A film review by Craig J. Koban December 12, 2012




Part 1:

2011, PG-13, 117 mins.

Part 2: 

2012, PG-13, 115 mins.

Bella Swan: Kristen Stewart / Edward Cullen: Robert Pattinson / Jacob Black: Taylor Lautner / Charlie Swan: Billy Burke / Dr. Carlisle Cullen: Peter Facinelli / Esme Cullen: Elizabeth Reaser / Emmett Cullen: Kellan Lutz / Rosalie Hale: Nikki Reed / Jasper Hale: Jackson Rathbone / Alice Cullen: Ashley Greene / Aro: Michael Sheen / Jane: Dakota Fanning / Renesmee: Mackenzie Foy

Directed by Bill Condon / Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer

The largest accolade that I could possibly bestow upon THE TWILIGHT SAGA is that it is hopefully now…finally…completely…and unalterably over as a film series, which should reverberate with collective sighs of joygasmic relief for all of the non-Twi-hards out there that have not devoured Stephenie Meyer’s source books and cinematic adaptations.  

I have more than resigned myself to the notion that the five films of the series are indeed not made for me, but rather for the raging young adolescent female fan base that adores them, regardless of faults.  I accept that.  I do.  I really, really do.  What I don’t accept is that, in my mind, these films are overly long, ludicrously written, cringe-inducingly performed, and contain all the soulful romance of a Hallmark greeting card…all stretched out to a borderline unendurable 608 minutes.   

I failed to screen and review the fourth entry, BREAKING DAWN: PART 1 last year, which I have begrudgingly corrected now.  So, to spare me the torture of having my time utterly wasted by writing two separate reviews of BREAKING DAWN 1 and the recently released PART 2, I have opted to combine them into one review.  This gives me not only a sense of satisfying critical closure to the werewolves versus vampire meets Romeo and Juliet fantasy universe, but it also frees my time to peruse other worthwhile  endeavors...like living my life. 

I have also opted, as a result, to keep this double feature review, of sorts, pared simplistically down to a list.  Here are my…

8 REASONS WHY THE TWILIGHT FILMS - and, more specifically, BREAKING DAWN PARTS 1 and 2 - SUCK (no vampire pun intended):

1.  Eye-rollingly dopey and soap opera-esque melodramatic writing that reaches levels of inadvertent camp. 

The first few entries in the TWILIGHT series dealt with the love triangle between a mortal human named Bella (Kristen Stewart), a vampire named Edward (Robert Pattinson) and a werewolf named Jacob (Taylor Lautner), during which Bella tormented her suitors with deciding whether she would side with "Team Edward" or "Team Jacob".  She finally opted for the sparkling façade of Edward (vampires in this series shimmer in the daylight…oy vey...see point #3) and as BREAKING DAWN 1 opens Bella and Edward prepare for their wedding, get hitched, and then head off to a romantic honeymoon in Rio, where she hopes to finally loose her virginity to…a bloodsucking immortal monster.  

Never once does the thought of any repercussions of getting nailed by a powerful nosferatu cross her mind, so Bella does allow herself to get deflowered by Edward during some bead and headboard-breaking (literally!) intercourse (done with PG-13-ified eroticism and veiled nudity).  Weeks after the marriage and honeymoon, Bella discovers that…something (emphasis on thing) is growing in her belly.  It appears that an unprecedented vamp/human hybrid baby is growing at an alarming rate in the womb, which is having the negative side effect of slowly killing her.  In the scene’s notorious climax, Bella gives bloody birth to her new child, dies, and then is resurrected by Edward and turned into a vampire.  Meanwhile, Jacob (remember him?) finds a rather…shall we say…disturbing and icky solution to deal with his feelings for Bella: he imprints himself on the new baby, which is an involuntary response by a werewolf when he finds his soul mate.  A call to social services should have been warranted. 

In BREAKING DAWN PART 2 Bella awakens to find herself a rather powerful vampire.  Cool.  But her daughter Renesmee is growing at an accelerated rate, achieving child growth in days versus years.  Word of the baby’s existence reaches the lords of the Volturi and their leader, Aro (Michael Sheen), who fears that the child is an immortal and will destroy their kind.  Edward, Bella, and the rest of their clan seek out other vamps from around the world and team up with Jacob and his werewolf tribe to have a final battle versus their sworn enemy in the Volturi for the soul of Renesmee. 

At no point during any of this did I care about what would happen to anyone in these two films. 

2.  The central romance between Edward and Bella is still more creepy than romantic.   

The crutch of TWILIGHT is the love between a 100-plus year old creature that has repeated the twelve grade 84 times and a teenage girl.  Little is given as to why Bella wants to spend her time with a creature that could, at any time, bite into her and rob her of a normal, mortal life, outside of the fact that she lusts after him because…well…he looks just like Robert Pattinson.  More or less, the films play up to every young adolescent girl’s fantasy of choosing between two limitlessly attractive boys and then finally loosing your virginity to one of them without worrying about consequences.  When Bella wakes up after her honeymoon sexcapades with Edward she is literally covered with bruises due to his freakish strength and then, more hellishly, begins to slowly die while being pregnant with his baby.  If this is her idea of lifelong love than she needs a straight jacket. 

