From the Archives: Breaking Dawn Part II Reviewed

Breaking Dawn

Author’s note: From 2011 to 2012, I collaborated with my peers on a project called Cultural Transmogrifier, an online magazine dedicated to pop culture. With the project now defunct, I’ve dredged up my old essays from the site to share with you here.

I have a love-hate relationship with The Twilight Saga. I truly think it’s abominable.1 Aside from having horrible dialog and egregiously melodramatic story lines, sometimes it’s just offensive if you’re remotely liberal, because Meyer’s conservative, Mormon ideology is potent.

So why do I feel compelled to watch every Twilight movie? Goddamn if I know. I’ve tried to articulate my reasons before, which include but are not limited to: series in general are alluring; being a vampire or werewolf in the Twilight world sounds like an awesome deal—you get all the pros (in addition to the special powers supernatural beings of the Twilight world possess: telepathy, divination, the ability to inflict pain with your mind or shoot electricity from your palms, weather manipulation . . . hold the phone, are we talking about Twilight or X-Men?) without the traditional pitfalls; heaping amounts of sexual tension; and engrossing battle scenes. But more than anything, I’m pretty sure the main reason Twilight allures me is because it appeals to my inner 12-year-old who pines for an obsessive love affair,2 which I’m sure is true for many other Twilight fans as well.

So what of the latest installment in the series? Well, Breaking Dawn: Part II is by far the worst film in the saga. Primary points of contention:

  1. Much of the sexual tension is gone now that Edward and Bella are free to bang unencumbered by chastity vows or severe mismatches in physical strength. Also gone is the desperation of Edward and Bella’s love affair. In each previous film, usually something or someone stood in the way of their relationship—the Volturi, Bella’s father Charlie, Jacob, even Edward himself. This resistance inundated their relationship with yearning and passion, and thus, made it much more enticing for viewers. But in Breaking Dawn: Part II, no one stands in the way and their love becomes a matter of fact rather than something they constantly have to fight for. Although the dissipated desperation makes for a healthier relationship, it is much less intriguing cinematically.
  1. Bella faces the challenges of being a “newborn” with little to no difficulty. Throughout the saga, Edward emphasizes how awful it is being a newborn vampire. You’re voracious and uncontrollable, and being around humans is excruciatingly painful if you cannot rip them to shreds. But Bella didn’t seem to face these common problems. The first time she goes hunting, she smells a mountain climber from a mile off; the scent of his blood possesses her and she chases after him. Yet when she reaches the man—in such close proximity the scent of his blood must be overpowering—Edward easily dissuades her from devouring him. Shouldn’t a physical fight between Edward and Bella have ensued as he attempted to restrain her? It would have been significantly more interesting, in any case.Additionally, Bella apparently had no trouble holding baby Renesmee despite the blood flowing through the infant’s veins, and no trouble being in the same room with or even hugging her dad. The latter is particularly frustrating considering that Edward reprimanded Jacob for inviting Charlie over because his presence would be torturous for Bella—like jamming a white hot branding iron down her throat, or something to that effect. But Bella receives her father easily.

    Maybe Bella is simply supposed to be “exceptional,” and thus can overcome the challenges newborns face more easily than others, but I don’t want her to be exceptional. That’s boring, and too damn convenient—if Stephanie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg didn’t want to depict their heroine as a bloodthirsty, soulless monster, they shouldn’t have delineated the pitfalls of being a newborn in the first place. And why write about bloodthirsty, soulless monsters that are hardly bloodthirsty, soulless, or monstrous? Furthermore, Bella would have been better rounded, more sympathetic, and much more compelling had the writers allowed her to struggle with the difficulties of being a vampire as she attempted to overcome them.

