The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One
One of the reasons for the high popularity of Stephanie Meyer’s storytelling is because she manages to establish and maintain many tensions at once. And that’s a big reason the movies based on the books work so well, also.
The vampires are in tension with the (were)wolves. Jacob and Edward form a love triangle with Bella. Bella wants to have it both ways---marry one of them but still maintain a close relationship with the other one. Bella’s Dad alternately wants to protect her and wishes she’d grow up. Bella’s Mom cares, but lives out of State and is mostly absent. The vampires and werewolves hate each other, but their mutual affection for Bella makes for an uneasy peace that is both fragile and potentially perpetual. The setting is the beautiful and pristine Great Northwest, which also harbors the menace of powerful creatures on the prowl. The vampire lair is conflicted because of its truce with the humans through Bella, and Bella herself understands that by marrying a vampire she will necessarily transform, but she isn’t sure how, or how much. Nobody seems to know if any progeny would result of such a union, and if so, what form that progeny would take. But it might not be benign (think “Rosemary’s Baby” with a kinder, gentler birthing). The wolves can’t seem to decide if they’d rather be in their human or animal form, so they alternate at will. But their communication skills vary according to which form they choose at the time. Some of the humans in the story know all about the supernatural stuff, and some of them don’t. Add to all those tensions the inherent contradiction of presenting a movie that is extreme chick-flick in its wedding and honeymoon sequence, complete with moonlit backdrops over a tranquil ocean, to the action/adventure/sci-fi component of the warfare between the wolves and the vamps, and, well, it’s either all a finely-interwoven balance or a bit of an uneven hodgepodge, and maybe some of both.
Of course, the whole series, books and movies, comprise a kind of cult/camp cultural following, which includes the launching into celebrity status of the main stars: Edward, Robert Pattinson, Jacob, Taylor Lautner, and Bella, Kristen Stewart. The three of them receive the lion’s share of the screen time, so those who want to see plenty of their heroes and heroine will not be disappointed. However, their acting is underutilized in service of the plot. Edward is mostly a lovestruck puppy, occasionally assuming the other side of the same coin, the fierce protector. Jacob alternates between the frustrated suitor and the stalwart liaison between snarling factions ready to go to war at the drop of an insult. Bella, of course, just wants everyone to get along, but she gets to show some spine through her passive aggressive insistence that there is one type of decision that she will not negotiate with anyone, and that’s involving her own body. Kristen Stewart is here presented both as the gorgeous, nervous bride and then the weak, emaciated waif, but she still manages to speak without moving her lips, and even to emote without changing expression. Her theme song, at the end, could well be “What I Did For Love.”
This “twilight” saga delivers the story for the true fan, but those not already caught up in the lore may have a difficult time following all the assumptions. What’s interesting to this critic is having all that behavioral and moral and political tension without once even mentioning good or evil. As if that’s better left unsaid. Perhaps, but it’s also what we’re missing.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas