So Long, and Fangs for All the Fish Stories
Warning: This review discusses the plot and reveals the fate of some characters. You may want to defer the pleasure until you’ve seen this title.
Stephanie Meyer’s perennial bore-a-thon has finally fallen over after much critical prodding. With this fifth film it’s finished, at least it is until some idiot gives Meyer the idea to continue the series with a mature Renesmee smitten by a disaffected human teen: a relationship that plunges her into an uncomfortable love triangle with the lecherous Jacob, the middle-aged wolfman, imprinted on her since birth, back when she had a creepy CGI face, who now sees his chance for a vicarious suck from the daughter of the woman he lost to a pallid dullard.
People like to say these movies are critic proof. In reality that means the target audience are considerably younger and more hormonal than the hacks passing judgement on the film. Perhaps, but this series isn’t time proof. Once the Twi-hards grow twatling strings, get into drugs and start to look like Bella did during her bestial pregnancy, it’s hard to imagine they’ll regard these transient hits with much affection. Some cling onto their youth of course but that usually means they’re dissatisfied with their adulthood. That’s bad news for them and bad for their real world husbands and boyfriends who’ll forever be judged unfavourably against the Pattinson/Lautner archetype. So whether or not they can get past these slow, characterless yarns, they’ve lost. There’s comfort there for the rest of us.
Still, while resisting the adjective “anaemic” to describe it, we should talk about this final flick before Meyer’s folly joins Dirty Dancing and Jason Donovan in the vault of teen embarrassment. Is there much to say? Surprisingly, yes – in fact as many as two points are worthy of our attention. No, not Edward’s fangs but the realisation that the story we thought we were being told was a tease that went nowhere and Stephanie Meyer, oft cited as a champion for celibacy is nothing of the kind; she’s a fervent abortionist.
Twilight fans who’ve enjoyed the last four movies could be forgiven for thinking that one of the story’s major threads concerned Bella’s humanity and the big question of when she’d give it up; indeed whether this was the right thing to do at all. To underline the dilemma, Ed, who one imagines had gone through this many times over the centuries with numerous human waifs, made a good show of wrestling with his conscience. He begged her to consider the implications, he feigned guilt as she wound up relations with her family and friends, and all the while we, the bored audience, reflected that it was a huge sacrifice that was being made for love under circumstances that some might regret.
Well, not so. Unwilling to make Edward appear selfish lest it alienate her readership, Meyer cheated by making Bella’s transformation a matter of life and death. She had to be bitten or she’d die: who could argue with that? But once dead, or rather undead, the consequences teased over four movies failed to materalise. Bella, despite having heightened senses, though not so sharp that she now sees her relationship with the morbid Cullen as a terrible mistake, is almost indifferent to the fact that her human life has passed away and with it any semblance of normal relations with the people we’re told she cared about. Sure, there’s a wobble when her new brood propose faking her death and informing Daddy that she died in childbirth, but her mother and school friends don’t get a second thought, in fact they’re not even in this movie. How quick the dead forget.
It’s soon clear that Bill Condon and writer Melissa Rosenberg have next to no interest in exploring the unique situation whereby a newborn vampire, though primed for the change in their human life, is turned before they’re ready. That might have been a source of conflict, a big red geyser of bloody drama, but no: instead, at a leisurely pace, the two park the existential filler from the preceding quartet and default to the climatic chapter template beloved of franchise scribes everywhere; the gathering of an army in preparation for a third act final show down. You might have thought this was a romance but don’t fool yourself: there must be spectacle, even if it’s at the expense of the story that made the series a hit in the first place.
Then there’s the tricky question of sex. Conservative groups have praised Stephanie Meyer for writing what they read as an abstinence allegory. What a positive message to send to our teens: don’t have intercourse – channel all that natural sexual energy into frustration and violence instead. The kids weren’t told how to live once they married of course but Breaking Dawn Part 2 addresses this with advice that may surprise you.
We learn that vampires are horny as sin and rut like rabbits but the hedonist lifestyle comes at a price. Immortal children, who can’t grow up of course, are unstable and uncontrollable. Tantrums cost lives. Consequently vampire kids are strictly verboten. Turn one or squeeze one out and you face its head being ripped off and burnt. So vampires just avoid having kids, right? Well, that’s easy enough: a packet of three should be an adequate safeguard…or it would be if the policy hadn’t been in effect for A THOUSAND YEARS.
Michael Sheen makes it pretty clear that human technology is the only kind available in our shared world. In four Twilight movies we’ve seen little evidence of vampire tech, so we must assume the same vamps that drive our Volvos, use our e-mail and stock their homes with our books and electrical appliances, are also reliant on our contraceptives for birth control. Breaking Dawn Part 1 established that vampires, though they be dead and have no heartbeat, can still gain erections and ejaculate undead sperm into our females.
As Vamps are fertile and their shunting looks a lot like ours (ruling out the possibility they reproduce asexually), they presumably take precautions, especially as the penalty for conception is death. Yet it’s hard to imagine what method would be foolproof over millennia. A sheath made of wolf skin perhaps? Whatever it was it had to predate our existing methods because the movie’s clear that were Renesmee an immortal baby, she’d be the first such bairn born in modern times. We’ve left with the appalling conclusion that as no 100% method of preventing conception exists, bar abstinence, and Vampires are notorious shaggers, they must be reaching for unspeakable alternatives. In other words, Meyer’s tipping us off: vampires practice abortion. In fact it’s more than a practice, it must, we conclude, be a way of life. What, I wonder, do the religious right make of that? In this final movie they’ve been betrayed.
If our heroes’ self-absorption and cavalier attitude toward life leaves a nasty taste in the mouth – something like dried blood – then that’s nothing compared to the plot’s numerous oddments, inconsistencies and cognitive lapses.
Why, we demand to know, do the Cullens bother building the newlydeads a fully furnished woodland home near to theirs, when they intend to move en mass in the immediate future? Is it a rental? Why would Alice’s flash forward to a battle include a cutaway to Jacob fleeing the scene with the child on his back, miles away from the action? We might expect to see that if it were actually happening but is this pertinent information for Michael Sheen if the intension is to dissuade him from attacking? Why do Irish vampires have ginger hair, flat caps and green jumpers? Is it because if they didn’t we might forget they were Irish? Why don’t Amazonian vampires speak? Is it because the filmmakers don’t know how they’re supposed to sound? And why does the movie use piano rock ballads as a substitute for the character’s internal monologues? Couldn’t they be given lines that might deepen their character instead? In fact, why have I wasted 1,300 words on this mimsy bait? You’re all dismissed: return to your lives and let’s forget that any of this ever happened.