Nov 19 2012 3:30pm

Breaking Dawn, Part 2: Electric Twilightening

Alex Brown tears into the movie adaptation of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 2I have tried, since stumbling out of the theater Thursday night in a bilious fury, to write an objective review of Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final movie in the Twilight series, and always ended up instead with a creative mélange of George Carlin’s seven dirty words. Today I have decided this is a movie that neither deserves nor needs my objectiveness, niceness, or professionalism.

So fair warning: this is not a review. This is a hatepost. At least once in every critic’s life they encounter a film that offends them down to their very soul. For me, this is that movie. Never in my life have I been so close to storming out of a theater before the end credits. If you want a review, please proceed to Natalie Zutter’s post. Otherwise, put on your troll hats and prepare to sound off in the comment thread. Also, spoilers.

When I reviewed the third movie, Eclipse, I thought the film was decently crafted, the story inoffensive enough as a gothic romance throwback, and horrific in its misogynistic subtext. In fact, all five movies fit the same basic model—Bella is an insufferable cipher while Jacob and Edward flip back and forth between being creepy assbutts and the kind of über-romantic heroes that only exist in bad fanfic. Every once in a blue moon someone would remember that Charlie is Bella’s father, so he’d show up to say something sarcastic then disappear until the next movie. The rest of the vampires and werewolves are interchangeable and pointless. Each gets a name and backstory, yet not a single one has any bearing on the story and could easily be cut. By the big showdown in the final movie there were approximately 8,992 vampires and werewolves on screen, and the audience was forced to sit through introductions to every frakking one of them. As much as I love Lee Pace, I’d rather my fondest memories be of him as the piemaker, the suicidal stunt guy, Aaron Tyler, or (preferably) Calpernia Addams than as a cheesy, pseudo-bohemian vampire wearing a hideous hairpiece pulled from the bottom of a dumpster behind a discount wig store.

You can practically taste the love. It tastes like day old vomit.Bella is an awful human being, but a kind-of-okay vampire. I still can’t stand the thought of her very existence, but at least she stops being a pathetic, self-centered idiot and becomes a really strong self-centered idiot. She also gains a modicum of self-awareness, as evinced by her rightfully freaking out over 18-year-old Jacob imprinting on her newborn daughter (whose face is comprised of the sort of CGI that nightmares are made of). That is to say, when she remembers that she has a kid. She and Edward spend more time away from Renesmee—every time I say that name my soul dies a little more—than they do with her. When Bella smells human blood for the first time as a vampire, she does this freaky spider/lizard crawl up a rock wall because some dumbass is rock climbing alone, with no supplies or gear in the middle of nowhere. Then Edward talks to her for two seconds so she turns around and walks away. This happens repeatedly throughout the movie. Every 20 minutes someone goes, “Hey, you know what would be cool? This thing. But delving into this cool thing means we’d have to cut a scene of Bella and Edward having glitter sex. I know, let’s have them talk about how cool this thing would be if they did it and then have them not do it so we don’t have to worry about shooting it. Win-win!”

What isn’t resolved through endless blather is wrapped up with just dropping the whole issue and pretending it never happened. When Bella challenges Jacob for his potential pedophilia, the conflict is quelled by all parties concerned basically saying “Oh well, what’re you gonna do?” and hugging it out. When Bella has to confront her dad about her supernatural-ness, she fails at playing human (because it’s been a whole 12 hours since she was last human and who could ever manage to remember that far back?) and the rest of the vamps who, not five minutes before, were so worried about her behavior suddenly decide it’s no biggie and chill out, man. I have not read the books—YOU CAN’T MAKE ME I WON’T DO IT NO—but I know that this isn’t the fault of the filmmakers, but of the author. There’s only so much you can do with subpar source material. (Not even David Lynch could make a masterpiece out of the drudgery that was Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but that’s a rant for another day.)

But still, it’s not the atrociousness of Meyer’s “writing” that left me fuming with uncontrollable fury. That certainly helped—hoo boy, did it help—but the difference between the meh of the first part of Breaking Dawn and the ire brought about by the second lies at the feet of the cast and crew. I wish I could say that I hated this movie because I am a feminist and this movie represents the exact opposite of that, but I can’t, because it doesn’t. At the end of the day, this movie is pointless. Nothing happens. At all. Risks are actively avoided. Temptations are shrugged off. No one says or does anything that could even be controversy’s third cousin by marriage. Even Jacob’s creepy obsession with Bella’s hellspawn is ultimately boring.

