'Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2': Love at last bite
The "Twilight" saga has been going on for so long that the second half of "Breaking Dawn" is going to feel like midafternoon. Despite its worldwide appeal and another expected bonanza at the box office, even star Kristen Stewart is a bit tired of it. "Thank God I had the opportunity to do smaller movies like 'The Runaways,' 'Welcome to the Rileys' and 'On the Road' in between," the young star told a German interviewer, referring to the films she's made between "Twilight" movies. "Otherwise, I'd probably have turned mad."
That Stewart didn't mention "Snow White and the Huntsman" was probably an oversight. But we sort of know how she feels.
"Twilight" was always intended as a teen phenomenon -- and more specifically a teen-girl phenomenon. The hyper-romantic aura of vampiricism -- with its heady mix of sex, blood and passion -- has proved to be catnip to the adolescent female audience. "You don't want to exclude anybody," director Bill Condon said during the lead-up to "BD Part I," "but so much of movie culture is aimed at adolescent-boy fantasies, it's good to have a movie that's not only aimed toward women, but is about women. All movies are fantasies, but very few of them these days connect to what women dream about."
What they dream about, according to "Breaking Dawn Part 2" -- which opens Nov. 16 and concludes an adventure that began with Stephenie Meyer's first "Twilight" novel in 2005 -- is marriage, motherhood and finding the perfect vampire. Unfortunately for the newly immortal Bella (Stewart), her now 111-year-old husband, Edward (Robert Pattinson), and their child, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), not everyone shares their sense of bliss. A vampire named Irina reports to the Volturi, or vampire council, that Bella and Edward have begotten an "immortal child," forbidden by the rule book of the undead. The Cullens then gather around them various vampire clans as defense witnesses; Irina is executed; the Volturi jury remains out on what to do about the half-human, half-vampire child.
Both Stewart and Meyer have alluded to a "surprise ending" to "Breaking Dawn Part 2," although it seems unclear whether this is a change in the story or just its perspective -- Meyer has hinted that the film's point of view will be as important as the plotline. It hardly seems to matter: The franchise has thus far grossed $2.5 billion worldwide, and there's no reason to think the new film won't equal or outdo its predecessors.
When teens turn mean
But even in its ghoulish success, the "Twilight" saga points up the fragility of the teen fan base: When they turn, they turn mean. Teenagers not only decide they don't like something, they decide that what they used to like stinks -- maybe because it represents the embarrassing self they used to be, and the way they used to feel, before they became so mature. Seeming to know that, the producers of the "Twilight" movies have made their films quickly, ostensibly to prevent their stars from aging too dramatically out of the roles. But one suspects the aging of the audience was just as big a consideration.
This haste to make the movies led to the first of several public-relations missteps, which included the dumping of Rachelle Lefevre (who played Victoria in the first two films) in favor of Bryce Dallas Howard, and the earlier loss of director Catherine Hardwicke, who had taken the first
"Twilight" movie to a nearly $400-million global payday.
"I never imagined doing a sequel," she said at the time. "For one thing, I loved the first book the best, to be honest. But when it made all this money, my agent said, 'Maybe they'll really let you do what you want, and give you more time' -- I knew Chris Nolan had three years between Batman movies, and Jon Favreau had two years between Iron Man.
"But the fact that the kids are not supposed to age meant they wanted to release the new movie a year to the date of the first, so I would have had less prep time than I had on the first one." Whatever the reasoning, Hardwicke directed only one "Twilight" movie. Likewise, Chris Weitz ("The Twilight Saga: New Moon") and David Slade ("The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"). That Condon ("Dreamgirls") has done two might suggest an uncharacteristic consistency, but both "Breaking Dawn" films arise from the same book.
"I feel lucky I got to do the third act of this story," he said. "So much of it had been buildup. Everything was foreplay in those first three movies, but now everything starts to happen."
He had no idea. The publicist's dream romance -- between the films' stars, Stewart and Pattinson -- crashed and burned: In July of this year, US Weekly ran photos of Stewart snuggling with her "Snow White" director, Rupert Sanders, prompting her to issue a public apology. ("This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most: Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry.") Sanders' wife may or may not be filing for divorce. And they say vampires are messy.
That any of this will affect the success of "Breaking Dawn Part 2" seems beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, the sensation of scandal, like a transfusion, might actually inject life into a franchise that couldn't help but grow anemic, as its fan base grows long in the tooth.