I am a vampire film enthusiast and love the Twilight Films. I wrote about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 last year.
This post is one big spoiler. The final film in the series was one of the most bizarre and ludicrous movies I’ve ever seen, my mouth was agape through many of the scenes. Here are my impressions
“I was born to be a vampire.”
Quite a day of firsts for Bella, starlet of The Twilight Saga, the teens as vampires (and some minority werewolves) franchise. As you may recall from the first chapter of the last installment of the Twilight films, newly married and preggers from the one time and only time she had sex (apparently of any kind) with Edward, she was about to die giving birth to the half nosferatu/half mortal baby when Edward in one of the weirdest and creepy for all the wrong reason scenes in all of contemporary cinema, Edward sucks his wife blood, turns her into a vampire (the films are vague on many bits of vampire lure, such as how they become one), so she can survive child birth. So, first day as vampire is the first day as mom, not to mention the first ever mom of a half vampire baby. Except for a thirst for blood, which she satiates by suppressing the urge to attack a rock climbing mortal, instead wrestles a cougar, she enjoys the speed and strength and heightened senses of being a vampire. Best of wall, Edward loves her.
Twilight is not the first vampire to use blood sucking to sustain immortal youth as a metaphor for sex, but there’s a very creepy sub-textural obsession with virginity that distinguished the first four (or was it five, I’ve lost count) Twilights. But having drained that concept for all its worth, and having their love consummated, Bella can now be the vampire she was born to be and attain heightened senses and agility, but will she use these power for? To be a mom and Edward’s beloved. If Twilight’s agenda has a moral lesson, it’s completely retro. She’s Dawn Romney without those pesky charitable foundations to distract her.
I liked the earlier Twilight films mainly for how seriously they took the teenager experience. They obsessed on the teenage experience of obsessive self absorption. Luckily a baby doesn’t complicate matters, it just enhances the self-absorption. Career? College? Why be so mundane. What sort of future do you want for your child? Whatever!
This Twilight is heavy on the Eros, compared to the other films, but there is something unsettling in its antiseptic depiction of sex. Why do we need a bedroom if we never sleep, asks Bella when she and Edward go to the new dream cottage in the middle of the Northwest Wilderness, which they go to without the newborn, who is being happily baby sitted by the Cullen vampire coven. Some beds are not for sleeping, Edward replies in a Barry White voice. What follows is a beautifully shot commercial for Cotton Incorporated underwear and sheets, as Edward and Bella get down to some serious love making, vanilla and romantic, without even a smidgen of raunch, or of course, reality. What woman, in what I think was about a week since birthing the baby, doesn’t feel all sexy and in the mood? Right… The cottage is a modest two story European model that probably only cost a few million and is decked out in Nordstrom. Are all Vampires rich or are they just the 1 percent? This is their separate house – given to them by the coven, who live in another mansion in the other part of the woods. It’s not that films are materialistic – they seem to support the primacy of romantic love – but the obvious wealth of these characters is taken for granted, their materialism is beside the point, which may be worse. There’s no explanation of why these vampire are able to sustain such a lavish lifestyle, and even the mortal friends of Bella – completely absent in this film – all seem to be from middle class families who shield their teenage offspring from economic realities. There are the Native American wolf-boys, but there’s no mention of their apparent poverty is just a matter of choice… because you know, they’re Native American werewolves. What do you mean entitlement; wealth is just the way things are.
It’s one thing to take the teenage expiree seriously, to cinematically make that experience universal. But to also adopt, without question or qualm, teenage ignorance and arrogance, that’s quite another. It’s a little sick. Although appalled I also find it appealing, even though I fail to understand that appeal.
I like Kirsten Stewart, although I do not think she is very talented. The role doesn’t call for a range of emotions, so the material lacks opportunity for her to exhibit any chops she may possess. But she has presence, is beautiful, and the rest of the ensemble is likewise endowed with ultra-photogenic looks and limited powers of emotional expression. The character suffers from low self-esteem – she lives only to love and be loved by Edward – and in an obvious contradiction – she is utterly conceited. She’s obsessed with the self she loathes, unsure of anyone who loves that self, yet ready to attack anyone who loathes or even doubts the convictions, of that self. It takes a man like Edward, strong enough to be chaste until marriage, yet smart enough to attend high school geometry classes for an entire century, to win with a woman as conflicted as Bella.
Jacob, the wolf-boy who was her chaste boyfriend for one of the damn installments, imprinted the child upon her birth. Imprinting was not a lycanthropy Lawrence Talbot possessed. I is some kind of genetic blood oath, he’s sworn to protect the baby as if it is his own. The day after the birth – vampirism really helps t he recuperation process because Bella is able to run up the side of cliffs – Jacob first tells her, it’s not what you think and then says, in the same scene, you know I have no control over who I imprint. After the second line, I wondered, what does the screen writer think Bella is thinking? That her old boyfriend is molested the new born? The dialog in this scene was filled with unintended ickiness.
