The fourth installment of the paranormal, pasty teen melodrama known as “The Twilight Saga” begins with a thought. The headstrong ingenue and perpetual target of bestial man lust, Bella Swan, contemplates the meaning of maturation, the transformation from adolescence to adulthood all the while striving for poignancy of the highest order. And then werewolf boy rips his shirt off. The horror has begun.
There’s always been much to mock with regards to Stephenie Meyer’s sparkly vampire story and deservedly so. Both the books and the films, with their wooden characterization and nonsensical plotting, seem like the botched, bastard child between the worst imaginable harlequin romance and a Lifetime Original Movie. Fortunately, “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” avoids this reductive criticism. It’s far too troubling for comparison.
Ostensibly, the story of “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” follows the same schmaltzy string as any other romantic film. Bella and Edward, those two melancholy teens have finally found their match in temper and skin hue. They’ve fallen in love, they’ve overcome rival vampires (both Italian and dreadlocked) as all couples must do before they’re truly committed and now, the wedding is afoot. Soon, a honeymoon follows with a baby on the way. Only this is “Twilight,” so the tale is infinitely more fucked up.
The wedding itself begins normally as normal as any vampire-human union could. Bella, played by an always cardboard Kristen Stewart, walks down the aisle riddled with anxiety. But, then she sees Edward. They exchange vows, they kiss in slow-motion and ab-crazy werewolf Jacob warns Bella that Edward will kill her with his sexual prowess. So, a normal wedding for a series that already caters to antiquated notions of patriarchy and abstinence. The plot becomes unbelievably ludicrous from here: They have sex, the bed is broken, the room destroyed and the natural consequence results. A baby, you think? No, a demon fetus.
Yes, a demon fetus. For the next hour or so, Bella slowly deteriorates as this demon fetus gradually kills her. This would only be nominally offensive if the filmmakers, or Stephenie Meyer made any attempt to explain this madness. Why do vampires have sperm again? How could this spawn even exist? Why hasn’t the United States government not weaponized this phenomenon yet? These questions are never answered. Like all the other “Twilight” films, the mythology established is never fully fleshed out. Instead, there are only lingering shots of alabaster flesh sans substance.
This is the very core of what’s wrong with the “Twilight” films and especially this latest installment. The book and the films are already insane due to their disturbing, puritanical didacticism and shoddy direction. The climax of “Breaking Dawn: Part 1” sees Edward rip the demon fetus out of Bella’s stomach with his teeth and if that wasn’t weird enough, the camera oscillates in and out of focus in a sad attempt to add gravitas to the situation. It doesn’t.
The films have a chance to make light of this horrid and intensely insipid story. They could make it camp, revel in its histrionic lunacy. Instead, the entire saga, including “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” takes itself far too seriously and even worse than that, the films are utterly dull.
In a completely different genre, “Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” would be both hilarious and a thinly-veiled warning against abusive boyfriends and poor filmmaking. As a horror movie, “Breaking Dawn — Part 1” would succeed in spades. Then the glacial pacing, the lifeless acting or the casual sexism would be palatable, the disbelief could be suspended. Sadly, this is not a horror film. It’s just horrible.