Being of sound mind and body, I will now attempt to review The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part II with as little foreknowledge of the book and film series' as possible. Hang on.
Taking one for the team here, folks.
A funny thing happened during this experiment. I tried, and eventually failed, to keep track of how many times I said, out-loud, "This is fucked up." Not yelled, or laughed, but just said, in a normal speaking voice, "This is fucked up," while watching The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part II. Let's talk about why.
Okay, so, how bad can it be, right? Optimism! Always give cultural watersheds the chance to win you over -- The Hunger Games acting as a good indicator that things can still surprise me. With no prior reading or viewing experience of the Twilight franchise, save for the funny but still-painful Twilight 1 Rifftrax, which taught me that a mustache is a big responsibility, I made the brazen decision to watch this here final Twilight movie. For science! I'm a smart guy, I can figure out what's going on! Something this popular can't be complicated. I know it's about chastity and vampires and mustaches, and I know that their names are Edward and Bella, and I don't care about how or why the girl hooks up with a werewolf while her vampire boyfriend is away. Just tell me how it ends! Do they finally fuck? Do they finally fight? Does Kristen Stewart finally install her emotion chip and stop tottering around like she has two left wooden feet?
Perhaps, most pertinent, is it actually bad?
In short, it's bad in ways you couldn't have possibly imagined. If this is adored by millions, we really do have a concussion problem in this country.
Disturbingly enough, I can see why the Twilight series is popular. There are vampires, and extra-worldly rules that need explaining, and all of the kitchens are so fucking nice, like you filled out your registry at Pottery Barn and you got everything on it! The stories have bigger-than-us themes, so Cullen family's lives might come off as dramatic -- if your own life is really that trite. It has peaceful, yet bizarre, domestic moments nestled between needling, manufactured seriousness. Household drama, except, check it, these vampires all can run in fast-forward and read each other's thoughts. The characters are simple, breezy creatures made from twigs and straw, and I bet a lot of people identify with them.
And it's terrible that people identify with them.
Question THE FIRST: Do they finally fuck?
Answer: Yes! Actually, I guess they already did in the last movie (but they also have a minor bone-session in this one, too, down in a cottage in the woods). Now, stick with me. Our 'tagonists, dude-vampire and girl-girl, their half-mad / half-CGI baby was born in the last movie. Wait, so why the hell is this movie even happening? Wasn't Bella's main motivation in life to get her vampire boyfriend to fuck a baby into her? And didn't that already happen?
Question THE SECOND: Why does this movie exist?
Answer: If the extended -- and supposedly only in the series, according to IMDB (research!) -- opening credits sequence wasn't enough to give away that they were padding the shit out of this one, we're really in it for the money, aren't we?
Because a human girl fucked a vampire, which is taboo (since when, vampire mythology-writers?!) their medium-hellspawn baby-cherub is growing up magic-super-fast! Which is bad? Which is bad. So, meanwhile, there's this gaggle of Italian vampires that run the vampire show on Earth, and they're led by Michael Sheen, who also played a werewolf in Underworld, and he played a British person in Frost/Nixon. He's evil, and he's worried, because Shannon from Lost saw the medium-grown-up CGI baby catching snowflakes with Kristen Stewart and a big wolf, who she used to date, but now they're just friends, and the wolf is in love with the baby, because wolves... love... abuse. Upon seeing the baby-child, Shannon from Lost knew that something was rotten in Denver. As a character-reference for why she thought this, Shannon from Lost also played Liam Neeson's daughter in Taken, and has never been right about anything, but Michael Sheen gets word from her that this baby is half-CGI, indicating that it might be hellspawn, and a threat to his role as Vamp-Pope and Dictator-For-Life regime as Lord High-Lord of Vampires.
Like Mister Hanky doing a stage performance of the Icarus myth, this shit will not fly, it seems. See, vampires are afraid of kid vampires, because they are wont to throw little vampire tantrums that would expose the vampires' existence to the world, and fuck that noise, vampires didn't become immortal so they could deal with screaming infants and humans, no way, it's all nice kitchens and Volvos for the modern vampire.
The important thing is that this isn't a formerly-human kid vampire that's been turned vampish and will be a baby forever like Kerstin Dunst in Interview With A Vampire. It was actually born. Yeah, so no biggie, false alarm, cancel the 2-hour movie, call Roma, and explain to the Vamp-Pope that this shit is locked down. Don't sweat it, brah.
Well, no, Vamp-Pope doesn't take calls. He believes Shannon from Lost instead. But then there's suspicion that this one girl, I think she's Edward's... I want to say sister? She looks like Tim Burton's Tinkerbell and her boyfriend looks like she beats him. Anyway, this Tinkerbell has mystical visions of badness, and there's a possibility that Vamp-Pope wants to kill off her friends and family to open her up as a free agent, hoping to sign her up for a long-term contract and utilize her vision-powers. She's a weird character. She's really nice to Kristen Stewart, even though Kristen Stewart does nothing to deserve it.
(Also, wasn't Anna Kendrick in these movies? Where is she when we need her?)
Question THE THIRD: Is this primary plot device just a misunderstanding?
Answer: Did you expect anything less? Yes, technically, the major conflict has to do with the main antagonist's interest in a sub-character, using the main characters as excuse for vampire-government-sanctioned murder for a law that's on the books. This is fucked up. Tinkerbell's boyfriend has her go into hiding to avoid being captured by the Italians.
Sidebar: In this movie, if you're a girl, and you're a vampire, you've got a boyfriend. They are always together and they stand really close to each other like they're checking themselves out in a mirror, but the reflection is the opposite-gender clone of themselves, and it's the most narcissistic, creepiest, incestiest thing ever.