The baby is believed to be the first progeny of vamp and mortal married sex, a hybrid. One side effect is accelerated growth. She grows fast, faster than the Wonder Bread montage, and within three scenes is a pre-tween. She becomes like 10 in a week (in the time of the movie, as far as I can tell). Before this occurs, the child is photographed beautifully. I have to repeat myself. This is one of the most beautifully filmed movies I’ve ever seen. Everything and everyone looks perfect, especially the baby. Kind of a difficult achievement – look at how long a history we have of child photography – and to be noticeably superior, that’s pretty remarkable and noteworthy. Even the Sears pictures look pretty good, you have to admit. The toddler is as breathtaking as the infant as is the pre-tween. No matter how inane the story or low-key the acting, the Twilight films are exquisite to look at. There’s splendor in every frame.
But back to the child. Will Bella breast feed? I’ve been wanting an answer to that question for an entire year. Vampire guys can still produce fertilizing sperm – enough to hit the target at first shot! – There must be some residual human biology working for vamp gals, no? Well, no. We never find out at least. The child is never fed. Not a Gerber’s jar in sight, or a mussy mouth or the highchair scene with cheerios in the plastic tray. This explains why there’s no pampers or diapers or changing scenes. No blood drinking either. Bella learns to control her thirst, but it’s never an issue for either the human or the vampire half of the offspring. She is never fed and never dirties a diaper and none of the vampire teenagers seem to care a whit. Lest you think this is some kind of characterization ploy, it is filmmaker superciliousness. They think the audience will not care when a contrivance – of technique, not story – is so blatant. Or is that the Twilight audience is so in on the joke that a demand for logic is actually anathema to them?
Or, is the lack of baby food and poo part of the sick, subtextural agenda Twilight seems intent on conveying? Yes, teenager gals, if you just find a dreamboat like Edward to love you chastely, when you do finally give it up under holy matrimony you will have a perfect cottage and a pretty baby to fawn over when you are not having intercourse (by the way, there’s no suggestion of any oral sex not to mention anything beyond traditional intercourse, because when two young people are in love and sexually active experimentation in pleasure never happens), and just like not having to worry about money or a career, there’s no child rearing chores if the baby is cute enough and wears the right clothes. Yes, all teenagers are born to be vampires.
This being a teenager film, before the jets and the sharks figure out how to get along, they must rumble. The rival gang here is the Volturi, who are euro-trash vampires. They have funny accents and do not shop for clothes at American Eagle, going more for goth cloaks that are a cross between a hooded bathrobe and a hooded duster coat. They hate Bella and that cute child, who they mistake for being a vampire child. Told in flashbacks, sometime in the middle ages, when villagers acted like Universal Horror film villagers, vampires out of loneliness would turn a child into the undead and when the child threw a tantrum, the thirst combined with the super strength and agility, caused mortals to die and the Villagers began to hunt vampires. In other words, Twilight vampires hate Let the Right One In vampires. The flashbacks only show female vamps with their medieval vampire children, the agenda against single motherhood being obviously telegraphed. Dakota Fanning, a bad vampire, is shown gleefully ripping off the head of the single mom vampire then tossing the baby into a pyre. She is under-used and when used is always the good girl, and you can the actress is having fun enacting some popcorn pathos in a rare supporting role.
But the child not a vampire child – a heart beats inside her chest – she is a half and a half, albeit one who has super strength, agility, the ability to implant thoughts in your brain and is cuter than any child known to human kind. The Volturi do not care, but the Cullens soon travel the world – Brazil is a hot bed for vampires, who knew – to get vamps to witness. That’s the term, witness. Witness what? The fact the child is only half vamp. Now the baby, at about a week or so, is able to leap into the air as a high a mountain, so one might assume that if she does have a tantrum you may still want to warn the villagers, but a child this cute and a mom and dad so photogenic, that must be impossible. The hope is that with enough vampire witnesses who see the cute baby with a beating heart, the Volturi will be convinced. The witnesses, a colorful bunch that include an Irish Family, an American Loner, urban and rural Brazilians and two men from Transylvania, who hate the Volturi and are more overtly gay than the merely homoerotic Edward and Jacob.
Before we get to the rumble, the film establishes that these vamps are also a Legion of Super Heroes who is going to fight a Legion of Super Villains. See, these vampires, in addition to being stronger and faster and immortal, also each one has their own power. Bella can project force shields. Another shoots electricity, another manipulates “the elements” – which means fire comes out of his finger, but fire is not an element, but anyway – weaker vampire powers include origami, folding cotton sheets into wrinkle-free squares and the uncanny ability to select the right earrings for your perfect hair day (okay, these weren’t really powers). One vamp has the ability to predict the future, and warns Bella in a secret method by writing a note on a page from the Merchant of Venice. What I liked about this bit of business were the several close-ups of the edition’s title page – With Introduction by Harold Bloom – nice!
