Bite the Dust
Why ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2’ Jumps the Shark
Edward Cullen never should have knocked up Bella. Ramin Setoodeh on why the worst film in the Twilight franchise is Breaking Dawn—Part 2, which opens Friday.
There’s an old rule on TV that once a married couple get pregnant, they are headed straight for the emergency room, followed by cancellation. That’s because newborns are—no offense to any who might be reading this—really boring to watch. It happened to Jamie and Paul Buchman on Mad About You, Bobby and Lindsay on The Practice, Fran on The Nanny; even Rachel’s baby on Friends marked the beginning of the end. The notable exceptions, such as I Love Lucy and Bewitched, got away with it because they kept their children hidden during infancy.
The Twilight series take a slightly different approach. Stephenie Meyer, who waits until the final book to introduce Bella and Edward’s baby, arms little Renesmee with a wonderful superpower: she grows up really fast, so she can start walking, talking and flirting with werewolves right away. What works in the book doesn’t necessarily work on the big screen, though. The central problem with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 is that Bella and Edward are the world’s dullest vampire parents. And this fifth Twilight film is by far the lamest in the franchise.
I make this declaration not as a diehard Twihard, but as a genuine fan of the previous Twilight films. While most of the Harry Potter movies (until the final spectacular chapter) were a snooze, Bella & Friends always felt younger, hipper, sexier, and more dangerous as movie characters. They were the teens you’d much rather hang out with. But the series’ jump-the-shark moment was splitting Breaking Dawn into two parts. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2 only got away with it because of its nail-biting showdown with Lord Voldemort. Meyer’s final Twilight book doesn’t have the same kind of narrative heft. The climax of Breaking Dawn is Bella’s vampire pregnancy, and the moment she gets bitten. All of this unravels with a delicious, almost-camp spirit (and a wonderful performance from Kristen Stewart) in Breaking Dawn—Part 1. What amounts to Breaking Dawn—Part 2 should have been a 15-minute epilogue at the end of that movie.
Director Bill Condon assembles this picture like a college student running out of time on a final exam who scribbles down everything he knows, hoping it’s enough for a passing grade. The biggest change is in our heroine. Bella is now a vampire, and the story takes her condition too seriously—her character actually feels dead. Edward (Robert Pattinson) comes across like a house-whipped husband rather than the reluctant heartthrob from the previous chapters. The Cullens are merely babysitters now. Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is sidelined, too. You know this is the worst Twilight because he only has to take off his shirt once.
And what about little Renesmee? Mackenzie Foy must have been cast for her beautiful-porcelain-doll features, but it’s not clear if she can act. I don’t remember hearing Renesmee speak until an hour into the movie, and she doesn’t have a single meaningful exchange with anybody. As in the book, her character sometimes communicates through touch, but she’s a half-vampire who’s been defanged on the way to the movies. There are a lot of other cheesy bad moments in Breaking Dawn—Part 2, such as the introduction of the Amazon characters who look like extras from a 1960s sci-fi pilot. Dakota Fanning, playing the Volturi empress Jane, is reduced to pacing and giving death stares out of Mean Girls. The big vampire war, with countless beheadings, is too violent for the movie’s PG-13.
The best part is the end, but not for the usual reason when it comes to a lousy movie. Breaking Dawn—Part 2 closes with a music-video montage of earlier romantic scenes between Edward and Bella, when they were still in the hot phase of their relationship. Those previous movies, like the first season of Dawson’s Creek or Felicity, were such good angst machines. The closing credits remind you just how ubiquitous the actors—Anna Kendrick, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed, etc.—have become in Hollywood. And Edward and Bella, what will happen to them? This last Twilight makes a good argument against getting pregnant young. Don’t do what they did, kids! Or you’ll stop having fun.