The permanent mystery of The Twilight Saga is the continuing fascination a jerky werewolf and a creepy vampire have with a dippy teenage girl. Since the first film in this sadly successful franchise, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have found it impossible to completely disentangle from Bella (Kristen Stewart). Sure, she’s lovely and looks great in lingerie, but come on, she’s never had a winning personality. In fact, when we first met her in Twilight, she was about as warm as a blister.
Yet, through the course of this series, they both remain deeply smitten. Their devotion to her is so absurdly intense they never even consider any other options. And while, yes, Bella has lightened up a smidge, it’s still only a smidge.
At the end of New Moon, the first sequel, after doing the Costanza pre-emptive break-up routine and disappearing for most of the two-hour-plus running time Edward proposed to Bella. It wasn’t until chapter three, Eclipse, that she gave her perplexing answer and only after a proper presentation.
And so, at the start of Breaking Dawn – Part 1, they finally get married. Without a doubt, the conviction of those early scenes greatly depend on how much you’ve believed in this relationship from the start. Anyone who has read my reviews of the earlier installments already knows where I’ve stood throughout the series. This fourth chapter hasn’t changed my mind. (Big shocker, I know.)
That being said, there is one entertaining thing about the wedding. Without saying a word Stewart does an effective job of conveying, purely through facial expressions, how Bella really feels just before she’s walked down the aisle by her sheriff father (the reliable Billy Burke who could’ve been given funnier lines during his sour reception speech, although his misery is completely understandable). For a brief moment, the sheer terror on her face, the unmistakable nervousness of this monumental decision in her life, brings out her fragile humanity in a way Edward and even Jacob never could. Because of that, in that instant, we feel for her in a rare, positive way. Then, just as quickly, it disappears as she stares blankly at the ugly guy she’s going to be stuck with forever. (How odd that she doesn’t offer any kind of a smile at that point. Can’t say I blame her, though.)
After the ceremony and reception (where a late-arriving Jacob angrily learns that the virginal Bella is still determined to get it on with Edward (why does this surprise him, exactly?) at some point during their honeymoon (she says she doesn’t want to be “writhing in pain” on her wedding night but ultimately doesn’t stick with that plan)), the newlyweds make a pit stop in Brazil before going to a private island old vampy got from Carlisle (Peter Facsimile) as a wedding present. Once again, Edward dusts off the old hot-and-cold routine because apparently, and I never realized this before, vampires fuck violently. The morning after the marriage is consummated the bedroom looks like Keith Moon’s hotel room. Bella even has “love bruises” all over her.
Understandably worried about his technique but not at all interested in easing his thrust (or punches, apparently), Edward temporarily backs off, much to Bella’s disappointment. Well, at least that leaves more time for chess. This is some honeymoon, I’m telling ya.
At some point, we learn that vampire sperm isn’t exactly undead. (Guess that wasn’t in the brochure.) After hurling some hastily made fried chicken in the bathroom toilet, Bella notices a bit of a bulge in her tummy. (How is that possible? It’s only been two weeks since the wedding!) That can mean only one thing: yep, a rapidly growing demon fetus.
Because the pasty race and the human race don’t exactly knock boots on a regular basis (it’s just not kosher), this is unprecedented territory for the Cullens. (There’s a strange disagreement between Alice (adorable Ashley Greene) and Rosalie (the often glaring Nikki Reed) over what to even call this unborn child. (“Fetus!” “Baby!”).) Regardless, Edward’s paternity means guaranteed problems with the birth (and a potential conflict with the werewolves who view the kid as an inevitable threat). Furthermore, Bella is warned over and over and over again about the deadly risk of carrying her child to term. (The pregnancy isn’t a lot of fun, either. She starts losing weight, the baby gives her a broken rib, she has to drink blood like a slurpee and she generally looks terrible, as Jacob helpfully points out at one point.)
After hearing that, a reasonable person would say, “You know what? I think I’ll take a pass on raising a bloodsucker. Get it out of me. I’d like to live, thanks.” But not our Bella. Nope. Despite countless warnings from Edward, Carlisle and even grumpy, surprisingly shirted Jacob, no one can talk her out of being an idiot. As she accurately noted after Jacob storms off in the reception scene, “I’m really, really, really stupid.”
Breaking Dawn – Part 1 suffers from the same afflictions as its predecessors: tedious pacing; weak, unsympathetic characters; unpersuasive romances. Even at just under two hours, it still feels too long. God knows what the final running time for Part Two will be. (I’m counting on at least 150 minutes.)
And yet, also like the earlier films, it’s quite beautiful to look at. Watching a snoozefest like this deepens your appreciation for the cinematography, the set design (love that 30s movie theatre), and in the case of Bella’s emaciated state, the special effects. But it’s not nearly enough to distract you from this far from exhilarating storyline. I mean a wimpy vampire with a guilty conscience? As Howard Stern would say, “Get out of here!”
It must be said, however, that there’s a nice payoff involving Bella at the end (maybe she’ll finally become interesting in the final sequel) and, once the “opening” titles conclude, a short, little scene involving The Volturi (where the hell have they been?) with reliably campy Michael Sheen at the helm. From the start, he’s been the only actor who recognizes the utter silliness of this franchise and acts accordingly. (Speaking of silly, what about Bella’s wedding nightmare? Unintentionally hilarious. On the other hand, Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick, who got a big laugh in New Moon delivers two more during her reception speech.)
As we crawl to the end of this tripe, one can’t help but feel for Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. They seem trapped in these awful roles that may very well define their careers, an unfair fate for these young actors who I’m sure are quite eager to play a wide variety of characters far different from Edward and Bella.
The real Pattinson comes across as far more good-humoured and likeable on The Daily Show than in his most famous role. Maybe it’s the accent and the smile. And although Stewart has never had a media-friendly disposition (she doesn’t sound or look any less miserable than the old Bella, unfortunately, which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t really matter anyway) she gave a fine performance playing Jodie Foster’s kid in Panic Room. I’d like to see them get as far away from Twilight as possible.
In the meantime, the end of this sorry saga can’t come soon enough.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
CORRECTION: The start of paragraph six originally began this way:
“After the ceremony and reception (where a late-arriving Jacob learns that Bella isn’t a virgin anymore (you mean it took four movies for this dopey couple to get it on and they do it off-camera?) and becomes angry when she tells him it won’t be a one-time deal (why does this surprise him, exactly?))…”
Despite watching this scene three times, this is dead wrong. For the record, Bella and Edward did not get it on off-camera, or on-camera for that matter, before their wedding. When she tells Jacob, “I didn’t really want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain,” for some reason I misinterpreted that to mean they had already had premarital sex. Expanding my confusion is the next exchange where Jacob notes, “It’s not like you’re gonna have a real honeymoon with him anyway.” To which Bella replies, “It’s gonna be as real as anyone else’s.” Although she means she will have sex for the first time during the honeymoon, just not on the first night, I thought she meant she was going to do it for a second time. Wrong. The key line of dialogue that clears everything up comes shortly after Jacob’s temper surfaces when, upon learning this news, he says, “What? While you’re still human?”. (Duh! How did I miss that part?)
Anyway, regardless of my confusion, the bottom line is this: Bella’s still a virgin during this conversation and Jacob’s pissed because she won’t be at some point during the honeymoon which, as I said, ends up being that first night after all.
Special thanks to my pal Heather for pointing out my mistake. I apologize for the delay in addressing this. It took me four days to finally make sense of this stupid scene. I hope everything is much clearer now.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, August 20, 2012