There’s a movie rule a colleague of mine coined – called “Groom Go Kaboom” – that has bearing on the newest Twilight film. The rule states that no wedding in movie history has ever gone off according to plan. Since we all know the structure of a wedding, there’s no need to waste valuable screen time on the whole event. If the filmmaker wants to show two people getting married, he cuts to the big romantic kiss or the happy couple leaving the chapel; no further elaboration required. If, on the other hand, we see the early stages of the wedding -- the walk down the aisle, the priest’s spiel, etc. – it means they’re getting ready to throw it all into a cocked hat. Ninjas attack, Duck Face punches Charles, Dustin Hoffman blocks the exit with a cross… something dramatic will happen.
If you doubt the veracity of this rule, then I dare you to sit through the first thirty minutes of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 without jabbing your eyes out. It covers the marriage of swoony teen Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) in full-bore moment-by-moment detail. Nothing of importance happens; we just soak in the petty details of her big day. Bella gets prepped, Bella has her hair and make-up done, Bella walks down the aisle, Bella says her vows, Bella kisses her beloved on his sparkly lips, Bella hears speeches from friends and family , Bella slow dances with Edward, Bella moons about how happy she is, Bella Bella Bella Bella Bella Bella… Some of us may modestly hope for something – anything – of consequence in the midst of this frilly white Bataan Death March, but that would provide marginally less screen time for the leads to gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes. We get a pointless flashback covering Edward’s brief foray into actual vampirism and a dire warning from jilted werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner), but otherwise it’s nothing but a torturous slog through endless pages of Bridal Wet Dream magazine.
Soon enough, we’re off to an isolated Brazilian island for the honeymoon and finally – after four insufferable movies – Bella and Edward get it on. But in keeping with the core material’s Puritanical values, sex can only end in horror and death. Bella gets pregnant with a demon child and is whisked back to the vampire compound where she can look wan and emaciated while the thing in her belly drains her dry. Both the sex scene and the rapidly accelerated monstrous birth demand a mature approach, which this eternally juvenile franchise is incapable of mustering. The filmmakers seem to share Bella’s squeamishness at the thought of her losing it, turning what should be a moment of erotic awakening into a clumsily executed farce. The big gross-out birth suffers a similar fate, losing the book’s singular source of body horror in favor of hazy swoons and Edward’s silly grin. The Twilight saga and its fans constantly demand to be taken seriously, and yet when these moments of truth finally arrive – when the film has a chance to put on its grown-up pants and show us the actual impact of its stick-figure storyline – it scuttles terrified into the corner.
Even worse, the saga seems blissfully ignorant of the creepy-in-all-the-wrong-ways thematic undertones on display. Lovers plot to cut everyone else out of their lives, obsessive stalker behavior is considered the height of romanticism, and the films run screaming from their few genuine sources of passion and horror lest baby Jesus cast them all into Hell. It culminates in a moment here that I defy anyone to justify: something so inadvertently hilarious and yet so unintentionally grotesque that the entire franchise crumbles past the point of repair. That author Stephenie Meyer and the filmmakers could foist it on us is one thing; that so many people would not only accept it but actively embrace it speaks to a mass delusion that scares me far more than any of the soggy would-be horrors on screen.
Of course, the Twilight saga need never acknowledge such failings, let alone find some way to turn them into narrative assets. This franchise has never dealt with real consequences, human mistakes or living with uncomfortable truths. The overblown, undernourished drama serves solely as an excuse for the cast to fret over Bella and worry about her well-being. Queen bees and queen bee wannabes can thus fantasize about a universe where they truly are the only things on anyone’s mind. Like the rest of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn ignores any chance to develop its ideas, explore its underlying angst or even tell us an interesting story. Instead, it enables the repulsive worldview of pure unfiltered narcissism, in which a supposedly misunderstood girl gets everything her heart desires while dumping all over the people who make it happen. The film exists to enable her fantasies, and worse: to impart it to an entire generation of young girls. The anger it engenders goes beyond bad moviemaking into the realm of the actively toxic. I only pray the fanbase – whatever their age – has the wherewithal to grow out of it. Soon.