It’s had its share of detractors and naysayers, but Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, a popular and lucrative franchise that has raked in over $2 billion at the box office and spurred a renewed obsession with vampires and werewolves. Unfortunately for its fans, however, the series drew to a close this past weekend with the release of its final chapter, Breaking Dawn, Part 2. As such, we thought it would be a good time to hunker down and examine what it is, exactly, that made the series such a hit. To that end, we’ve commissioned two dedicated RT staffers — one fan and one neophyte — to trade observations on The Twilight Saga. Today, we bring you the last chapter of the discussion, which focuses on Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final installment of the franchise.
Cat: I didn’t know what to expect from Bella’s transition, but all I can say is: finally, this is a Bella I can get behind. She exudes confidence. It is clear that she has come into her own, and I find her to be vastly more relatable as she feels more comfortable in her own skin. I’m still a little annoyed it took four movies to get here, but as I’ve said before, I’ll take what I can get when it comes to this franchise. Props go to KStew for such an appealing performance as a newborn. I was skeptical on how it would be shot, but I thought showing how hyper-sensitive she is to her natural surroundings was fantastic. I felt like I was in the movie, experiencing it with her. This movie had me captivated from the beginning. Everything — from her running through the woods, to taking down a mountain lion, to then trying to act human, so Charlie wouldn’t notice a change — was superb.
Jeff: Cat, you’re making me feel bad for laughing during Bella’s first “newborn” hunting scene. I understand what you’re saying, and I was just as glad as you were to see Bella finally do something besides mope around, but I thought Kristen Stewart was in way over her head during those scenes. She’s okay when it comes to the newfound grace, confidence, and sexiness that Bella’s supposed to exude, but when she tries to show feral power — or rage — she’s as clumsy and adorable as a baby bird trying to peck its way out of its shell.
C: How perfect was Bella’s reaction to finding out about Jake imprinting on her infant daughter? I don’t think I could have expected anything more from her. Her reaction and performance were simply a joy and fun to watch play out. Let us not forget about the infamous lake monster nickname Jake gave his baby love. Hilarious! However, did anyone else think it was weird that Jake was always around her? I know he imprinted on her, but I didn’t realize that meant him being present for EVERYTHING. If I was that little girl, I would have found it very odd.
J: Well, you already know how I felt about Stewart trying to get tough in this movie. But overall, I thought director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg did a fairly good job of demonstrating Jake’s devotion for young Renesmee while laying the groundwork for their eventual love affair as subtly as possible. It’s one of many ways that Stephenie Meyer didn’t do the filmmakers any favors, but they manage to walk the line pretty sensitively — and kudos to Taylor Lautner for convincingly portraying one of the oddest, grossest character developments in recent cinematic memory.
C: I’m still working on buying the fact that Jake says his attraction to Bella all this time was because she was going to produce the child he’d imprint on. That just wasted his point in the first four movies, for the most part. I think Jacob is the stronger of the two main men, character-wise, and to use that as a cop-out seems so out of character for him. This simply dumbed him down and negated the whole love triangle.
J: Well, except for the fact that the members of his tribe aren’t in control of their imprinting. He didn’t know it was going to happen, and once it did, it made everything clear for him — including his strange unwillingness to let Bella go. Gross implications aside — and yes, there are plenty of those — I thought it was an interesting way to resolve the Jacob-Bella-Edward love triangle. More interesting than the triangle itself, anyway.
C: What was the deal with Jake stripping in front of Charlie? He’s never worried before about his clothes ripping off when transforming. I’m all for a shirtless Taylor Lautner just as much as the next girl, but someone should have given him a better reason to be shirtless; too far-fetched and cheesy, but made for great laughs. In the real world, Charlie would have arrested him for being indecent in public, but then again, that would just make too much sense — something Twilight rarely entertains.
J: For a cop, Charlie is awfully passive — something underscored again in Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘s opening act, when he stays away for days even though he knows Bella’s going through some unspecified medical drama. As for the stripping scene, yeah, it was totally gratuitous, but the studio knows where its bread is butter — and there were definitely a lot of hoots and hollers in the packed screening I attended. Plenty of laughs, too.
C: I initially felt like I could have done without the last scene in the meadow — thinking, “Oh god, this again.” I simply have never cared about the love story between Edward and Bella and thought the better plot points had to do with the supernatural clan as well the action sequences. After realizing she was literally letting down her guard by pushing away her shield so he could see her thoughts, I was OK with it. I still would rather it have ended with the scene before, but again, I guess the Twi-hards would have been disappointed by not getting that last Bella/Edward scene.
J: I had that exact thought when I saw our lovebirds back in the meadow, and that scene essentially lived down to my expectations, especially since it basically served as the setup to yet another music video-type interlude (how many did we get in Breaking Dawn – Part 2? Four? I think that brings the franchise total to something like 10). I’ll say this much, though: Their extended flashback was a thoroughly soapy nod to the characters’ past, and kind of a sweet way of acknowledging the journey Twilight fans have gone on with Meyer and the filmmakers.
C: OK, I know I skipped ahead, but that’s because I’m still wrapping my head around the fight sequence in this film. I’ve waited a year to see this go down and I can’t help but feel a little let down. [SPOILER ALERT!] The fact that they had the balls to kill off some major characters was shocking — my mouth simply dropped when Aro killed Carlisle — but then to have the rug pulled out from under me because it turns out it was only one of Alice’s premonitions was a massive letdown. Don’t take me on such an emotional rollercoaster ride just to give me a big “psych!” at the end. I could have forgiven most everything else that was horrible about this saga had they simply gone with the astonishing ending.
J: It was kind of a copout, yeah. But I could see why they did it — it gave audiences a chance to have their cake and eat it too, serving up a big dose of climactic action without actually altering any of the narrative fabric of the franchise. I can see why you’d feel let down, because for a minute, it seems like a series that never takes any chances is finally going to go someplace interesting, but I was just grateful that things were actually happening on screen — whether or not they ended up being real.
That action sequence, to me, was the least of Breaking Dawn – Part 2‘s problems — even if it occasionally reminded me of an unintentionally funny attempt at vampire/werewolf professional wrestling, it didn’t have any problems with pacing or tonal consistency. This movie is just a mess — Condon and Rosenberg have to work overtime to compensate for four films’ worth of constant dithering, but they still need to fill up two hours of screen time with 45 minutes of story, so the movie herks and jerks like a teenager learning how to drive a manual transmission. There are these mad bursts of action and expository information (mostly information), followed by long stretches where nothing important is going on. If I hadn’t already seen the previous movies, I’d say it’s surprisingly clumsy.
Ultimately, I think The Twilight Saga would have been better off as a trilogy — or, even better, a five-season CW soap that had enough time to delve into the family drama that I thought was actually the interesting part of the story. These films weren’t targeted at me; I get that, and I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment of the series. I only wish they’d done a better job of actually, you know, being movies.
Written by Jeff Giles and Catherine Pricci