Film Review: The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2

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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.

Directed by: Bill Condon

Country: US

Year: 2012

Running Time: 115 mins

Certificate: 12A for a creepy baby CGI face, a burnt minor, absent friends and full blown Michael Sheen.

11 Responses

  1. Lizzy says:

    It shames me that I know this, but you’re quite wrong on a major point of this article.

    Male vampires still have sperm (or at least a vamp equivalent that works like sperm) but female vampires do not have ova (or any vampire equivalent) – therefore, a male and female vampire pair can never conceive. A human male and a female vampire can also never conceive. But a male vampire and a female human can conceive. Sexual relations between vampires and humans are exceedingly rare, and it’s even more rare that the human involved survives them. Ergo human-vampire hybrid babies are almost unheard-of.

    The only pure vampire children that exist are those poor humans who were turned when they were very young – think Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire. These are the vampire children that are forbidden, because they lack the impulse-control that adults possess and thus pose a serious risk of exposing the existence of vampires to the human world.

    So, Stephenie Meyer is not pro-abortion; if anything, she’s unabashedly pro-life, as she portrays Bella as absolutely unwilling to terminate her pregnancy despite the fact that it is killing her.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      Lizzy, I’ve spoken to one of the country’s leading vampire cell biologists and he informs me that it makes no sense for a male vampire to have a fully functioning reproductive system based on the human mode, when you traditionally make more vamps by injecting your transformative serum into a creature with an identical physiognomy (and preferably comparable intelligence and language skills). Surely it make more sense for neither male or female vampires to do it the old fashioned way, once they’d been turned? It’s downright odd if you ask me: like finding out that I can’t fertilise a woman but I can impregnate a horse. So why wouldn’t the fems retain their ability to ovulate? The thing about Vampires being mythical is that you can make up any set of rules you like, so you can say female vampires could give birth the traditional way and their babies would age in spurts, like Renesmee, then stop at maturity, and who could say otherwise?

      But assuming that’s not the case, though I will be writing to Stephanie Meyer for clarification, the act of turning a child into a vampire would be their version of conception, wouldn’t it? In that event, ripping off their heads and throwing them onto a bonfire shortly thereafter would be the vampire answer to abortion. That’s policy in the Twilight universe, so I’d say Meyer’s a bit of a hypocrite: it’s one rule for us humans, another for the nosferatu.

      Bella fought her for pregnancy, sure, but that was when she was human. We just don’t know what she’d have felt had she been a vampire. If you ask me, they’re a highly cavalier species. Look at the way that poor Englishman was killed. He probably had a wife and kids. Kids he cajoled his spouse into having, despite her wish to have them aborted.

  2. Gracious says:

    Sorry, but Lizzy is right. In the Twilight universe, this situation was very very rare. I don’t think you did your research on this movie before you reviewed it.

  3. Jan says:

    First of all, I loved your thinking-man’s review. So much so that I am going to try to follow your other movie reviews (Roger Ebert move over). I believe the books (and I am also embarrassed to admit I read them)make it clear that immortal babies have human parents and were turned to vampires for their cuteness factor. But there is no way you would have known this from the movies. Your assumption is a much more logical one. I agree that it does not seen logical that male vampires would have the ability to procreate and female vampires do not. I like to think that maybe Edward loved human Bella so much that some dormant swimmers left over from his human life woke up and took their final plunge. But now I am joining Ed in working harder then Stephanie did. Also, I believe in the books it is clear that prior Renesmee’s were products of rape. One more piece of information to spare Ed from reading the books; Alice only sees what might happen based on the choices it looks like people/vampires are going to make at any given time, thus she does not really see the future but options for the future. In my theater when it was finally clear the that showdown sequence was a fantasy, a young male voice in the audience yelled, “You mean that was all b***s***?” which brought down the house with laughter and we mercifully missed a good 30 seconds of vampire dialogue.

