‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’ — ComicsAlliance Reviews The Latest Twilight Movie
This week, the ComicsAlliance editorial staff decided that one of us needed to go see the latest Twilight film in order to keep up on what's happening in pop culture, and thanks to my extensive previous experience with the franchise, I ended up being the one who had to do it. And I have to say, it's a thought-provoking movie, in that it raises a lot of questions in the mind of the viewer.
Namely, what kind of sin could a man commit in a single lifetime1 that would cause his employer to make him walk up to another human being and say "One for Breaking Dawn, please"?I honestly wasn't even sure I'd be able to it. Legally, I mean. I'm a 29-year-old dude with a mohawk in a Swamp Thing t-shirt, so I'm pretty sure I got on some sort of watchlist just by buying my ticket2. But for better or for worse -- usually much, much worse -- I'm the one on staff here at ComicsAlliance who knows the most about Twilight. I've read (and live-tweeted) the first novel3 and half of the second, I reviewed the comic book adaptation, and I've even read that one biography of Stephenie Meyer that Dracula wrote. So at the very least, I was going in knowing the basics of the story.
For those of you who may not be familiar with it, here's what you might call the "high points," if you were feeling charitable: There's this girl named Bella who talks about how smart she is4 despite appearing to be about as dumb as a sack of doorknobs, and she's in love with this vampire named Edward, who is himself so dumb that he's spent the last century doing nothing but going to high schools. He's also a total psycho stalker who does things like secretly watching her sleep, following her around when she's out with other people, and telling her who she can and cannot associate with. So, you know, a total catch.
There's also this kid named Jacob who is literally a werewolf with a dirtbike, yet somehow manages to be way less awesome than that sounds. There's a love triangle that plays out in stories that claim to be based on Pride and Prejudice and Romeo & Juliet in the same way that, say, the Christmas episode of Xena: Warrior Princess is based on Charles Dickens and the New Testament.
At the start of the movie, Edward and Bella are getting married. Actually, wait, that's a lie. At the start of the movie, the very first thing that we see is Taylor Lautner walking out of his house and taking his shirt off. Seriously. This is the first shot of the entire film. Say what you want about how the rest of this thing is aggressively terrible on just about every level, but it does its level best to live up to its own stereotype.
Once he has turned into a wolf and run up to Canada for a while, it's time for Edward and Bella's wedding, as organized by what appears to be an extremely sexy Vulcan named Alice5. All of this is pretty much explicitly stated to be building up to Edward and Bella finally having sex, which they have of course saved until after their wedding because, you know, you always want your necrophilia to be fully sanctioned in the eyes of the Lord.
At the wedding itself, the vampires are all pretty easy to pick out because, in an effort to give them the unearthly beauty that Meyer describes on the page, the filmmakers seem to have elected to settle for just going ahead and giving them a deathly white pallor and yellow contacts. Seriously, there is one dude -- Carlisle, I guess -- who looks like he's trying so hard to cosplay Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But again, the whole affair is just a prelude to Edward and Bella getting their matrimonial bone on.
The movie's pretty unambiguous on this point6, because it's actually the driving conflict of the first act: Bella has elected to not be turned into a vampire until after her honeymoon, which means, as Jacob points out with the stunned disbelief that seems to be his default setting, that there is a legitimate danger that Edward is going to f*** Bella to death on their wedding night because of his vampire super-powers.
And his reluctance turns out to be well-founded, too: After the second-least erotic sex scene of all time7, he ends up snapping the headboard in half during his vinegar strokes and then moping about it for several days afterwards. In a scene that should've properly been scored by the classic Crystals tune "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss"), he looks over Bella's bruises, broods for a little while, and then insists that he and Bella spend the rest of their honeymoon playing chess. Seriously, this is the first movie I think I've ever seen that comes out against post-marital sex.
Unfortunately for all concerned -- particularly me -- Edward's steadfast glumness about Bella's awkward attempts at lingerie-based seduction prove futile: He's already put a baby all up inside her, a vampiric super-fetus that is growing incredibly fast and will destroy her from the inside out.
At this point, the movie turns into a ridiculously hamfisted metaphor about abortion. Well, I say "metaphor," but that word implies a level of subtlety and comparison that isn't really present in a movie where Edward keeps stomping around shouting nonsense like "that's not my choice!" Edward wants her to get a vambortion because the baby's turning Bella into a withered skeleton person. Bella wants to keep it even though it's growing super-fast and cracking her ribs because she is Good and Moral. And the local werewolves want to kill everybody for reasons that are never really explained, but may have come up in one of the three movies that I didn't see.
