Slate sent two editors who’d never read a Twilight book or seen a Twilight movie to see Breaking Dawn, Part 2. Note: Spoilers galore below, insofar as our intrepid viewers understood the movie correctly. For a more informed, less spoilery take, read Dana Stevens’ review of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part, 2.
JS: So David, last night was a special night for us. We lost our Twilight virginity. How do you feel?
DH: Confused? A little sore? But mostly satisfied.
JS: Me neither! But I knew there was a love triangle.
DH: Yes, Team Edward and Team ... Jacob. That name came to me just before the movie started. I had read Dana Stevens’ review of the last one, and I had a faint memory, though it didn’t seem like this could possibly be true, that Bella, our heroine, was, in that movie, given a C-section by her vampire beloved—with his teeth? I’m still not entirely convinced that really happened.
JS: Let’s get an important question out of the way: Are you on Team Edward or Team Jacob?
DH: I’m on Team Pattinson—he’s shown real ambition as an actor (even if he was disappointing in Cosmopolis). Which means I have to root for Edward. But now having seen this last installment, Jacob seems like the obvious choice, right? Sweet guy, has a wonderful way with half-vampire children, and a torso that can barely be believed.
JS: Yeah, I’m Team Jacob all the way. I can’t really see how it’s a competition. But I’m a dog lover. And kinda squeamish about blood sucking.
DH: How do werewolves fit into the Twilight universe, though? One of the evil vampires said that werewolves “are our natural enemy.” But where do they come from? Is it genetic? Does the gene ever skip a generation? Totally unclear.
JS: There are bad vampires, but only good werewolves, at least to judge by this installment. Let’s try to nail down the plot of this movie, shall we? Whether by dental Caesarian section or otherwise, Bella has given birth to a child.
DH: And Edward is the father.
JS: And now Bella is a vampire! I enjoyed watching Bella get used to her new vampiric powers, did you?
DH: Absolutely. Though I was baffled by them at first. She gave Edward a hug, and then it sounded like he got shot? But all the Twihards around us laughed knowingly, and soon it became clear that she had just hugged him so hard it, you know, sounded like a gun went off. Or something.
JS: I didn’t follow that either. I like that when they went out hunting for animal blood, Bella was wearing a practical blue dress. Though I thought it was sort of lame that she ended up eating the mean mountain lion and not the cuddly deer.
DH: Total copout. Although the way she leapt through the air to bring it down with her teeth was pretty badass.
JS: Quite. I gotta say, being a vampiress seemed pretty, pretty awesome at the beginning of this movie. Super jumping power. Keen eyesight. No need for sleep.
DH: Incredible sex.
JS: Marathon sex sessions. And your vampire cousins hook you up with a FULLY FURNISHED house with a FULLY STOCKED walk-in closet.
DH: There isn’t much downside, right? Bella seemed to get over any and all potential obstacles awfully quickly. For instance: She was not allowed to see her baby right away, because apparently she would, if unprepared, want to suck its blood, and thus kill it. (Poor thing.) But she got used to the presence of people after, I don’t know, 5 or 6 minutes?
JS: There was a slight hitch in Bella’s dreamy new life, though. The Voltari wanted to hunt down and kill her daughter because ... I don’t know why. Also, who are the Voltari?
DH: Italians, I think?
JS: They were definitely Italian. They seemed to live in a sort of Vampire Vatican.
DH: Although their leader looks more like a Brit. Specifically Lemmy from Motörhead, minus the facial hair.
JS: Great call. Here’s my best guess about the Voltari: They’re an ancient order that believes vampires need to remain hidden from the human world. Which seems sensible to me, frankly.
DH: But they really enjoy killing toddler vampires, aka “immortal children,” which are strictly forbidden—because toddlers can’t control themselves, and so are prone to wild, village-destroying, blood-sucking rampages.
JS: That was one of my favorite details. Toddler vampires are a nightmare. One tantrum and a whole village can get eaten (cue terrifying shot of a smiling toddler with blood all over his face like so much stewed carrots). Again, this anti-Toddler stance seemed like a sensible policy to me! I’m pro-Voltari! I’m voting the Voltari ticket!
DH: Not me. They’re all about “power”—though it’s not really clear what power means in this context. Apparently they burned down castles that belonged to a couple of Russian vampires a few hundred years ago? And they like to fight. But the whole thing about the dangers posed by Bella’s daughter struck me as mere pretense, like WMDs.
JS: Fair enough. Let’s talk about Bella’s daughter. Her name is ... Ren-ez-may?
DH: That’s how it’s pronounced, anyway. Poor girl. She grows up very quickly—maybe in part because, as a baby, she is obviously computer-generated.