3. The vampires presented here are the least intriguing I’ve ever seen in a film. 

Movie vampires have always seemed like doomed and haunted figures that seem to inspire a level of pathetic pity in them; they always felt cursed in so many films.  In TWILIGHT being a member of the undead is almost something nifty to aspire to, seeing as you can live forever, have a sparkling complexion, have limitless strength, endurance, and speed, and…whoops…wait a tick...you have to drink blood to survive.  And Bella disturbingly craves this lifestyle.  Count me out. 

4.  None of the superficial main characters are altogether likeable or compellingly defined. 

Pattinson is more like a wax mannequin than a relatable persona throughout the series as Edward: good looking, poised, but a blank slate nonetheless.  Lautner’s performance is essentially about posturing with his abs and pecs and his Jacob broods and sulks so much about not having Bella that you kind of want to slap him.  Stewart’s Bella has to be one of the most dislikable, self-absorbed, and graceless female protagonists in recent film memory.  She makes choices that only seem to really benefit only herself throughout the course of the films while shamelessly leading others astray (poor Jacob) and treating those closest in her life like non-existent entities (her father, Charlie - played thanklessly by what appears like a thoroughly bored Billy Burke - is especially given rough emotional treatment). 

5.  These films really, really squander proven talent. 

You have doubts on this one?  Plllleeeeaase.  Just consider:  

Director Chris Weitz (directed THE GOLDEN COMPASS and co-directed ABOUT A BOY) made NEW MOON.  David Slade (who made one of the best films of 2006 in HARD CANDY) made ECLIPSE.  Bill Condon took over for them both to helm BREAKING DAWN, who previously made DREAMGIRLS and GODS AND MONSTERS.  I think my case for the directors is closed. 

Many seasoned actors are squandered here too, like Anna Kendrick, Burke, and, more obviously and blatantly, Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning, the former who is perhaps is the only performer in the cast to play his role so hysterically over-the-top as to let us know that he’s in on the joke that is this series.  Fanning, on the other hand, plays a Volturi vamp with very special powers that is so woefully undeveloped, so inconsequential, and so lacking in a reason for existing that you have to wonder why an actress of her caliber would agree to take part (outside of an easy payday, of course).    

6.  Horrendous – almost laughable – visual effects and even more horrid dialogue. 

There are many visual moments in BREAKING DAWN that invite our mocking ridicule or, even worse, a disturbed raised eyebrow.  A would-be romantic and scenic nocturnal swim at a Rio beach by Bella and Edward seems to pathetically be the product of shoddy greenscreen work.  The wolves themselves are adequately rendered, but when they engage in telepathic dialogue exchanges it gets a lame chuckle.  Moments involving Bella and Edward racing through the forests like DC Comics' The Flash never once look authentic.  Also, the CG work making the already skinny Stewart into a skinnier and more sickly and emaciated impregnated Bella are okay, but using CG to create a baby version of Renesmee is so oddly spine-chilling and off-putting, making you wish the baby didn’t exist.  Like the E-trade baby in those chillingly unfunny commercials, Renesmee - or any infant, for that matter - personalized with computer tinkering is not in any way adorable. 

As for dialogue, I could go on forever here.  One of the biggest howlers occurs when Burke’s Charlie sees his granddaughter as a fully grown girl a mere weeks after seeing her as a baby: “My, how you’ve grown!  You must be six inches taller!”  Never once does he do a double take or inquire as to the Renesmee's miraculous growth spurt.  Edward gets a lion’s share of bad dialogue, like (to Bella) “No measure of time with you will be long enough, but we’ll start with forever” (ouch!) or – in expository dialogue – “Jacob imprinted Renesmee.  She can’t be hurt.  Whomever a werewolf imprints on can’t be harmed.  It’s their most absolute law” (double ouch!). The dialogue here in the films – regardless of coming in the form of Harlequin romance platitudes or given the audience story information – is absolute in its silly atrociousness.  One bit gets a laugh, though (Bella to Jacob): “You named my baby after the Lochness Monster!?”  Nice. 

7.  The ludicrous bait and switch ending of BREAKING DAWN 2. 

Don’t. Get. Me. Started. 

8.  BREAKING DAWN was not hastily upconverted to 3D, but it was based on a single book that was splintered into two unnecessary films. 

Uh…er…wait.  That first statement is actually a positive.  My bad.  Moral victory and point to TWILIGHT.  As for the latter sentiment…for shame.

  H O M E