    Agreeing with Ed, the moral choices outlined in the first four books were not dealt with fairly in the fifth movie. I cringe every time I think of what an 18-year-old girl gave up for love (or lust). I further cringe when I think of what life a 7-year-old Renesmee is facing with a werewolf. But there is one thing that has hooked me into the books and the movie; Carlisle Cullen does feel like a being that wants to live an ethical life that includes doing good, creating community, and helping others without bitterness despite the challenges he faces within and without. Back to the movie, Michael Sheen’s and Lee Pace’s acting was so good that it made it painfully obvious to me how poor everyone else’s was. I would love to have seen Lee Pace in Edward’s role. Thanks again for a great review.

  4. Joanna says:

    These movies made millions, thats a fact. And probably every single review of any of the installments is negative and rips them apart. I don’t know why these film critics even bother really?
    Stephanie Meyers twilight books are far from high-brow literature and nor do they pose to be. So do we really expect the movies based on them to be any better?
    As a 28 year old well educated woman i went to all of the movies with my 21-year old sister and 52 year old mother and we all LOVE them!
    I also read all the books, this is just my guilty pleasure, they are badly written and plots are often weak and slow to unwind, i know this and it’s commonly agreed upon amongst readers.
    What all these women like me read it for is because it’s simply a love story like all the other harlequin romance novels on the shelf, only now mixed with some supernatural elements that form the ultimate (unrealistic) test/proof/sacrifice/danger for true love, which most (all) woman dream about secretly.
    So come on critics, take it as it is, it’s not the next “Lost in translation”, it’s cheesy and immature and we all know it, so completely ripping it up in reviews is like making fun of michael jackson, it’s too easy.
    These movies are not made for critics they are made for the fans, and we are very happy with the wat they are made!
    Most important reason not to go watch them if you’re not a fan is specificly evident in this review, if you have not read the books, you will not understand things like the impossibility to conceive children as a vampire couple, the grow spurt Renesmee makes, Bella’s friends and family members not appearing and so on.
    There is so much more in the book that would make the movie an hour longer if it were included, but as it’s made for fans, we already have this info.

    So critics, it is what it is
    and it’s exactly what it should be for it’s audience.
    It’s not high-brow, it does’nt try to be, i don’t even understand why flim critics who take themselves seriously even review these movies.

  5. Dee says:

    I bet you’re one of those writers who walks around the living room (or studio or whatever) waving your arm around like a conductor while you read your review out loud just to hear yourself talk. ha ha

  6. Joanna says:

    hahaha good one Ed!

    but nah, of course not a writer, what would the world come to?!

  7. Jenna says:

    Actually, in the book Stephenie Meyers explains that while female vampires technically do have the physical requirements to conceive a child, their bodies do not change. That’s why they always have the same hair length, same looks, same age… Their bodies don’t change thus female vampires would not be able to conceive/carry a child and don’t have to use birth control.

    The reason they built a house for the newlyweds is that they can return to live there in a few hundred years. Remember, they’re vampires and they live forever.

    While the books and movies are fairly simple in their story, they’re still enjoyable for many people. You don’t have to be hormonal or in anguish over your lost youth, how very rude to say that about millions of viewers. I wonder if “critics” say those things, because the movies were mostly watched by women, and I guess it’s ok to be condescending when speaking about women, right?

    You can only write a good review, when you’re open minded and well informed. You’re neither.

    • Ed Whitfield says:

      With patriarchal arrogance I’m going to suggest that I’m a gender blind critic in the sense that I’m equally contemptuous of the fluff consumed by adolescents of both sexes. You may want to check your own in-built gender assumptions, however; you seem to think all critics are men, with or without quotation marks.

      I find the notion that if millions enjoy something I’m required to be polite about it, well, odd. Am I reviewing popular opinion or the movie? I thought I was telling you what I think. Thanks for setting me straight.

      As previously stated (see other comments), it doesn’t matter what is or isn’t in the book. This is a movie review. If it’s not in the movie, it’s unsaid. It also doesn’t explain why male vampires are fertile. Anyway, I saw the film – I’m well informed.

      I like your explanation for the newlywed house. It’s brilliant. Senseless but brilliant. Sensible vampires always invest in a newly furnished house a few hundred years before they need it. It’s guaranteed to beat rising house prices.