I loathe you both with the fire of a thousand suns.No, what offended me so much was the lack of regard any of the creators of this movie had for making it. It’s like the cast and crew got together on a free weekend and shot the whole thing on the CBS backlot. More than ever before, it was clear that anyone who’s not Michael Sheen or Dakota Fanning didn’t want to be on set. When they weren’t sleepily reading lines like you’d read a phone book, they defaulted to the tried-and-true soap opera acting technique of Shouting Is the Same As Emoting. The CGI was terrible, just terrible. I’ve seen better graphics on a network TV sitcom. With a budget as bloated as this movie’s, you’d think someone would’ve thought to throw $20 at the graphics department. Even the editing was disgraceful. Nothing was cut well—it was just a series of jump cuts with characters suddenly wearing different clothes and the audience having to wait for verbal cues to realize that time had actually passed. Let’s not forget the music...sweet zombie Jesus, the relentless music. I don’t think there was a moment of silence in the whole thing. It was like listening to Billboard’s Top 20 hits for two straight hours. And what was up with that ridiculous video yearbook reel during the credits? Who the hell cares about some loser from one scene in the first movie?

I will never forgive you for this, Lee Pace.

Both Part 1 and Part 2 have more or less the same cast and crew and the same limp plot points, but whereas the first was building up to something (killing Bella), the second was undercut by a frakking All Just a Dream sequence. Or vision. Whatever. Who cares? Point is, this was where my frustration boiled into outright hatred. My problem isn’t that the fight sequence isn’t in the book. My problem is that it is the one good thing to happen in the entire 115 minutes of the damn movie. It validates the whole series. It destroys the Volturi in a satisfying way (that also has the potential of setting up a fascinating new set of sequels dealing with the aftermath of creating a power vacuum). It thins out of the Cullen and Co. herd. It injects some badly needed tension and excitement into a tour de force of blandness. And most of all it is a giant, massive, unexpected risk. It’s a bold move on the part of the filmmakers, screwing with their fanbase like that. Up to that fight scene, the movies have pandered incessantly to Twihards—killing off half the beloved characters goes beyond that pandering and provides something genuinely interesting for the rest of us. When anyone can and will die, it ups the ante. It makes Bella, Edward, Jacob, and Renesmee’s survival that much more powerful. It means that it doesn’t matter how many convenient magic powers you have, that you can still die miserable and bloody. In short, it’s a move that belongs at the end of a far greater film. Which was why I was so surprised to see it in Breaking Dawn. And why I was so enraged when it turned out to be just a vision of what might happen.

Aro stared down his death and walked away. He walked away. The entire climax of five movies leads to the bad guy WALKING THE FRAK AWAY. I don’t care that this is exactly what happens in the book. The book is a stupid, poorly written trifle. I wasn’t reading the book, I was watching a movie. I wasn’t expecting it to be great—hell, I was banking on it being terrible—but this was the last straw for me. Winding the audience up like that only to turn around and yell “Psych!” reveals a total contempt for their audience, especially the Twihards. I know it sounds silly to be so deeply offended by something so meaningless, but I can’t help it. It’s infuriating, the disregard the filmmakers have for their audience.

There were a few good bits to Breaking Dawn Part 2, but they are always moments where everyone involved seems to forget for a fleeting moment that they are filming something they hate. The final fight scene, Charlie’s slapstick reaction to Jacob’s transformation, Bella’s blow-up at Jacob’s imprinting—those are scenes that belong in much better films and that directly call the series on all its bullshit. Right when the filmmakers should’ve stuck to their guns, they backed down in a fit of greed-inspired cowardice. That fake out was the filmic equivalent of the high school quarterback asking the unpopular chick to prom only to publicly ditch her for the head cheerleader. Making it all a vision wasn’t the worst thing to happen in the movie, but it was the last spoonful of fetid rot I could stomach. Ten hours of my life reduced to a cruel joke. I’m done. I’m so frakking done. I’m so angry it is retroactively making me hate anything anyone from any of the movies has ever touched. Anyone want my DVDs of Chicago, Into the Wild, Wonderfalls, and season 1 of Damages?