Look: You can do a story about vampires that's a metaphor for a different issue. I hate to compare Twilight to Buffy the Vampire Slayer because it's a comparison that's been done to undeath, but Buffy was based entirely on the premise of using the supernatural to represent problems teenagers faced as they grew up. They weren't all winners8 and they certainly weren't all subtle9, but more often than not, they told a story that worked on multiple levels and at least took a pretty good shot at being entertaining. Meanwhile, in Twilight, the metaphor for abortion is literally people standing around asking if Bella should get an abortion. Except it's a vampire.
It also doesn't really help matters that everyone in the movie is about as bright as a flashlight with a set of dead batteries. It takes them an hour -- an hour, which in the movie translates to weeks -- to figure out that Bella's vampire baby wants blood. Bella's vampire baby. They seriously cannot figure this out. And it's not like these are guys who don't know anything about vampires; they are themselves vampires and one of them is a doctor10. The only way it works is if they are they dumbest people to have ever walked the Earth. Although now that I think of it, you could really say that for most of the movie.
There's also this whole thing where Jacob runs off and there's a scene where a bunch of CGI wolves talk to each other by growling while actors do voice-overs11. They decide that they're going to kill Bella and her baby and Edward and whoever else, so Jacob leaves the pack and runs off to warn them. Except that the wolves don't ever really show up. Like, they talk about going to fight them that night, and then days go by without anything happening with that subplot at all until Bella finally has her baby. Maybe it's one of the rules of the werewolves that they can only launch an attack when it's dramatically appropriate.
And that brings us to what is certainly the most memorable part of the movie: Bella giving birth to little Renesmee, which plays out as a slapstick grotesquerie of Sam Ramian proportions with each piece more hilarious than the last. Let's walk through it, shall we?
Bella drops her styrofoam soda cup full of blood, and when she bends down to pick it up, the baby kicks and snaps her spine, and this makes her go into labor. The other vampires have to perform a c-section on Bella, which comes in the form of Rosalie the Vampire just cold jabbing her in the stomach with a scalpel. Then Rosalie flips out at the sight of blood -- who could have ever foreseen there being blood at the site of an incision?! -- and has to be tackled and carried out of the room lest she start devouring Bella like a stuffed mushroom.
But! Rosalie was holding the scalpel when she was tackled, so now they have nothing with which to cut Bella open and remove her vambaby! And that is why Edward leans down and starts gnawing her stomach open12 and then pulls out the baby13. Then, shocking everyone, the woman who just had her stomach gnawed open dies, and Edward tries to turn her into a vampire. But instead of, you know, biting her, he pulls out this ridiculously huge syringe that he claims is full of his "venom," and stabs her in the heart with it, just like in Pulp Fiction. Sadly, it doesn't help14, so he eventually just starts biting her all over in a scene so melodramatic that I was convinced he and Jacob were going to turn to the camera and implore the audience to start clapping if they believed enough to bring her back.
Then the werewolves show up, Jacob goes inside and looks at Renesmee, and then -- I sh*t you not -- it goes into this weird sequence where he looks into the future and sees that she's going to grow up to be totally hot, so he immediately falls in love with a newborn baby. This actually happens. They refer to it as "imprinting" throughout the film, but whenever you see anyone else with their imprint buddies, it's all couples that are snuggling up and making out. And he gets a voice-over during the flash-forward about how he'd do anything for it because he's totally in love. With a baby15.
Then he goes outside and Edward explains that the werewolves can no longer eat the baby because Jacob imprinted on it and "that is their highest law," and that is how this dumb conflict that drives this entire stupid movie ends: A grown man falls in love with a baby and a bunch werewolves go away, presumably because they're as creeped out as I am.
Oh, and then we get some shots of what's going on inside Bella's body as Edward's "venom," which appears to be a thick white liquid that gets all up in her crevices, fixes up her spine and gives her glittery eyeshadow. Smash cut to credits.
Then smash-cut back from the credits to what appears to be the back room of a Medieval Times venue where a bunch of guys who look like a vampire prog rock band16 are talking about how they're going to go get the Cullens:
These dudes are hilarious. Seriously, they talk exactly like they look. It's like Lucien and Fagin, the two fops from Saturday Night Live.