  1. The Vulturi’s explanation for killing Renesemee is preposterous. The Vulturi’s leader, Aro, initially wants to kill Renesmee because he believes she’s a vampire child and thus poses a threat to them all—vampire children are uncontrollable and prone to mass murdering humans, thus making it difficult for vampires to conceal their existence. But after discovering that Renesmee is actually half mortal (like everyone’s favorite teenage witch!) and that no law was broken, he decides he still wants to kill her, for reasons unclear. He makes some strange, illogical argument about the rapid development of human technology posing a threat to vampires, and in such uncertain times, vampires can only depend on the known, and this half mortal child represents the unknown and thus must die. This rationale was out of place in the film, considering that technology as a threat to vampires has never come up in the saga before. And I cannot think of anything we’ve invented that could conceivably kill a vampire, nor am I aware of any extant vampire tracking technology. Basically, it feels like the writers were hell bent on Aro being hell bent on killing Renesmee and starting a war, but evidently they were strapped for a legitimate motivation.
  1. The revelation that the fight scene—by far the most engaging part of the movie—was merely a prediction and not a reality was incredibly disappointing. I was actually excited when Edward and Bella killed Aro, thereby avenging Carlisle’s death and obliterating the Volturi’s power. And who wasn’t happy to see Jane (Dakota Fanning) eviscerated by a werewolf? I mean, come on, her power as a vampire is the ability to inflict unbearable physical pain on others with just her mind (Cruciatis Curse, anyone?). Her character has always been depicted as evil and sadistic; she even throws a kid in a fire with relish for god’s sake.The fact that the entire battle was merely Alice’s vision means nothing actually happens. Everyone stands around for an hour and a half of the film’s running time, worriedly discussing what the Vulturi may or may not do. When they finally meet up with the Volturi, everyone exchanges a few words, a few people touch hands, and then they all go home peacefully. How anticlimactic. Side note, evidently, the book Breaking Dawn was anticlimactic and not cinema friendly, so screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg consulted author Stephanie Meyer and they agreed to write the fake battle scene for the film.

Overall, the movie was pretty banal and disappointing—this from someone who doesn’t expect much from Twilight to begin with. Breaking Dawn Part II could have easily been condensed down to 20 minutes and tacked onto the end of Breaking Dawn Part I. The film was too obviously produced to milk the franchise for all its worth, much like when television producers renew a series egregiously past its expiration date to make more money; doing so just doesn’t make for quality entertainment. When a film or show goes sour, it has hardly anything new or interesting to offer its audience and ends up relying on old tropes. That’s why we had to yet again watch Bella and Edward lie in a field of flowers and stare adoringly into one another’s eyes; watch another montage of their romance played to the same score we’ve been listening to for the last five years; and listen to more hackneyed, exaggerated, nauseatingly gushy, myopic statements typical of high schoolers: “Now you know, no one will ever love anyone as much as I love you.” “Oh, I can think of someone.”

If you haven’t done so, you should watch Robert Pattinson’s take on The Twilight Saga here.

Notes

1. This review was written approximately a year after my first article analyzing the phenomenon of the Twilight series, which in part explains why the tone is much snarkier than that original piecefor those of you who may have read both pieces and wondered about the discrepancy.

2. As I indicated in the footnotes of my first Twilight article, I have now outgrown the desire for an obsessive love affair, three to four years after these articles were originally written. Although some of my interest in Twilight relates to the reasons outlined in paragraph 2, it now mostly stems from the enjoyment I derive from mocking melodrama and horribly written scripts.

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2 comments

  1. Have only seen the first film (and had no particularly strong reactions to it), so obviously the particulars of this are lost on me. However, it’s great to see an intelligent deconstruction given to populist media. I often ‘slum it’ with (objectively) sub-par books and films because they can be great, low-investment escapism. You recognise that these films are mostly dreck, but concede an attraction to them just the same. It’s refreshing because I usually encounter one of either extreme: mindless fanaticism or vehement denouncements. At the end of the day, Twilight‘s existence isn’t hurting anyone. The two leads have even risen above to enjoy relatively illustrious film careers.

    Anyway, I’m mostly rambling here. Just wanted you to know this was a great read. It’s a shame this two-part finale trend took off, as the films that have come from it are almost unanimously weak. The Hobbit as a trilogy was particularly unforgivable.

    • Thanks so much! While this blog post was admittedly a bit snarky, the one before was more generous to Twilight and gives more serious and thoughtful consideration to its appeal. When I was younger, I used to give friends crap for liking films or books I deemed “low.” This came up with Harry Potter in middle school and Twilight in my early twenties. I hadn’t even read Harry Potter before making fun of my friend for “wasting his time” reading the series. After he convinced me to read the 1st book, I had to hang my head in shame because I thoroughly enjoyed it. A similar thing happened with Twilight (although I do believe Harry Potter has more literary/artistic merit than the Twilight series). All of this is just to say that over the years, I’ve tried to let go of elitist attitudes and recognize that regardless of cultural status or critical acclaim, any piece of art that brings some sense of happiness to its audience holds value. And there’s nothing wrong with pure entertainment. Don’t we deserve a little escapism every now and then?

      Also I’m on board with you about the two-part finale trend. It really does feel like a pure money-making tactic and I wish it would end.

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