Alex Brown is an archivist, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Steven Halter
1. stevenhalter
Thanks for quelling whatever small desire I might have had to see this. I saw the first movie and managed to read the first two books before losing interest (the writing, it pains me).
The commercials of this with the fight scene did look mildly interesting and it was with amusement that I found out it was a dream/vision sequence with no real effect. It's much more amusing if you didn't have to sit through it to find that out.
2. Greyhawk
Your rant reminds me of my econ 101 class, discussing cost/benefit analysis--if you are in a movie theater watching what you consider to be a horrible movie should you stay (you paid after all) or leave? According to ecomonic theory, a rational actor (if there ever is such) would leave because, while the money is already spent, you can still enjoy your time elsewhere. To stay is to waste both your money and your time. Why you chose to see this movie or any beyond the first is an exercise in poor judgment. Neither this movie, its predecessors nor the books were made for you (or me for that matter) but rather for that apparently large audience of people who gobble up teen angst and false internal dramas. The "it was all just a vision" thing at the end, well that is just adhering to the books--in the sense that no battle took place. These movies were made to bring the story to the big screen, not to rewrite it in any fundamental way. Meyer chickened out in the book and the movie could do no less. However, as you point out, the battle was one of the better sequences, it gave the audience what the readers were denied, the final big battle. Yeah, at the end it was all just a possible future, but for those who read the books, they now have what they were denied before, the big fight with everyone laying it on the line--and who knows, maybe in one version of the universe that is what happened.
3. ElizabethB
I want Wonderfalls! I can forgive Lee Pace anything :-)
4. Tobias3
If you want a book where exacly the thing you described happens have a look at Luminosity ( It is Twilight fanfiction but not of the kinky sex kind. It has a stronger and more rational main characters and is also more gory ans consequential.
J Aggle
5. jondiced
This is why I only watch the RiffTrax versions of Twilight movies!
Rob Rater
6. Quasarmodo
I was just going to say I'm glad I never bothered with any of the Twilight movies, but now I have to see the RiffTrax versions!
7. WayneH
Oops - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was Fincher, not Lynch. The tragedy is that we may never get to see how he'd adapt book 2's glut of Swedes drinking coffee and shopping at Ikea, while we now have 5 Twilight movies to avoid every weekend on TNT.
Alex Brown
8. AlexBrown
@Elizabeth: Not when you see Twilight you won't.

@Tobias: Thanks! Always looking for new fanfic.

@Wayne: Whoops! And I knew that, too. As you can tell, it's hard to think through all the seething rage.
Shelly wb
9. shellywb
I get that you hate the movie, but you lose any credibility you have when you say...

"I have not read the books—YOU CAN’T MAKE ME I WN’T DO IT NO—but I know that this isn’t the fault of the filmmakers, but of the author. There’s only so much you can do with subpar source material."

"The book is a stupid, poorly written trifle."

...when you've never read any of them.

How can you criticize or even rant about a book you haven't read? It invalidates anything you say related to those points. It boggles my mind that that's included in a post on a publisher's blog.

A screenplay isn't the novel. If you've not read it, you really can't say those things about it. And I can't believe you haven't seen the tripe Hollywood has made of some of the greatest books of all time. Not that the Twilight books are those by any stretch of the imagination.

But I can say that. I've read them all, and I did so because I feel that it's hypocritical to criticize a book I haven't read. Whenever there's a bandwagon of criticism, I make a point of experiencing the movie, book, music, so that I can speak truly (that includes things from the Last Temptation of Christ to 50 Shades of Gray). And I can truly say that in my opinion each Twilight novel sucks more than the last. But seriously, you can't. Not with any credibility.
Alex Brown
10. AlexBrown
@shelly: I'm not sure where you were getting that I was hoping for credibility. I'm not trying to bring down the system or anything. I saw Breaking Dawn and hated it, and fortunately for me I have a job wherein I get to talk about things I both like and dislike. I was very clear that this was not a review, but a hatepost. I do believe you must be informed about the things on which you have an opinion, but I don't believe you have to consume every scrap of detail regarding it in order to comment. I haven't read the books, but I know what happens, when, and why. I know that Meyer is a talentless writer, and I know that she will continue to rake in the millions with or without my consent.

