My punching bag returns.
Oh, it’s fun to hate on Twilight. The atrocious acting. Those pouting, insignificant teens and their boring lives. The dialogue, as wooden as a termite’s lunch. There’s just so much material to thrash apart, and yet here even I’m bored with the thrashing.
Maybe it helps that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, with its horribly long title, is a slight improvement over previous Twilight films, though still far from anything that might be considered classic moviemaking. If you’re a Twilight fan, you might argue that the film was never made for people like me. It was made for people like you, fans who read the books.
So be it. I’ll never win that argument, and don’t really care to because film and books are independent mediums and thus don’t require each other even though one might derive from the other. If they wanted you to read the book, they wouldn’t have made the movie.
This new film has some improvements if only because the plot now has a purpose. See, human Bella and vampire Edward get married. Then they take a honeymoon and she gets pregnant, but with what? Edward's mighty vampire sperm, that's what. Humans and vampires can’t interbreed; neither can humans and devils, but that didn’t stop Rosemary from carrying the Antichrist to 36 weeks. Certainly what’s in Bella’s belly must be some kind of evil. Therein reclines the film’s plot, though don’t wait around for the conclusion of this story because that only comes after you’ve waited until November 2012 and deposited more money into the Perpetual Movie Machine.
Previous Twilight films were gaping abysses filled shallowly with brooding teens. These teens were universally dull as they stared into the forest, ocean or their bedroom walls. They seemed to rejoice in their angst, like they were all in emo scream-core bands when they weren’t crying into their Nightmare Before Christmas pillows. Women swooned at this, but my only thought was removing all the sharp objects from the houses in the film. The plots ultimately always became about Bella choosing dreamy Edward or hunky Jacob. “I love you for eternity,” Edward would say. “No, I love you for eternity … plus one,” Jacob would negotiate. I exaggerate only a little, but I’m not far off on this characterization — the subtext of every piece of dialogue was “I love Bella.”
All that is over. Bella has picked Edward. Close that book. Now comes the sex. Yes, Breaking Dawn deals with sex, which apparently is very, very taboo in author Stephanie Meyer’s vampire world. Nevermind that vampires drink blood and live forever as an animated corpse, now they are apparently abstinent and morally responsible. I’m much fonder of the hedonistic free-wheeling vampires in HBO’s True Blood — they’re fun at parties. In any case, Bella and Edward have sex and everyone feels awkward and dirty afterward, including the audience, who must endure strategic nudity, pale corpse skin and Edward’s orgasm, which demolishes the bedroom. Oh dear. Thank goodness it’s a rental.
Even after their first time, it’s all kind of weird. He worries he’ll hurt her, but she craves it. They settle this dilemma with games of chess. He wins, they go hiking; she wins, they have sex. Edward is good at chess, which means Bella spends the middle section of the movie very desperate. Remember when Max von Sydow played chess to save his eternal life? Neither does this audience.
The subtext of these scenes is profane, but it must be mentioned: throbbing vampire cocks cause pain, and devil babies. There I said it. The movie skirts around this issue so delicately it comes off humorously pathetic. Consider that they never even mention the word "sex." He just does that dead-eye thing, and she asks if he's ready, and bam! — vampire-on-human sex. But the camera cuts away before anything titillating can be seen. The whole movie rotates around this theme, but the fact that it's never explicitly stated does a disservice to its audience, who, judging by the way the film treats them, must be like 10 years old. I would have preferred the subject not be so taboo so the film could address the central theme of the story, which is this: for Edward to love Bella he will inevitably have to cause her pain, be it from sex or her transformation into a vampire.
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the movie’s Bella and Edward, are given slightly more to do in this film (besides PG-13 sex), and it helps tell a more cohesive story. Both seem to be better actors than the dialogue would suggest. Some of their lines are painful, especially when you consider they’re all variations on the sentence, “I’ll love you forever.” And they’re always framed in alternating close-ups, which the film uses so much that I started counting eyelashes (Bella has some sort of eyelash deficiency). There’s a silver lining in these roles, though: the Twilight movies have landed these actors bigger jobs — Pattinson in Water For Elephants, and Stewart in Welcome to the Rileys — that have allowed them to showcase their true talents.
Then there’s Taylor Lautner, who plays werewolf Jacob. There’s no helping that one. I’ve seen better performances at the high school level. He’s the weakest link in the series, especially here as he plays the terminal third wheel skulking and moping around the vampires’ IKEA lair tucked up in the hills and trees like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Occasionally he’s a CGI wolf, which actually helps add some humanism to the forlorn character of Jacob, who spends much of the movie on vampire fetus guard duty as he stares into space doing his “troubled teen” look like his life depended on it.
Women adore this stuff. I’m not faulting them. Men typically love action films. No harm there. But what I can’t seem to figure out is why women refuse to view Twilight as the trashy soap opera it is. No, they say, it’s high art of the most profound order. Men can willfully acknowledge that Rambo 4 was ridiculously over-the-top and horrible in all the ways a movie can be. But they loved it, so there. They don’t need validation. Can a Twilight fan, man or woman, do that? My guess is no, but remember I didn’t read the books.
The movie’s violence is also noteworthy. It’s fairly gruesome. At one point Bella has an O-negative Slurpee that coats her teeth and drips down her chin, a ringing endorsement for vampirism. When Bella goes into labor, I half expected that little infant to explode out of her belly Alien-style. Instead a bouncy vampire baby comes out drenched in gore and chunks of meat. Yikes! I'm just glad she didn't have twins — they would have murdered each other in utero.
Should you see Breaking Dawn? You should know the answer already at this point and blood smoothies and vampire babies are unlikely to sway you.