Sex and morality collide in ‘Breaking Dawn’
If you have eyes and ears, chances are you’re familiar with the Twilight film series, adapted from the hugely successful books. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I, the fourth of five films, is the beginning of the end for our sparkly vampire and his clumsy fiancée. This time, Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) are getting hitched and anticipating a steamy wedding night that results in an unexpected pregnancy.
The film opens with the wedding, a dreamy affair that probably cost twice as much as the Kardashian nuptials. Bella’s friends, who like her despite the fact that she never seems to hang out with or talk to them, are in attendance and speculating why their awkward buddy is getting married at 18. Anna Kendrick shines in her all-too-brief moment of screen time and the wedding scene provides some much-needed humor in an otherwise overly dramatic film.
Even though this is a vampire event, werewolf boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner) shows up to say his last goodbyes to the bride and ends up getting in a fight with Edward, essentially over Bella’s virginity. He can’t have sex with her while she’s still human! His super strength and speed will kill her! If only she’d chosen a warm-blooded American wolf boy instead! Let’s face it, vampires and virgins go together like peanut butter and jelly, so this classic debate doesn’t feel horribly out of place like the rest of the moral messages in the film.
The vows are exchanged and it’s off to the highly anticipated honeymoon. Edward whisks his bride away to a secluded island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, and then it’s time to get down to business. Bella’s mini panic attack at the thought of having sex with her husband is a little weird; after all, she’s been waiting four movies for this. As she hyperventilates in the bathroom, the weird moral undertones (and sometimes flat out overtones) start to rear their ugly head. Bella and Edward finally consummate their marriage in a scene that will make all the moms in the audience blush. It gets so passionate that Edward breaks the bed, rips open pillows and leaves the room looking like Katrina hit it. Of course, all this takes place off screen, since this is a PG-13 movie and all.
The next morning, Bella sees that she’s all bruised up, but she’s raring to go again. Edward, on the other hand, is sure that it’s too dangerous (or whatever his ridiculous reason is) and refuses to touch her again for the whole trip. Instead, there’s sexually frustrated chess, sexually frustrated swimming and sexually frustrated hikes in the jungle. At one point, the poor girl literally begs her husband to bang her, but he still refuses. What message is that sending? I’m not actually sure.
Ah, but sex has consequences, kids, and one of them is becoming a teen mom. Bella discovers she’s pregnant, something that absolutely everyone thought was impossible despite the fact that vampire men have probably had sex with human women millions of times throughout the course of history and this has most certainly happened before. The rules of the supernatural world seem to bend to serve the plot, instead of serving as groundwork for the story.
Something’s not right, the baby’s too strong and growing too fast, it’s killing Bella from the inside out. This is when we get to the abortion discussion. No one actually utters the dreaded word (the whole PG-13 thing again). Instead, Bella’s rejected love interest Jacob pleads that “that thing” has got to go. Even Edward insists that they’ve got to get “it” out of her. It doesn’t matter because Bella’s made up her mind, she’s keepin’ her baby, even if it kills her. Spoiler alert: it does.
The scene of Bella giving birth is weirdly graphic, not what you’d expect from Twilight. Bella’s bones are cracking, her rail thin body looks more like she’s got a cancerous tumor than a growing half-vampire baby and, at some point, Edward drops between her legs and comes up with a mouthful of blood. Bella dies on the table, but Edward pulls a Pulp Fiction and injects her straight in the heart with vampire “venom” in hopes of turning her before she completely expires. That ought to terrify tweens away from getting knocked up.
Morality seems warped and out of place in the story. It can be so heavy-handed that it’s impossible to get past it, especially in the only film in the series that actually deals with sex at all. Vampire mythology is about seduction and temptation. Vampires are typically evil, but very appealing, often seducing young virgins. In this case, it’s Edward that’s the moral one and flipping that tradition doesn’t really work. Edward refuses to have sex with Bella before marriage, but it turns out he refuses to have sex with her after marriage too. That’s just taking it overboard.
I can’t help but compare it to something like True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse books, which offer so much more character development and converging plots with causal relationships between events.
If you’re reading this in your Team Edward/Team Jacob t-shirt, pre-ordered Breaking Dawn tickets clenched in your fist like diamonds, then you won’t care what I have to say. This movie is going to make a bazillion dollars no matter the Tommatometer. I have no problem with the series as a guilty pleasure, but it bums me out that younger audiences are taught that this is the ultimate love story and that plot and character development really aren’t that important if you have two cute boys in your movie. If you’re over 16, you’re probably better off trying True Blood.