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'Breaking Dawn' Sheds Light On Twilight's True Heroine

The franchise finally dies with a whimper.

 

While I am definitely not the intended audience for “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” that's not to say I couldn't at least find something to like in the previous movies. While I didn't particularly care for them, vampires who sparkle in the sunlight are almost impossible to take too seriously. So as long as the stakes were low and it remained harmless fluff, I could laugh and enjoy the ridiculously awful, yet still strangely enjoyable spectacle that is “Twilight.”

Then “Breaking Dawn” happened, and I just couldn't really enjoy the ride anymore. For one thing, it actually tried to talk about issues like abortion. Sorry kids, but stick to pretending you have problems. You just aren't talented enough for issues that require actual skill to address. And it upped the stakes without the consequences. Lack of consequences was fine for the earlier books, but when you actually start talking about putting everyone's lives in danger, that generally leads to something actually happening. Not so much here. And since this is a movie that the studio somehow felt was worth being split into two parts, that makes it feel all the more disposable.

“Breaking Dawn Part 2” picks up right after the first one left off, with Bella (Kristen Stewart) now transformed into a vampire, as well as a far more interesting character. (But that's not much of an accomplishment, since that girl really had nowhere to go but up.) As a newborn, she's actually stronger than her hubby Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and she's loving being a vampire, along with all the power that comes with it.

And Bella gets to meet her daughter Renesmee, which leads to one of the movie's biggest mistakes: until she is the actual age of the actress who plays her, she is one creepy, unnatural-looking CGI baby and child that is really distracting. She's half-human and has a heartbeat, but of course, Bella is able to control herself better than any newborn they've ever seen, so she's no danger to her daughter. That said, they're kinda worried because Renesmee seems to be growing awfully fast.

But the story doesn't really get going until after a member of another vampire clan, Irina, sees Renesmee and thinks that the Cullens have created an immortal child, which is apparently one the biggest crimes a vampire can commit. It is explained that in the past, vampire children have proved to be very powerful, insatiable in their thirst for blood, and completely incapable of controlling themselves. But since to see them was to love them, whole vampire covens willingly died to protect them.

Irina reports the Cullens to the vampire enforcers, the Volturi, so the Cullens decide to gather as many witnesses as they can so they can plead their case. So the various members of the Cullen family travel across the globe to collect a colorful cast of characters, some of whom have their own powers and abilities that include control over the elements or creating illusions. And since Jacob grew very attached to Renesmee in the previous film (he imprinted on her, which I guess means he'll always be eternally devoted to someone else now for no real reason), he and his pack are also prepared to fight.

This actually leads to one of the only funny scenes in the movie, wherein Bella gets understandably upset and protective of her daughter and actually starts shoving Jacob around, with Edward loving every second. (And really, since Jacob was the guy constantly trying to steal Bella away, with Bella insisting on keeping him in her life and calling him her best friend, who could blame him?)

To her credit, Kristen Stewart actually seems to be relishing playing Bella as a character who actually does things like training and fighting. These are actually the only scenes where I ever saw her smile, and that includes the really weird and awkward sex scenes.

So we have our cast of characters, our foes, and...well, in the book you could get away with a lot of standing around and talking in the final confrontation, but that's not allowed in a movie folks. I suppose the way they actually added a fight scene was the best they could do, but nothing could have made the final confrontation less of a disappointment without deviating from the book. The only person in this movie who looks like he's having fun is Michael Sheen, who plays Aro, the head of the Volturi, in a gleefully over-the-top and campy performance.

But the thing that really irritates me about the movie and the franchise in general, however, is the lack of consequences. Other really great teen series ranging from “Harry Potter” to “The Hunger Games” don't sugarcoat so much: they examine heroes who are forced to confront and fight evil, and the consequences they pay for doing the right thing. They are forced to make horrific choices that take a mental and physical toll on them, and people close to them die.

In this series its the lack of consequences we well as its insistence on taking itself seriously that keep it from being great. Bella becomes a vampire but is still able to walk in the sun. And she doesn't have to face yet another price of being a vampire: she is able to keep her family (or at least her father) in her life without putting him in danger by telling him the truth or causing him incredible emotional pain by pretending she's dead. She doesn't have to choose between Edward and Jacob. She also gets all the benefits of vampire life while still being able to experience some of the most rewarding parts of human life by having a child. Bella also never has to face any real moral dilemmas or the ugliness of vampire life; she is briefly tempted to kill a human, but is able to gain control of herself and run away, and she is never tempted to harm or drink from her daughter. So in a way, she never really becomes an adult in spite of all the outward adult milestones like marriage and childbirth.

But that said, I would actually welcome a relaunch. Yes, you read that right. In spite of having nothing good to say about this movie, I wouldn't mind a remake...as long as they focused on the books' real heroine. Because while Bella is an important part of the story, she's actually the catalyst, the princess in the tower. Sure, she moves the story along in a passive way, but it would be a pretty boring adventure if all we read about was her sitting in her pretty prison.

I propose that the real heroine of the book is...Alice, Edward's sister and Bella's vampire BFF. After all, she has a fascinating backstory, as well as a very useful ability that has enough limitations to keep her interesting. She not only has premonitions of events but actually takes pretty decisive action right from the first book when she sees the nomads. Alice is also the one who finds out Bella is alive and takes her to Edward in “New Moon.” And in the last book, she is not only able to see that the Volturi are coming and when, she is the one who leaves the family to find evidence that will help Renesmee, as well as provide an escape for her if things go wrong. Alice is also the real prize that the Volturi are after, not Bella. Oh, and she's also quirky, beautiful, independent, fun, and kind, not to mention fashionable and an excellent party planner.

Yet despite all this, “Breaking Dawn Part 2” hit all the right notes with the audience. They gasped, shouted, and cheered at all the right times. And while I was walking out of the theater, I even heard one person remark that they could see it 30 times. So while it does satisfy its core fans, I just wish it could've left a few scraps for the rest of us.

 

Grade: C-

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