward laugh at his new wife, but it does not undermine the ravenous look he gives her.
Pattinson and Stewart make choices as actors to make sense of the odd material they’re handed; choices that play to the emotional truth of the scenes in all of its oddity and absurdity.
The Amazing Aro (aka Michael Sheen)
No performer in the entire franchise embodies this tendency between sincerity and strangeness better than Michael Sheen, who entered the franchise as Aro of the Volturi in The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The series frames Aro as an existential threat to Edward and Bella, especially upon learning in Breaking Dawn about their child Renesmee, who will be a vampire from birth. The marital bliss of Part One gives way to the couple defending their child against the coming of Aro in Part Two, building to a massive vampire civil war that also has wolfmen.
And yet, Sheen plays Aro not with menace but with delight—a real joy at being a classic vampire who gets to skulk around an ancient Italian castle. When vampire Irina (Maggie Grace) tells the Volturi about Renesmee, Aro almost squeals in ecstasy at what he sees. During the climactic standoff between the Cullens and the Volturi, Aro leads his velvet-clad army across a snowy-white field, with the baritones and kettle drums of Carter Burwell’s score thundering to signal the battle’s importance. But even as he plays into the archness of the conflict, Sheen never lets the smile completely slip from his lips.