This entire half hour of film here is inexplicable. It's like someone asked an actual crazy person to describe the plot of a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign and then gave someone millions of dollars to make a movie out of it. But the thing is, it's really only part of the problem.
The rest of the problem comes from the fact that the movie is just thoroughly inept in every way. The script alternates between lifeless fauxmance and the rantings of a madman. It's shot in a way that makes exciting things seem really boring17 and things that are supposed to be horrifyingly grotesque seem slapstick. And the music... Folks, if you like awful power ballads about lions and lambs and other assorted nonsense, you'll be happy to know that the soundtrack to Breaking Dawn Part One is on compact disc from Atlantic records.
The acting's all over the map, too. A lot of of the ancillary characters seem like they just walked over from community theater, and the main characters are hard to pin down. Kristen Stewart seems perpetually sleepy and slightly nauseous even before she's got a vampire baby inside her, but I have no idea if she's a bad actress or a great one because that's exactly how Bella comes off in the books. Ditto for Robert Pattinson's mopey, deadened brooding. Taylor Lautner, on the other hand... Look, he seems like a nice enough guy and he's actually pretty decent when the script requires him to be casual and funny, but any time he tries to express strong emotion, his acting just completely falls apart. His attempt at cold fury comes off as a dead on impression of what it would be like if Ira Glass got really mad.
It is, by any conceivable metric, a terrible movie. But in the interest of fairness, I'd like to point out that it's not all bad. In addition to the progpires, the people giving toasts at the wedding early on are actually really funny, especially Charlie. It's really pulled off with some charm and humor, which is nice considering that he was literally the only likeable character in the novels.
Also... well, that's pretty much it. Two really solid minutes of comedy in an absolute mess of a film that ends with a man falling in love with a baby. And which is currently the #1 movie in the entire world.
This is why we can't have nice things.
1: The Amazing Colossal Man, 1957
2: CA Editor-In-Chief Laura Hudson actually suggested at one point that I take some pictures of the other people in the audience until I reminded her that being the only dude flying solo at a Twilight screening and taking pictures of teenage girls with a cell phone would probably result in my immediate arrest. She told me that she forgot guys can't really get away with that sort of thing in the way that girls can. Who's unaware of sexism now, "Miz" Hudson?
3: No joke: It showed up completely unbidden on my desk at my old job one morning. I took it as a dare from one of my coworkers and figured it couldn't be any worse than Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose or the Anita Blake comics. This would be the first of many Twilight-related mistakes that I have made in my life.
4: In the first book, she claims to have read every book in her local library. Back in the '30s, that sort of thing made you a super-hero; in 2005, it apparently just makes you insufferable.
5: At least, I think she's Alice. She's never actually addressed by name until about 90 minutes into the movie, so my notes just call her Hot Vulcan. That's not really the movie's fault, though -- I'm not going to call it out for failing to establish who all of these dumb characters are four movies into the franchise.
6: It leaves a little more up to the imagination when Edward talks about his bachelor party and says there might be "a couple of bears" there.
7: The Matrix Reloaded, 2003
9: "Dark Willow."
10: One easy way to improve Twilight immeasurably is to replace every instance of the word "Carlisle" with "Doctor Vampire."
12: My notes for this scene just have "Are You F***ing Kidding Me?" written in big letters.
13. At this point in the film, Rosalie walks back in and says "hey, I'm all right now," and Edward gives the baby, which is covered in blood, to the person who just flipped out with the vampire thirst at the sight of blood. Hilariously, the next time you see her, she's holding that baby and it is clean as a whistle.
14: Also not helpful: Edward's attempt at CPR. He's not very good at it, but to be fair, he's 107 years old, so telling him to do it to the beat from "Stayin' Alive" is a reference that's probably after his time.
15: My notes about this part say "You have GOT to be f***ing kidding me."
16: War Rocket Ajax's Matt Wilson and I were debating what would be the best name for a vampire prog band after I sent him a picture of these dudes. I say "Blood Rush," he says "Blah (That's Vampire For 'Yes')."
17: If I could go back in time and tell my 13-year-old self that there would be a fight scene in a movie where a vampire who looked like a sexy Vulcan was getting a front facelock on a werewolf, but it would be the most boring thing ever put to film, I think I would've been too depressed to make it out of middle school.