“I know how this ends. I don’t have to stick around to watch it.” – Jacob, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again. Time for another Twilight movie and another bitter, bitter review from me. (See my previous installments here, here and here!) This year’s installment is Breaking Dawn. This, fourth book in the Twilight series was broken into two movies and honestly, it really needed it. I mean, part 1 was at least 7 hours long and.. wait.. what? It was under 2 hours?
Ok, here we go.
[SPOILER ALERT: I plan on reviewing this in detail and will give away all the major story lines. Yes. All one of them. If you're saving yourself for this movie...well, I'll be honest, you probably don't want to read this review anyway...]
You know, I’ve talked in a lot of detail before about my concerns about this series’ messages to young women. The main character, Bella, is almost without personality and time and again, Bella lets other people, particularly the two male leads, make all her decisions for her. She subsumes her own wants and desires for her stalker boyfriend and what he wants. Until she gets into trouble and he needs to save her.
I’ve recently been re-watching the old Muppet movies in preparation for the new movie coming out next week and it occurred to me that Ms. Piggy is a significantly better role model than Bella. Check out this scene from The Great Muppet Caper where Piggy takes on 3 cat burglars on her own.
Also, in the original Muppet movie, Piggy escapes the ropes she’s tied up in, saves Kermit from kidnappers who want to scramble his brain, then gets a call from her agent with a part in a commercial and blows Kermit off for her career. (No, I’m not making that up.)
And I’m pretty sure Piggy’s “I’m Gonna Always Love You” song in the Muppets Take Manhattan is nothing less than an anthem for feminism.
But I digress. Breaking Dawn maintains a lot of the same issues in terms of Bella’s personality but I think we’ve talked a whole lot about that already. In fact, I recently read an article that makes the argument that a weak character like Bella is more representative of the issues a typical adolescent girl faces and provides a framework for a conversation about feminism and strong women. I’m not sure I fully buy into it but I understand the point.
No, when I walked away from Breaking Dawn, Part 1, my biggest complaint was the last 2 words of the title: Part One.
This movie did *not* need to be made in two parts. I know that in terms of size, the Breaking Dawn novel is about the same as the last Harry Potter book. That doesn’t mean it has enough story to serve 2 movies. Full disclosure: Part of my ire is definitely related to the fact that I will have to do YET ANOTHER GODDAMN TWILIGHT REVIEW next year. But Breaking Dawn simply doesn’t have enough content. This movie could EASILY have been cut down to include the entire book in a single movie.
SEVEN things happen in this movie. Seven. That’s it. Don’t believe me? Fine. Let’s do this:
What happens in Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1
1. Edward & Bella get married
The movie starts out strong. Very strong. And by strong, I mean it starts with Jacob finding out about the wedding, taking his shirt off and running off into the rain. COME ON NOW. Awesome! Taylor Lautner’s abs really pull off a compelling performance in this scene. I think they should be nominated for an Oscar. Ok, that would be silly. Golden Globe. Eight Golden Globes. And a People’s Choice award for each of his pecs.
Ahem. But we quickly leave the world of the werewolves (probably for the best – wet dog – hoo!) and move quickly into Bella’s wedding preparations. Note: This is the only quick transition that happens in the movie. Also, when I say Bella’s wedding preparations, I really mean Edward’s family telling Bella what she wants for the wedding.
Bella spends most of the beginning of the movie looking distinctly uncomfortable. I think Kristen Stewart is trying to express Bella’s nervousness about losing her childhood and moving so quickly into a huge commitment at a young age, but she really seems to mostly look… gassy. The first 20 minutes or so of the movie are when I came up with the title for this post. What? You think I just wanted to make a fart joke?
Edward tries to feel Bella out about her fears and tells her a nerve-calming story about how at some point in his past, he fed on and killed humans. But it was all bad humans – men who were rapists and murders. So that’s OK. Thanks Dexter. Why don’t you go to your bachelor party now?
Bella’s nervousness translates into a bad dream where she and Edward are getting married and end up somehow killing everyone they know and love. Not your typical cold feet but like many of the scenes in the movie, the dream really has nothing to do with what else happens or what Bella is really nervous about. What her flatulence really signifies is her concern that after the wedding will be the first time that:
2. Edward & Bella have sex
Eddie surprises Bella with a trip to Brazil for their honeymoon. Turns out the Cullens own an island with a gorgeous house on the beach. Bella is obviously nervous when they get there and Edward suggests some hot vamp-on-human skinny dipping. You see, they’ve decided NOT to turn Bella into a vampire for the honeymoon but still do the nasty, a fact that Jacob freaked out about at the wedding. He was worried that Edward’s sparkly vampire cock would murder a human female. Bella obviously has similar concerns. Her new husband is (literally) a cold blooded killer who could exsanguinate her at worst, beat the ever living crap out of her at best. But, she puts these fears aside by combing her hair, shaving her legs and telling herself not to be a coward.
As it turns out, Bella’s fears were pretty well-founded. Sex with Edward is extraordinarily rough. Bella wakes up to a destroyed bed, Edward having torn apart the headboard and most of the pillows in their passion. Upon realizing that he’s actually hurt Bella (she has bruises on her back and arms – but none she can’t cover up! Yay!), Edward refuses to have sex with her anymore. Bella insists that she enjoyed the sex and wants to continue but Edward cannot bring himself to hurt her. Cue what I think is supposed to be a funny montage of the following days where Bella tries to seduce Edward with skimpy outfits and chess games until it finally works. He gives in and presumably spends the next few weeks honeymooning the HELL out of the girl.
