Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I (2011)

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Edward and Bella meet.

Assuming you, like me, somehow missed out on of the middle chapters of the Twilight saga, what happens next?

Anything is possible, but if you want a logical ending, see another movie.

A. Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Krirsten Stewart) get married and, as Edward is the vampire son of a couple of rich vampires, the two can afford to jet set across the world to a private island off the coast of Brazil, stopping in Rio for the obligatory 360° shot of Christ the Redeemer. The Cullen clan, of course, have an opulent mansion on the island, where Bella and Edward can play house and smile at one another in leisure, safe from the responsibilities inherent to being successful high school graduates. As newlyweds, the two mutually experience, for the first time, the joys of marital relations and lead long, fulfilling lives. Eventually Bella dies. Edward is sad, but so it goes.

B. Edward and Bella’s future coital plans are interrupted because, as a vampire, Edward is naturally much stronger than Bella, and one wrong thrust can render the poor girl a puddle of gore. Despite—or perhaps because of—this danger, the two moon-faced newlyweds consummate their vows. Bella wakes up the next morning to a destroyed bedroom and Edward asking if he’s hurt her badly. She is shown the bruises on her own body. He apologizes for harming her, though it seems more like he’s apologizing for her inability to handle his sexual aggression. Bella, who has, at some point, expressed her desire to be as strong, courageous, and passionate as the husband who wrecked the room and left bruises, wishes to try again. She attempts to seduce him like a woman new to the idea of seduction. He, similarly new to the idea, gives in easily. You’ll notice how cold Edward is when he lifts Bella’s shirt to reveal her bruises. You’ll note that, in any other story, Edward’s attitude and actions would not be unlike those of an abuser. There are paid servants who are shipped to the private island to clean up Edward and Bella’s mess. They notice, too. Edward and Bella continue on, playing chess on the beach. Edward, being a vampire, has hundreds of years of experience on his bride. When he takes her king, he does so aggressively. Bella eventually tires of this, but, being dutiful, never lets on to Edward, who constantly makes a show of his superior strength, knowledge, and beauty. Bella ages, and eventually dies.

C. Edward and Bella consummate their marriage and, by some miracle, conceive. Bella begins foisting ridiculous names upon the unborn child, but there are complications. The child, being the spawn of a vampire and a human, is half-vampire. She begins killing her mother, but can’t help her nature or ridiculous name. Thus springs a debate: Should the child stay, or should the child be ejected? There are two schools of thought:

  1. Bella keeps the baby. This is championed by Bella herself, and some in Edward’s family. It is Bella’s hope that, as soon as the child is born, Edward’s father (Peter Facinelli) can turn her into a vampire as well, thus saving everybody. The odds? Never tell Bella the odds.
  2. The child is aborted. Edward, not wanting to lose Bella, is for this. He has support from an unlikely ally: Jacob (Taylor Lautner), a werewolf and Bella’s best friend (beyond her new husband, of course).

In either scenario, the likelihood of Bella’s survival is slim, but things do not proceed as they do in choice A. If Bella aborts or keeps the baby and dies, Jacob will kill Edward. If Bella has the baby and is successfully turned, a needlessly complicated treaty between the werewolves and the vampires will be broken, and there will be war. Neither much matters to Bella, who is so focused on the child’s health that she drinks blood from a Styrofoam cup. She also looks terrible, and will not wear make-up. Her’s is a large cross, but she bears it.

D. Edward and Bella have sex and, seeing as Bella is 18 and Edward has been playing 18 for centuries, neither are prepared for the consequences of their act. The two attempt to make it on their own but struggle. Eventually, their marriage falters. Edward, who can’t stop noticing Bella’s small but growing flaws, grows interested in somebody else. Bella can’t take her mind off of Jacob, who hangs around town, often shirtless, to make sure Bella can’t get past him. Everything capitulates, and the two divorce. Bella gets custody of the child, who will outlive her for centuries, and she eventually marries Jacob, who bears an obvious resentment towards Bella’s daughter. They have several children of their own and almost don’t notice that the daughter grows up feeling neglected. The alimony Edward pays Bella will eventually go to a therapist. Edward, meanwhile, will start high school in another town and, having submitted to his carnal lust, becomes an insatiable sex addict. It’s a hollow, endless life, but Jacob and Bella eventually die, and he eventually forgets them.

Which option is closest to the reality presented by Breaking Dawn doesn’t matter, as its target audience, still split in the Team Edward/Team Jacob binary, have neither the time nor the patience required to understand that neither man—Jacob with his snide comments, or Edward with his vacant, awkward pauses—are really right for her, or anybody. Their cruelty, I suppose, is tempered by that of Jacob’s pack, who wish to eradicate the Cullens and the abomination in Bella’s belly, and the shadowy guild of vampire lords, seen here in a nightmare where they wear black to a White Party, but Bella’s really only tied to anybody here because she still lacks the ability to self-identify. As Bella’s best friend (Anna Kendrick) points out at the wedding reception, she’s not a member of the volleyball team, student council, or really any club. All she’s got to distinguish herself is Edward, who has found in Bella a woman perfectly willing and able to tell him how great he is. If Bella didn’t have Edward, she’d have nothing.

To be fair, this is a much better effort than any film in Twilight cannon. The young cast around Edward, Bella, and Jacob, chosen primarily based on how good they look either in tight shirts or completely out of them, are horribly crippled in terms of any real acting ability. Director Bill Condon seems aware of that fact, directing his sheep through a pasture where they only need to look pretty in the background while the franchise’s triumvirate stumble their way through activities and dialog that are either laughable or the very height of romance, depending on where your interests lie. It’s not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but Breaking Dawn had within it more genuine laughs than many comedies released this year. At least a few of those laughs were in spots I’m sure were intended.

Rating:

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I. Directed by Bill Condon. With Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Peter Facinelli (Carlisle Cullen), and Anna Kendrick (Jessica Stanley). Released November 18, 2011, by Summit Entertainment.

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