So Bella makes arrangements with Jacob for him to take the imprinted one if it looks like the fight is being lost
The rumble is set on a snowy field and looks spectacular, the good vamps, with their new cadre of motley freedom lovers and a pack of werewolves, face off against the euro-trash in their Goth cloaks, which are a lot more practical given all the CGI snow. The rumble begins, no stakes to the heart, the main battle technique is ripping of the head. So as heads are grabbed and detached and it looks like the Vulture. Are going to win, the half/half child jumps on Jacob as werewolf’s back and they flee into the woods and to a more interesting film.
Alas, it turns out that the Dream Girl vampire (the one who can predict the future for those not hip to the Legion of Super Heroes) was merely showing the future to the head euro trash vamp. Telepathically. The rumble was all a hallucination. When this was revealed, the theater audience burst out laughing at the film’s absurdity, but also acknowledging the audacious hoodwinking.
Then to reinforce her veracity, Dream Girl summons forth another Brazilian couple – from a Brazilian Tribe – turns out the gal is a vampire, but he is a half and half, a human mother being seduced by a vampire.
He can eat both human food and drink blood; he became a full adult within seven years and looks about 27, totally ripped in his loin cloth and head band, but is really over a hundred years old.
The Vulture are convinced the half and half is no threat and leave. I wondered if they chartered a plane to the northwest together, or were they all separate tickets.
So, this new half and half is not a vampire how? Long life, super powers, can also live on blood. The only thing a half does differently is have a beating heart and can enjoy human food. With the absence of diapers for the baby, I wondered if as they mature they will gain the ability to make pee and/or poo.
The film ends, with Edward and Bella, in each others arms in a field of wild flowers, no baby in sight, just their eternal love. They look beautiful together.
I wonder if they go back to high school. That’s how they met, but the weird thing is that Edward being a vamp was more than a century old. How many times did he take geometry? Can you imagine? At least go to college and study the classics or something. What will Bella do with eternity? Be with Edward, what else is there?
The author of the series is famously, a Mormon. Now, I am not trying to pick on that religion. Everyone has their own beliefs and the Mormon’s are no crazier than any other. But, some of the more famous Mormon tropes are their aversion to premarital sex and oral sex as well as their belief that Native Americans are some kind of lost tribe of Israel. Especially in this installment, the writer seemed to be letting us into some weird subconscious world with obvious references to her faith. I think obvious to us but not to her. The half half GQ model Native American male at the end seemed a capper, but also the patriarchal nature of the vampire system, where the men make the decisions have titular power on both the American and European sides, but the women wield the most strength. Oh yeah, and there’s the weird sexual inhibitions infusing the vampire erotic metaphors. A montage of close-ups and underwear to portray sexual encounters, but to go out of your way to dispel any PG-12 notion of non-intercourse or extended foreplay, it’s just weird. No sex or vampirism before marriage, and single female vampires who make their own vampire babies are to be killed and their babies slaughtered. And how come the vampire male can still produce sperm (and apparently, attain and sustain an erection, if though they have no beating heart or circulatory system), but only with a human woman – a vampire woman cannot ovulate? What inspired these story telling choices?
You don’t have to go very deep below the surface to see the psychological phantasmagoria boil. Twilight has a very creepy subtext. I’ve happened to have read a lot this year about the Church of Latter Day Saints, not just the Romney coverage, but the great Harold Bloom book, the American Religion, which deals with the subject. I have Mormonism on the mind to some extent. I cannot escape the connections.
Do not take this as a criticism of the faith, or the film. There is weird shit going on in this movie and it has to come from somewhere. I am not the only one to comment on the potential references.
Aside from that, we still have love. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, Edward and Bella live eternally, have a very photogenic child and get to enjoy the simple pleasures being together in a field of wild flowers. What is the appeal of the Twilight Saga? An idealized world of romantic love where teenage consciousness is reality? That may be so. What I think I like the best, why I’ve followed this rather lame bunch but pretty to look at vampires, is how they blissfully ignore their own decadence.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn II
Total: 1.2*’s. I gave the star for Jolts because of the beheadings during the fake rumble. They weren’t jolting really but looked good. The creepiness though was for all the wrong reasons, but it was creepy nonetheless. Okay, it is a terrible movie. I loved it, at the time. All the Twilight movies are like that though, as entertainments they may be a little weird, but they are consistently good, devoid of nutritional calories (the last is the cheesiest, a feat in and of itself) and quickly forgotten.