One day, a couple of weeks later, Bella is eating some chicken and finds herself running to the bathroom to throw up. She isn’t sure what’s wrong until she realizes she’s missed a period because, yep, you guessed it:
3. Bella is pregnant with some sort of half-vampire, half human demon baby
Now. You would think this would mean the movie would start to get interesting, right? I mean surely this is the crux of the plot! How did she get pregnant? Are there any other cases of this happening? Will she be able to carry the baby to full term? Get the Scooby gang on it! Giles must have something in his library to help them figure out what is going on! Oh wait, sorry, no. This isn’t that sort of vampire show.
Instead, they go back to Edward’s house and his family is all ‘Herp Derp Derp. We’ve no idea what will happen now. It’s probably a demon that will kill you dead. What’s a book? I have Google image search!” (I’m paraphrasing. A little.)
As it turns out, they’re at least partly right. Lil’ Cullen grows at a ridiculous pace and starts starving Bella of nutrients. She insists she can carry it to term, in spite of everything Dr. Cullen (Edward’s conveniently medical doctor dad) is telling her. A whole lot of this storyline made me think about Larry Niven’s short story “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” but maybe that was because I was so effin bored.
Ok, people, now hold on. Because we’re about to change gears a little. Yes. Something happens to characters OTHER than Bella and Edward. Can you handle it? The next plot point is:
4. Jacob’s pack finds out about the baby and decide it is a threat that must be killed.
Remember Jacob? Yeah, so he shows up and finds out about the pregnancy. He tells his pack and the pack leader, Sam, who you may remember from the last movie – he’s the one who scarred his girlfriend with LOVE. And werewolf claws. But mostly LOVE, I’m sure. Yeah, so Sam immediately decides that the baby (and therefore Bella) is a threat to humans and werewolves alike and must be killed.
Jacob breaks from the clan to protect Bella and make an uneasy alliance with the Cullens. Two of the pack members come with him.
Jacob then spends a lot of time doing things like staring worriedly at Bella, ‘checking the perimeter’, walking up and down the stairs of the Cullen home and looking broody.
Which would be fine but he keeps his shirt on so whatever…
Bella continues to get weaker and weaker and more and more cadaverous as the baby grows. She is forced to drink human blood to get her and the baby some amount of nutrition. The baby breaks her ribs and eventually her spine and she starts to deliver.
Unfortunately, due to an inconvenient plot device (really? They waited until they only had one more bag of blood to go get more?), Dr. Daddy – Vampire Obstetrician isn’t around to help. So Edward and his siblings are forced to do it instead. Since this is a c-section and obviously involves lots of blood, most of the vampires are pretty useless. Edward has to eat into Bella to do the c-section and get to the baby. Finally:
5. Bella has the baby and it kills her.
Edward pulls the baby girl out, confirms she is OK. Bella holds TwinkleSpawn for a minute and then dies just as she lived: expressionless. Edward immediately injects her with a syringe of his own venom and bites the shit out of her in the hopes that he can turn her in time. But it appears that she’s dead and he’s too late.
Jacob rages and sulks and then decides it’s up to him to do what the pack wants and kill the demon baby that killed Bella. He walks up to the child, their eyes meet and… wait for it….
6. Jacob imprints on the baby, thereby saving her and the Cullens.
So, apparently, werewolves have the ability to imprint on others. It’s sort of like doggie soul mates, I guess. Once you imprint, you’re destined to be together forever. “It’s like gravity,” Jacob says at one point, which I guess means it sucks.
Also, conveniently, once a werewolf has imprinted on someone, that person has an automatic “Get out of the Doghouse Free” card with the rest of the pack. The wolves can’t kill Bella’s baby. They have to leave her alone. It’s their highest werewolf law and they can’t ignore it.
So the pack slinks off, leaving the grown ass man to be in love with a newborn. Yep, I see nothing to worry about there! Is it me or do we maybe need some sort of referendum or something about this law?
ANYWHO… so that leaves the last plot point in the movie:
7. Bella heals and turns into a vampire
Since the movie ends with her waking up as a vamp, this really doesn’t count that much as a plot point. However, they spend a good 10 minutes on House-like medical shots of what’s happening inside Bella, how her bones are knitting back together and Eddie’s venom is curing her.
Finally, Bella’s eyes open and she’s all vampy!
And that’s it. Seven things. No sub plots. No intrigue. No side characters. Oh, don’t get me wrong, several side characters are introduced. Nothing happens with any of them in this movie. Seven things. Prove. Me. Wrong. The movie runs for 1 hr 48 mins. I paid $10.75 for my movie ticket, not including the food and booze I needed to get through it. That’s an average of a buck fifty and FIFTEEN MINUTES per plot point!
This movie is nothing more than a blatant attempt to capitalize on the prior success of the Twilight series. The movie makers know that the Twilight fans will watch every movie and this was purely a mechanism to double their profits. And, sadly, it will work. For me, the insult of the latest movie isn’t so much the content being warped (although it is), it’s that the makers are obviously throwing a big middle finger up to the people who are most loyal to them by telling them they have to pay twice for this story and wait another year to see the conclusion of the series. It’s a shame, really.
Personally, I comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ve only got to do this one more time. Breaking Dawn part 2 is already in post-production and scheduled for release a year from now. In the meantime, MUPPETS!!!