I 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.
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.
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?
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.