So, the final chapter of the Twilight saga is finally in cinemas, ending after a very successful run. As usual, twihards love it and critics hate it (for the most part). But Breaking Dawn Part 2 should be given a chance. In my humble opinion, this last film is better than the previous chapters of the saga. Why, do you ask? Because with the “impossible love” story and the love triangle being finally over we can focus on good vampire action? Because that battle scene was one of the most gripping parts of the whole saga? Well, that certainly helps. But there are many more reasons.
Here are some of them:
Bella and Edward’s relationship becomes healthier
During all the previous books and movies, the main characters have lived a very asymmetrical love story with Edward as a dominant and superior figure. He’s stronger, faster, has extra sensorial powers and a desire for Bella’s blood. She is just a clumsy teenager, unable to defend herself from the danger of the supernatural (including Edward’s blood-thirst). He can kill her with a snap of his fingers, and makes all the decisions for her to protect her, because she is defenseless, powerless.
But in this installment, Bella is a vampire too, and has the same strength, speed, habits and so on as Edward does. Should Edward (or any other vampire) decide to kill her for some reason, she would have the means to fight back. No one has to be held back and there’s not much of a difference in power. They are the same species now, have the same habits, and are finally equal. As such, Edward treats Bella better, lets her make her own choices, and at one point he even admits having underestimated her. For me, it has been a refreshing change in the dynamics of the couple.
Bella’s character finally awakens
In previous chapters of the Twilight saga, Bella, the main female character, was a clear example of a damsel in distress. In the first film, she is saved by Edward on three separate occasions (from the van first, then from the gang in Port Angeles, and finally from James the evil vampire), unable to confront the danger. She has very little power of decision and her primary goal in life is to love Edward, even if it puts her own life in danger (she says so herself). Due to the problems her love story poses, she spends a great deal of time in the previous movies brooding.
However, in this last part and after becoming a vampire, Bella finally shows some character. She is not a clumsy teenager anymore; she is now a fierce mum, stronger than many other vampires. She is determined. She gets properly angry at Jacob at the beginning (“Nessie! Like the Loch Ness Monster?”) instead of just being upset or catatonic. She hunts, she follows clues, she acts. This new Bella is stronger than the muscly Emmett, smashes rocks with her hands, and kicks Volturi ass. She still maintains her trademark apathetic expression in many scenes but there are some other expressions, too (happy being a vampire, angry at Jacob…mostly at the start of the movie). A woman who can smash a rock with her hands is no longer a damsel in distress.
Female characters are powerful and relevant
Twilight has many interpretations but up until now the female characters were mostly irrelevant (Rosalie) or evil (Victoria, Jane). Let’s start with the Cullen family: we have Esme, the housewife and caretaker; Rosalie, the beautiful young woman whose biggest dream was to get married; and Alice, the shopaholic who loves to party. That’s how women should be according to Twilight: caring, beautiful, and modern. Not smart, strong, or willful. When there is something important to do (save Bella, for example) they leave it to the men of the family and to the werewolves (think back, who killed James in Twilight? Who killed Victoria in Eclipse?). Alice has been relevant in many of the installments thanks to her power of seeing the future, but her presence was not that important in the last movie.
Although this remains mostly unchanged in Breaking Dawn Part 2, there are three exceptions, three women who are there to act, besides being love interests, three women with exceptional powers. The first one is, surprisingly, Bella, who can protect others from the enemy with her mind (becoming a vampire has really been beneficial for this one) and this she proves to be quite helpful in battle. The second one is Alice, of course, who is one step ahead of everyone during a great part of the movie and in the end saves them all. Yes, dear twi-fan, without Alice, half of your beloved wolves would be dead. That’s how awesome Alice is. (In this film, Jasper has the role of “the woman,” being there mainly as Alice’s love interest). The last example is a newcomer, Kate, who has some sort of electric power. Kate is outspoken, confident and she can bring down the mighty Edward with her bare hands. You go, girl!
This improvement is reserved only to vampire women while human female characters remain irrelevant, but it’s an improvement, nevertheless.
The world of vampires gets more complex
Like them or hate them, the vampires from Twilight are far from the common vampires we all know and love. They don’t feed on people, they don’t burn in the sun… An outsider might think the Cullens are pretty aggressive carnivores that have a strange love for glitter before the thought of vampires ever crosses their mind. Previous Twilight movies have also told us that things are only black or white: vampires who drink human blood are evil; the ones who feed on animals are good.
But in this movie, we have a grey character: Garrett. When Garrett is introduced he is feeding on a human (A vampire drinking blood in Twilight? It can’t be! He must be a villain!), like a traditional vampire. He agrees to help Carlisle and continues with his dinner. There’s no justification needed, no apology required. Yes, he feeds on people sometimes, but he is so cool we don’t even care. Garrett loves being a vampire and all its perks; he’s been there, he’s done that. He has a rock star attitude that loosely reminded me of Queen of the Damned’s Lestat. Forget Edward’s solemnity, Carlisle’s moderation. Being a vampire can be fun.
The rest of the sidekicks are interesting, too. There is an obvious reference to old vampiric tales in the form of Vladimir and Stefan from Romania. Alistair’s appearance makes me wonder if Stephenie Meyer has a problem with British people (the only British character is really mean while the Irish are very nice who casually comment how they rebelled against the bad English people) but is a welcome appearance in the saga’s candy colored world of super-helpful, super-nice vampires. And we get to see different lifestyles: nomads, others who live in the jungle… Something outside the American way of (vampire) life.
I’m not saying with all this that Breaking Dawn Part 2 is a handbook of good relationships and I don’t mean to say it’s feminist or progressive, or that it’s an amazing films critics should love. It’s not. It has many, many flaws. Enough to write a book on them. As a healthy relationship appears, another unhealthy one is created. Yes, I’m talking about Jacob and Nessie. It is a very sensitive issue (she is a child!) and even if we forget it assuming that they won’t get together until she’s adult, Jacob has been there since she was born and will always be a father figure for her. One should not get romantically involved with one’s father figures. And why doesn’t Charlie freak out when he sees his granddaughter has grown about three years in only months? How come all the werewolves are so cool with having a lot of vampires around?
Also, the ethnic vampires are so cliché it’s almost funny. Irish people are red-headed and all South American people live in tribes, half naked, according to this. How come the thousand-year old vampires are dressed in current fashion but the 150 year old Brazilian ones wear tribal clothes? And is it a coincidence that the only vampire that refuses to help Carlisle is Asian? But racial issues in Twilight are a whole different matter, a whole different article.
All in all, The Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 is good fun. It is not an example of good cinema, but it’s still better than the previous installments. There is a step forward in gender issues and the main love story is not so unequal, making it more watchable. Maybe it won’t make a lot of new fans, but it has given the old ones what we wanted and a bit more.
Sources and interesting info:
Breaking Dawn, part 2, Summit Entertainment, 2012
Twilight, Stephenie Meyer, 2005
Queen of the damned, Warner Bros, 2002
The romanticism of teen dating violence: The twilight series as a case study, Kyrie McCauley Bannar, 2010
How to domesticate a vampire: Gender, blood relations and sexuality in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, Pramod Nayar, 2010