Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
Nov. 22, 2011
Some films lift the audience up to the virtue of the greatest character, others drag it down to the baseness of the darkest villain. Films can inspire people, they can anger them, and they can make a person rethink their deepest-held beliefs.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1, however, is not that kind of movie.
Those who go to see a Twilight film already know what to expect: beautiful young people in the throes of a passionate (but notably chaste) love affair. Vampires and werewolves are also involved.
In this third installment, however, the series gets a much-needed shot of sexuality. Finally, human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) are getting married. And everyone, even a Mormon, knows that with marriage comes a honeymoon. Bow chicka wow wow.
After Bella and Edward are married—in an admittedly beautifully decorated outdoor wedding, complete with floating flowers and a lace aisle—he whisks her off to Brazil, where they spend the night in a cottage on an island off the coast.
Of course, the couple is worried that Edward’s supernatural strength will kill his human bride, and that he will not have the willpower to resist draining her of blood once they consummate their marriage. But Bella insists. After all, the two have barely touched since they first met in their high school chemistry class, and she is a 19-year-old girl.
So they do it, in a rather comical scene. Edward physically breaks the headboard of their marriage bed, crushing it between his fingers to release his built-up sexual tension. The next morning, Bella wakes up to discover the entire bedroom has been destroyed, all the furniture ripped to shreds. She shrugs it off as a silly vampire quirk.
If it sounds as though I’m only discussing the scenes which pertain directly to Bella and Edward’s sex life, that’s because the first half of the film consists exclusively of scenes pertaining to Bella and Edward’s sex life. This brings up some questions. Just why does Bella love Edward so much? Edward has made it clear that he is attracted to her because she has the best blood he’s ever smelled—vampires are known for their romantic sides. But Bella is strangely drawn to him as well, for reasons that are never really fleshed out. They’re just “meant to be,” and director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago) leaves it at that.
This is one aspect of the Twilight story that I find actually upsetting. Young girls around the world are reading these books and watching these movies. To feed them a story in which a girl gives up her entire life, including her family, friends and future to be with a boy is not a message I like to see gobbled up without a second thought. But that’s what the story is, in essence.
Though Bella is the film’s protagonist, she never seems to have any serious obstacle to overcome. Rather, Edward and Bella’s werewolf ex, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) devote their lives to her protection and well-being. She mostly sits back and argues with them about how capable she is, though she never really demonstrates her strength.
Two weeks into her honeymoon, Bella becomes ill. Could it be food poisoning? Nope, it’s a baby. Apparently half-vampire babies grow super fast and are so strong that they can break their mother’s bones from the inside. Bella doesn’t really get that “pregnant glow” expectant mothers are known for.
Instead, through CGI, Stewart loses what’s left of her non-existent body fat. Her hair goes grey and her cheeks become hollowed. Within a month her abdomen is swollen to the size of a beach ball. When Jacob gets wind that something is wrong with Bella, he runs to the Cullen residence, where he finds his love clearly dying. Cue the angry discussion between Edward and Jacob. This same scene happens so often in the Twilight movies it’s like the actors are all on autopilot.
Jacob returns to his pack and tells them what’s going on. The alpha, or leader of the clan, then delivers the best line of the film: “We have to kill it, before it is born.” This overly dramatic dialogue is made all the better by the fact that when the werewolves are in their animal form, they sound like they’ve been dubbed by gravely-voiced killer robots. Honestly, if this line had been the tagline for the film, I would have been far more inclined to tell people I was seeing it.
Breaking Dawn—Part 1 has become the second-highest grossing midnight opening of all time, coming in behind only Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and had overall the fifth-highest grossing opening weekend ever. This franchise is a huge deal for the box office. But if I hadn’t known that it was so popular and just come across it on my own, I probably would have thought it was some cult horror film from the 1950s, just with better CGI. The plot is utterly ridiculous and the script sounds like a series of exclamatory remarks pasted awkwardly together.
The campiest scene of all was the birth of Bella and Edward’s daughter, Renesmee. To get that monster baby out, Edward rips Bella’s uterus open … with his teeth. The site of blood running down his chin as he rushes away from the hospital room is pure camp gore at its finest.