In trying to balance the hopes of the passionately devoted fans of the Twilight series (are there any other kind?), who want to see every single word of the books up on the screen and the realities of cinematic storytelling that limit a feature length movie script to about 110 pages, Summit Entertainment has opted for a third priority, the maximization of ticket sales. The decision to split the fourth and last book of the series into two movies may satisfy the most avid of the Twihards but the result is a movie that is sluggish and dragged out. And when “Twilight” gets dragged out, that exposes the weakest parts of what even many fans acknowledge is the most problematic of the four books, with too much time to focus on some of the story’s most outlandish absurdities.
In the last episode, 18-year-old human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) became engaged to 100-plus-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and this one begins with the delivery of the wedding invitation. Bella’s mother is excited. Her father is resigned. And Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the wolf-boy who shares a mystical connection with Bella, is so angry that he has to take his bad wolf self up to run around Northern Canada for a while. Meanwhile, Bella has the usual wedding jitters — will she be able to walk in those high, high heels Alice is making her wear? Will the friends and family on both sides manage to get through the wedding without killing each other — literally? And will she survive a wedding night with a vampire? She does not have to worry about whether Jacob will take his shirt off because that happens in the first ten seconds of the film.
Even some Twilight fans admit that author Stephenie Meyer wrote herself into something of a corner by the time she started the last book. She has said that the idea for the human/vampire love story came from her commitment to writing about a loving relationship where physical intimacy was impossible. But in the last volume (so far), she decided to go there anyway. There are some things one can suspend disbelief for more easily in a book than more explicitly portrayed in film and a flashback to a 1930’s Edward watching Elsa Lanchester’s “Bride of Frankenstein” as he waits to pounce on human prey (meticulously chosen, Dexter-style — killers only) elicited laughter from the audience, as did the literally bed-smashing wedding night. A bigger problem is that four movies in, Bella and Edward still do not have much to talk about beyond how much they love one another and the logistics of their very mixed marriage. Edward actually researches vampire babies on the internet (a take-me-right-out-of-the-movie product placement from Yahoo search which should inspire nothing more from the audience than a Google search to see whether Yahoo still exists). And, frustratingly, Meyer begins to bend the rules of her own world, where blood means one thing in one scene and then everyone seems to forget about it in another. There is a very weird detour into a pro-life/pro-choice debate — is the creature Bella is carrying a child or a fetus? If, as it appears, continuing the pregnancy means certain death for her, should she have an abortion?
I’m enough of a fan to have enjoyed the wedding scene and even the honeymoon, even with the cleaning crew at the perfect getaway with an ocean view glaring at Edward because in their simple native way they can tell he is a demon. And I liked seeing Edward respect Bella’s relationship with Jacob. I laughed, but I was touched, too, when Bella, terribly sick with the pregnancy, is cold, and all three of them realize that only Jacob, the human furnace, can warm her up, and even when he and Edward do a sort of Vulcan mind meld to figure out what Bella and the baby need. But the best scene in the movie is the one that comes midway through the credits, featuring the much-missed Michael Sheen, letting us know that the final chapter will be less sap and more action.
Parents should know that this film has sexual references and suggestive and semi-explicit situations, a very traumatic pregnancy and delivery with some very graphic images, and some fantasy violence. A character deals with stress by saying, “I plan on getting drunk.”
Family discussion: Who had the right to decide what Bella should do? Loyalties shift several times through the movie – what did that show us about the characters’ priorities?
If you like this, try: the books by Stephanie Meyer and the previous three movies