The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (review)
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): find the whole franchise laughable when it isn’t offensive
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
The world’s most insipid vampires are back in inaction! Twilight has never been more about people standing around waiting for stuff to happen to them than Breaking Dawn Part 2 is. The inert Cullen clan of the Pacific Northwest is two larger — what with former human Bella Swan now all superstrong and supersparkly, and her half-vampire/half-human daughter, Renesmee (*snort*), now arrived in the world — and twice as torpid. The new additions to the family only just barely rouse the Cullens to endless rounds of gazing adoringly at one another. Seriously, what do these people do all day, all year, all eternity? Being immortal must be excruciating if this is how one must pass the time.
And even for a franchise that has attempted to make virtues, of the actual moral sort as well as the narrative variety, out of the most inconsequential of things — has it ever taken a woman so much screen time to decide between this guy and that one? — Breaking Dawn Part 2 is weirdly, wildly anticlimactic. Bella (Kristen Stewart: On the Road, Snow White and the Huntsman) doesn’t merely glide smoothly into the vampiric lifestyle, she does vampire amazingly well, astonishing the Cullens with her self-control and her rare and neato paranormal abilities. (All new vampires get a mutant power, as if they were blood-sucking X-Men.) Can you imagine how powerful and tragic it could have been if Bella, in the first rush of blood-thirst upon by her awakening as a vampire, accidentally killed her father, Charlie (Billy Burke: TV’s Revolution, Untraceable), just about the only mortal human around for miles? But no. It’s all hugs and his casual acceptance of how odd his daughter — and new granddaughter, who grows freakishly fast — are. Bella remains resolutely bland and, much worse for the purposes of dramatic conflict, unchallenged, either from outside or within herself. Perhaps this is why Edward (Robert Pattinson: Cosmopolis, Bel Ami) and all the other Cullens love her so much: she’s just like them.
It’s pretty much just Edward and Bella playing house — literally: the Cullens give them their own adorbs little cottage right outta Pottery Barn to live in — and everyone cuddling the deeply creepy CGI infant Renesmee for long tedious stretches. Distractions offered to those of us who aren’t consumed with sighing at how happy and beautiful everyone is? Well, there’s the flip-flopping of emotions and visceral reactions, but which I mean that things that are meant to be cute — such as that CGI baby — are unintentionally horrifying, and the things that are meant to be scary and thrilling and dangerous are unintentionally hilarious. As how Bella satisfies her blood-thirst: by killing a mountain lion in a scene that appears to have been stolen from Jimmy McRettin’s classic Scott of the Sahara. A close second may be Bella’s disgust at how the werewolf Jake (Taylor Lautner: Abduction, Valentine’s Day), whom she rejected, is now magically romantically and sexually attracted to her infant daughter (“it’s a wolf thing”). Maybe screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who’s written all the other Twilights) stumbled across the very thing that would dissipate our own disgust at this contrivance, by making us laugh at the thing that bothers Bella the most: “You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?!” she shouts at Jake.
This is a real line from the film. Probably someone should have shouted something similar at novelist Stephenie Meyer: “You named a character we’re supposed to find adorable after a giant slimy lizard?” Nessie is a name for an evil Slytherin kid, probably Draco Malfoy’s girlfriend, not the perfect, precious, half-immortal daughter of the most perfectly precious romantic couple ever. (Wait: How can someone be half-immortal? Isn’t that like being a little bit pregnant?) This moment, however, sadly represents perhaps the pinnacle of drama and conflict in Meyer’s anemic imagination, and it is quickly forgotten as Bella instantly forgives Jake. Because awww sweet perfect perfect world of happiness and longing and desire that are indulged and satisfied with no hint of negative consequences for anyone.
(I lie. There’s one moment in which a random vampire, not anyone we have any reason to care about, just before he dies, says, “Finally…” Intriguing! What’s that about? A hint that being a vampire isn’t all sparkles and decade-long bouts of lovemaking, which Edward actually says this is a real thing for some vampires. This moment passes instantly, lest it get in the way of sparkles and sex.)
Even the overall ostensible “conflict” of this (hoorah) final film, the moment that the entire story has been building toward since Bella first got stalked by Edward, is preposterously lacking in actual conflict. (I’m gonna spoil here, but I figure that either you’ve read the book and already know how it ends, or you haven’t read the book and have no intention of seeing the film. If neither of these is true, skip to the next paragraph.) The Volturi, the ridiculous Eurotrashy Italian clan that for some reason runs the vampire world, is about to attack the Cullens, because on the word of a single witness, they presume that Renesmee is an immortal child, a human child who has been turned vampire, and that’s a big no-no (for, apparently, very good reasons, which is perhaps the only plausible aspect of Meyer’s vampire realm). There they all are, poised for bloody battle on the snowy plains, and when Volturi leader Aro (Michael Sheen: Midnight in Paris, Tron: Legacy) learns that they’re wrong about Nessie (*snort*), he’s all like, “Oh, right, our bad, sorry ’bout that. Go about your business.” Rosenberg and director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) throw in a feint that’s meant to distract from the fact that the story lacks a satisfying conclusion — basically, they stage that bloody battle and then, wait, oh, it was only a vision showing Aro that his people will get their immortal asses whupped if they fight — but all it does is underscore what a letdown the ending is. Imagine if, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader brought Luke before the Emperor and the Emperor said, “You know what? I’m an old man. You wanna run this galaxy, kid? It’s all yours. Good luck. I’m retiring to Miamiooine.” The fundamental conflict — oops, I keep using that word — between the two vampire ways of life that Meyer had presented via the Cullens and the Volturi remains unresolved. So what the hell has this story been about? I don’t mean metaphorically. (We know that metaphorically it’s been about limiting a woman’s life to romance and babies and making that desirable.) I mean, on its own face.
I’ll tell you what it’s been about: it’s been about nothing. Not one thing. Twilight has been nothing more than an onscreen masturbation fantasy. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a story being partly that, but only that? That offends me more, as a story geek, than even how deeply Twilight has offended me as a feminist. The only thing at stake here has been whether or not Meyer got off daydreaming about a sparkly vampire boyfriend. Why should I care about that? Why should anyone besides her care about that?