The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2: Breaking the Book

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2” is, unfortunately, the worst of the five films. Unfortunately primarily because its source material is the best of the four books. Overall, it suffers from the same faults as the previous four films, only more-so: namely that the filmmakers have, each time, taken a story onto which clear themes can be read, a story onto which a clear narrative structure can be imposed, entwined with that theme, and instead simply portrayed a series of events without any narrative or thematic arc.

I wish that the screenwriters and directors had taken a step back each time, decided what the theme of each story was, and built a movie around that. I think that you could make some really interesting — and meaningful — movies using the Twilight Saga as source material. Just off the top of my head: all-consuming love (“Twilight”), heartbreak and friendship and self-sacrifice in the context of both (“New Moon”), families of intent and intra-familial conflict (“Eclipse”), marriage and pregnancy (“Breaking Dawn: Part 1”), and self-sacrifice in the context of the family (“Breaking Dawn: Part 2”).

Adding to these failures, in TTS:BD:P2, is the fact that the filmmakers have changed nearly everything that I like about the source material, and only one of those changes was enjoyable, and even that one was ultimately a change for the worse. (Though it was completely surprising, so I will not spoil it beyond saying that the two young women sitting next to me spent the entire rest of the movie bawling loudly.)

To return to the purpose of this site, these changes were all for the worse because they undermined meaningful character developments and themes. Specifically:

  • Bella “wakes up” with only Edward in the room, rather than all of the Cullens. You would think that the Cullens would all be waiting to see if she woke up and wanting to immediately see her when she did; instead, they are all sitting around, playing with her baby, and while happy to see her do not seem all that relieved or excited. This undermines the familial love that the Cullens show for Bella in the book.
  • In the book, Carlisle had doped Bella up in hopes of preventing her from experiencing the excruciating pain of the transformation. It does not work, but Bella keeps this fact from Edward in order to keep him from feeling guilty for turning her. This is not present in the movie, which undermines Bella’s self-sactifice.
  • The Cullens do not seem particularly nervous the first time Bella holds her daughter. In the book they are scared that newborn Bella will not be able to resist feeding on her. Some lip-service is paid to this, but on the whole the Cullens do not look remotely on edge.
  • Edward does not calm their fears by telling them that Bella stopped herself from hunting the hiker (who, in the movie, is a climber — an excuse for Bella to rapidly climb a mountain by punching her finger-tips into the rock face, which does look cool, and with which I am fine). This undermines the theme, throughout all the books, of self-control and turning away from our innate, animalistic desires.
  • As a result of the above two changes, Jasper does not descend into a funk of self-doubt and depression. In the book, Jasper is shocked at Bella’s self-control and wonders if newborns are not, in fact, ravenous creatures lacking self-control, leading him to wonder if his own blood-thirsty rampages as a newborn were avoidable, and therefore if he is more culpable than he realized for his actions at the time. This undermines the theme of self-control and robs Jasper of some humanizing self-doubt.
  • We don’t really get a good idea of who each of the new vampires are. I mean, I know there are 20 of them, but they could have at least given us a little more character development for Lee Pace’s character, or the guy who lurks in the attic, or any of the nomads.
  • Rather than Bella hatching the plan to keep Renesme and Jacob safe with J. Jenkins’ help, Alice and Jasper have come up with the plan and left Bella simply to pick up the documents. While I like that this causes Bella even more self-doubt, because now she thinks that Alice has foreseen that neither she nor Edward will survive the coming confrontation, this is ultimately a net loss because it robs Bella of her agency. In the book, Bella took an assertive role, deciding to save her daughter. She kept her plan secret from everyone, sneaking about, and used Jasper’s criminal contact to create fake documents for her daughter and Jacob. Bella shows her motherly love by accepting that she and Edward may have to die in order to buy time to keep her daughter safe.
  • Edward expresses doubt, wondering if the cost is too high. On the eve of the battle, Edward wonders aloud if it is all worth it, if it is right that everyone may die simply because he fell in love with a human. This addition, not present in the book, could have been handled well, I think, but it was not. Instead it was short and perfunctory, and undermined the theme that family is worth fighting and dying for.
  • The battle. I have to be careful about discussing this one, because there are some major spoilers. I liked the way it deviates from the book; I do not like all of the things from the book that were left out. In the book, the final battle is the most exciting scene in the whole series. Bella comes into her own, using her power to protect her adopted family and to vex the Volturi. Bella has some delicious exchanges with Jane and others as they slowly realize that she has rendered the Volturi’s usual advantage moot. In the movie, Bella manages to protect people for a few seconds here and there, but is largely ineffective. She does not verbally smack Jane. Edward has no dawning awareness of how powerful she has become (because, in the movie, she has not). This severaly diminishes the character of Bella in that it robs her of her outward power.

There were probably other changes for the worse, but those are the ones that stick out for me, nine hours later.

Oh, and the CGI baby (and, later, CGI face on the daughter) was really creepy and unnecessary.

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