I have skimmed enough of the books to know they are poorly written trifles. I have read reviews - both positive and negative - to know they are poorly written trifles. I am able to use my judgement as a voracious and experienced reader and as a participant in pop culture to know that the Twilight Saga is a poorly written trifle. I'm glad you have the time to devote to consuming everything you wish to be able to have an opinion on, but when I have a choice between forcing myself to read 5 poorly written trifles or Evelyn Waugh, I bet you can guess what I'd rather read.

I was fully aware of what is and isn't in the books when I made comments about what is and isn't in the books. And the general consensus for everyone other than Twihards is that the books are poorly written trifles. You and I both seem to agree on this, so I guess I'm not sure what you're upset about...
11. greer
@tobias - Thanks for the fic rec. I'm at the discussion about souls and have decided this fic is a win! This is hysterical. If only SM wrote half this intelligently.
Benjamin Klein
12. benjaminsa
Thanks for this, I think we can all be grateful that this is the last twilight movie. However, I think the people who made this are infinitely more grateful. Just imagine, you spent a few hours watching this, they had to sit for weeks, write dialogue, set up locations, learn lines, attempting to portray these vapid shallow characters, set up shots, slowly going through scenes, edit in music, add CGI, cut it together. For weeks and weeks. They had to immerse themselves in this book and story, *shudder* oh gods the horror. Just imagine that. These are creative interesting people, I cannot imagine any one of them caring at all about this project, just get it done, get paid, and move on, it was always going to be passionless bland and boring.
13. a1ay
they had to sit for weeks, write dialogue, set up locations, learn
lines, attempting to portray these vapid shallow characters, set up
shots, slowly going through scenes, edit in music, add CGI, cut it
together. For weeks and weeks.

That always scares the hell out of me. Pearl Harbor, for example, was the lives of thousands of people for a year or more. They agonised over what to leave in the script and what to cut. They had wild parties when filming finished. They had screaming arguments with each other about camera angles and filters and dialogue and set dressing. They stayed up late at night to get the CGI torpedo bombers done and finish the proofs for the poster and do yet another run through of musical sting no. 37 and get the bloody timing on the bloody violins' entry right this time.

And the result was... Pearl Harbor.
14. seth e.
They had screaming arguments with each other about camera angles and filters and dialogue and set dressing.

To be fair, Pearl Harbor, like a lot of bloated Hollywood spectaculars, had a lot of top-notch work by talented technical people--at least some well-crafted stuff, if not inspired. Your average professional costume designer would prefer to be working on a good script, but they know perfectly well that's beyond their control, so they just go ahead and do their own job. That's why there's so much good-looking garbage (where "good-looking" means polished). The things that make us think of a movie as good or bad are in the hands of a handful of people out of hundreds of collaborators, and the technicians and designers are used to it.

I gather BD2 is bad-looking garbage, which for such a profit-making franchise is just insulting your audience.
Deana Whitney
15. Braid_Tug
@ Alex Brown: you know, if you had read the books, the movies would seem so much better.

I prefer the movies over the books because you don't have to spend much time inside Bella's head. Where I learned I just wanted to slap her, often.
Yes in the movies you have to deal with the staring of everyone, but really less time in Bella's head, and lest time reading the same word 30 times in 2 pages, really makes you like the movies more.

Then again I’m still trying to figure out what the world saw in 50 Shades of Grey. That is one badly written set of books!!
Luke M
16. lmelior
@Greyhawk #2:
To stay is to waste both your money and your time. Why you chose to see this movie or any beyond the first is an exercise in poor judgment.
That is probably true for everyone who isn't being paid to write about it. :) Personally I'm glad there are people like AlexBrown around to bite the bullet for us; not only to "spoil" the ending for us (could've looked it up anywhere) but to put into words why it's so awful.

Re: Luminosity:
My introduction to Alicorn's fanfiction was, "like Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality except with Twilight." That was a tremendously bad idea because the former seemed like a poor imitation of the latter. I don't think I even made it more than two chapters before moving on to something else. Perhaps I'll give it a fair shake this time around, having since experienced some bad fanfiction (HPMoR was my first) to put it in perspective.
Alex Brown
17. AlexBrown
@benjaminsa, a1ay, and seth: Yeah, I do feel bad for the crew and teamsters, the real crew, not the director/producers/etc. I may have thrown away 10 hours of my life, but they've given up 5 years of theirs for this crap.

Then again, no one hates Twilight like Robert Pattinson hates Twilight.

@Braid: Bella's brain - what little of it there is - seems like a terrible place to set a book.
18. wiredog
Man, Alex, you gotta stop holding back like that. Tell us how you really feel..

Alan Brown
19. AlanBrown
Greyhawk's cost benefit analysis misses a major reason that many of us saw this movie--we were dragged to it by our significant others. In my house, my attendance at Breaking Wind (as I affectionately referred to the movie) brought a promise from my wife that she would come with me to see the movie about the 'nasty hobbitses,' (to see it from her perspective).
Now that I know a little more about the book, though, I think it was pretty clever for the movie folks to sneak in the big battle scene, without changing the (rather lame, from my perspective) ending of the book, where the antagonists arrive, look around, and basically say, "Oh, sorry to have bothered you, we thought something different was going on." An ending that is hardly action packed.
I had oh, so many problems with this series. The flatness of Bella's character, her suicidal impulses in the one movie, the first marital sex that left her bruised, and the 'bonding' with the infant. (And am I the only one who saw those final visions, and thought that in the end, there WAS a creepy romantic component to the relationship between "Nessie" and Jacob once she grew up? Eeeeewwww!) And the gigantic expository lump where the caricatures (oops, should that be characters?--no, on second thought, my initial instinct was correct) of the other vampires and their powers were introduced was a lesson to me as a fledgling writer NEVER to construct a tale in that manner.
The movie was the best of the series, but to my mind, that is a very low bar for achievement.
Matthew Abel
20. MatthewAbel
I saw it! The wife had me go with her. I have never read the books, though I have read excerpts. Many people who know have informed me I would not enjoy them.

I did not enjoy this movie and everything chronicled here holds true. The big "twist" at the end certainly had me fooled. I embarrassed myself with a loud "What?" at that bit. Walked out for a minute, then sat with my wife to wait for it to end, finally.

The only way such silliness might have been saved would be if the movie ended right after the reveal. No leaving, no nonsense in flowery fields, just cut to the credits after Michael Sheen lets go of the Vampire pixie's neck.

I tried explaining this to my wife, but she didn't hear me - she liked it. The battle was very exciting. Except that it didn't happen. It's not a mindfuck if it doesn't matter in the end. It's just lying really well.
23. i8cookies
Hahahaha, ahem. Read the books, saw the first movie, and then I was so done. Read Luminosity - it was okay. Admittedly, very good for fanfiction, and certainly better than the Twilight series, but I didn't love it. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality on the other hand, I did really like; the writing wasn't particularly good, but the convoluted plot amused and entertained me by turns, with touching/funny gems throughout.

As mentioned before... hearing what I've heard, I would have just stopped after the fight scene. Off with their heads!
Vivian U
24. Viviannn
"...what offended me so much was the lack of regard any of the creators
of this movie had for making it. It’s like the cast and crew got
together on a free weekend and shot the whole thing on the CBS backlot." But can you blame them, given what they had to work with? And as long as the damn series is making money, they have to keep filming it, no matter how bad it gets. Or think they do. I feel sorry for them.
25. JohnM
Not being a fan of the books or the movies, I'm willing to go along with almost all of your rant. Except for the part about Aro walking away from the fight. Based on what you've written, he is given a vision of the outcome of the battle; he dies and his side loses. The only rational thing to do at that point is walk away. To fight knowing that it's for nothing and would cost him everything would make him an idiot at best.
Alex Brown
26. AlexBrown
@John: Actually, no. He didn't just see the fight, he saw the whole strategy. All he had to do was change his - specifically killing Bella, which knocks out her protection abilities that are key to her side's survival - and everyone else falls like dominoes. Aro gave up the perfect opportunity to win the war by acting a fool and walking away.

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