In a month or so in move-time, the half-vampire, half-CGI baby grows to about eleven years old -- I keep saying that it's half-CGI because they frequently create the baby using special effects. (It's not a special effect, it's a child!) No, it's almost too fitting that the baby is an item added in post-production to Bella's idealized, precious little life. And no changing diapers, she just wants the baby to be eleven forever, and seriously, it looks like an American Girl doll. It's really fucked up. Forget trying to protect the kid from Italians, shouldn't the parents be worried that the kid is going to become a geriatric only a few months after she's born at this rate? Or is she magic sometimes?
Because, you see, life is a foggy mystery, and we must pray for love's lighthouse to shine onto us with truth and vampires or more hanging out in a tasteful cottage covered in ivy.
Question THE FOURTH: But don't they at least have a climactic vampire battle?
Answer: Oh, yes! However, first there is a drawn-out build up waiting for the Italians to come to confiscate the baby, or recruit Tinkerbell, or device-up this terrible plot. Not right away. They're immortal, so they take their time, and giving the good guys a few months to go visit relatives, and Edward's parents take some time in Egypt and Paris. Not an exaggeration. They recruit maybe twelve people to come and join the inevitable slap-fight with the Italians. What's fucked up about this is that they basically go to their friends and cousins and explain that they're going up against King of Vampireworld, and would you kindly come help fight? But the people they're asking are just normal folks that also happen to be vampires, be they French, or Brazilian, or math teacher, so it's the same as going to visit your neighbor and asking, "Hey, do you have a moment to hear about why the Lord High-Lord of Vampires is taking away our demon hellspawn grandchild?"
The Italians are obviously afraid of what the baby means, apparently she's an anomaly, and it's obvious they're using their fear of it being a tantrum-pire to kill it regardless. This bothers me. The Twilight books are all about girls holding onto their v-cards, and getting a great BF, and being subservient, and tradition, and having a nice car and a kitchen furnished by Crate 'N Barrel. Why are the tables suddenly turning and when the old-world comes knocking and saying, "Kristen Stewart, you bred an abomination, and it's a threat to the traditions of the world that you wanted in on for the last four movies, so don't be shocked, but we need to put the thing down," she turns into a cougar-tackling hypocrite. This is fucked up. It's one or the other, you can't have both, author of Twilight.
Eventually, maybe fifty bad guys in robes show up and they have a face-off on a frozen lake. Except it isn't a lake? More on that later. Opposite them are the roughly twelve or so good guy vampires. For a solid twenty minutes, they line up and they stare. They recap the plot. The bad guy indicates the child's potential danger. Kristen Stewart says that it's no big deal, she's 67% wood and she'll float in water, just like her love. This goes on for a bit. Then it goes on for even longer.
Dakota Fanning is also here, and she's a bad vampire. Shannon from Lost gets her head ripped off as punishment for perjuring herself to the Lord High-Lord of Vampires.
Ah, so begins the head-ripping. Head-ripping has come to Twilight! Since these are vampires, they can only be killed in weird and unique ways, the easiest of which is getting heads ripped off. It's gonzo and it's completely out of left field. This was a movie about breaking up with an abusive vampire boyfriend. Now it's suddenly turned into a head-popping, action-figure brawl over minor confusion surrounding a kid's birth? Is this ballsy or just affirmation of how fucked up it all is? It's both -- it's the movie having its cake and selling it too. It's a giant "fuck-you," and a giant fling of magician's glitter into the face of anybody that still had an opinion about Twilight, negative or positive, and it just goes so far that you can't even make fun of it anymore, which I think was the plan. It kind of makes sense that a series this bizarre and irrational could only conclude with a massive Twilight-themed Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
Everybody fights. Mom and dad and Tinkerbell and heads roll, and one dude opens a magma chasm under ground. See, it wasn't ice at all!
Question THE FIFTH: What does it all mean in the end?
++ BIG-HUGE PLOT-TWIST SPOILERS ++
The whole brawl was aactually just a vision created by Tinkerbell to warn the Lord High-Lord of Vampires of the coming bloodshed. Then a fully-grown vampire-human hybrid shows up outta nowhere, 150 years old, and explains that he was like the CGI-baby, and these creatures are not the heralds of Galactus or anything. They ask him if he has any dietary restrictions, and then that's that. Bullshit. Bull-fucking-shit. Not the fake-Dragonball Z throwdown-vision, and then retracting it like that one mythical season of Dallas, no, that was fine. It's the fact that the Vamp-Pope sees this human-vampire hybrid and accepts like Grinch with an expanding hard, welcoming it as proof that they are no threat. That's impossible. That would be like if a gay couple approached the Vatican, married in secret for seventy years, and saying, "Check it out, our apparently-heretical existence hasn't hurt anybody," and this being accepted and blessed by the ruling body. The Vamp-Pope was prepared to slaughter some innocents under the guise of killing a vampire-abomination-child, just to get Tinkerbell to work for him, do you think he'd have a change of heart because he saw a fully-grown abomination? That would never happen, especially if you're a thousand year-old vampire that's been on the job for centuries. Job security, man!
There are so many mixed messages in this movie. In addition to being terribly structured, terribly acted, with bad, creepy fake-children and directionless motivation for character actions, its themes are all over the map.
It raises some heady questions and it fails with all of them. Are we supposed to fight the authority (always, even when we're contradictory!)? Are we supposed to respect tradition (only when it's quaint!)? What constitutes a loving relationship (manipulation is power!)? What's the right motivation to want a child (only when it's quaint!)?
I thought it might be good for a laugh. Instead, I just feel weirded-out and disturbed because I know that it's so schlocky, but there are people that adore these stories and identify with the characters. There is a calm scariness about these books and movies that I could not have imagined being so terrible on so many levels. But now it's over.
At least we have Katniss now. That's kind of a win.