JS: And yet she’s *not* a vampire, right? She’s growing like a foot a day, and she can convey her innermost thoughts by touching someone’s face—cool party trick—but she’s not looking to suck dry a village if she misses her nap.
DH: And at the end of the movie we meet another half-vampire, from a Brazilian tribe, and he says he can survive on either blood or human food—or both? And he looks terrific.
JS: He looks like a million bucks, that guy. Sidebar: What’s it like for a vampire who wants to drink human blood, but settles for mountain lion blood? Is it like ordering a steak and getting some steamed tofu?
DH: Presumably? So I guess there is some sacrifice involved. But even the isolation of vampire life seems pretty great—and also voluntary. Bella still gets to spend Christmas with her human dad. And her house in the woods with the other vampires is obviously the better place to be.
JS: Seems like great real estate—gorgeous Pacific Northwest territory, and yet not a bad drive to downtown Seattle when you need to run an errand. Like picking up some fake passports from your lawyer—played by The Wire’s Wendell Pierce: Bunk Moreland!
DH: A delightful but too-brief cameo in a movie mostly devoid of familiar faces. If only they’d done the whole scene by only saying “fuck.” (I think Stewart could have pulled it off.)
JS: That would have been amazing. I loved the absurdity of that scene. Vampires, we learned last night, have amazing powers: They can see the future, emanate force fields, leap like Spud Webb, and unfurl scary black death clouds from their shirtsleeves. Know what they can’t do though? Fake a U.S. passport. Need a shady lawyer for that. Where’s the vampire whose special skill is forgery? Maybe he got killed off by the Voltari.
DH: Probably. That whole “special skill” business is a new take on vampires, isn’t it? In general, the mythology of this series struck me as haphazard and a bit half-assed.
JS: Yes, the powers seemed invented largely to suit the plot. And I was surprised that the good vampires—the ones fighting off the Voltari, that is—made common cause with some of the human-blood drinkers.
DH: This was hardly the grand showdown between good and evil that the costuming might have led one to expect. Black cloaks = clearly evil. Stylish winterwear = obviously good. And yet our heroes were not above some very dodgy tactics.
JS: And there are so few humans in this movie! I’d imagined that Twilight was basically Beverly Hills 90210, but Dylan was a vampire and Brandon was a werewolf. But everyone in this movie was a vampire or a werewolf. Or vampire toddler feed.
DH: Or Bella’s amusing and only slightly homophobic dad.
JS: That was a great scene—when Jacob took off all his clothes and showed Bella’s dad his ... lupine nature. Let’s talk about the final showdown. At the end, the good vampires and the Voltari meet in a snowy field outside Seattle.
DH: Edward’s surrogate dad, Carlisle, a kindly, cardigan-wearing chap, has invited a dozen or so “witnesses,” a model U.N. of vampires from around the world, to come and see that Renezmay is no threat, so they can tell the Voltari as much when those no-good-niks show up to wreak havoc.
JS: But the Voltari don’t want to be persuaded. Or is it just that they couldn’t hear very well? The two sides were standing at a comically long distance from one another. Anyway, Arrow—is that the leader of the bad guys?—he seems hell bent on killing off Renezmay. Wasn’t clear to me why. So a battle royale ensues!
DH: And it is *gruesome*!
JS: Apparently the only way to kill a vampire is to rip off his head and torch his corpse.
JS: Super gross. Lots of face-ripping and noggin-tossing. Worried about the tweens who were raised on this stuff. I took it particularly hard whenever a wolf would die. Their whimpers were so sad.
DH: The Twihards seemed to take it hardest when one of the cute guys died. And they loved it when the evil folks got their comeuppance.
JS: And a lot of them did.
DH: Dakota Fanning was not popular with this crowd.
JS: The death toll was disturbing. At one point, one of the good guys punched the ground and opened up a giant rift that reached all the way to the Earth’s core. Which was cool and all, but kind of had a neutral effect on the battle—seemed like the chasm swallowed as many good guys as bad, no?
DH: Yes! I couldn’t figure out what he was thinking there. Not exactly Napoleon or Schwarzkopf, that one.
JS: Then something truly crazy happened. I was as surprised as I’ve been at the movies for as long as I can remember.
DH: Same here.
JS: It was nuts!
DH: And the crowd seemed surprised, too—even though I assumed they had all read the books? Maybe not. Or maybe it’s a new, cinematic twist?
JS: I wondered! It sounded to me like the whole audience gasped. Like they were just as surprised as us virgins.
DH: Yes: It was all a dream. Essentially.
JS: Like Newhart!
DH: Or St. Elsewhere.
JS: Basically the battle we saw was a vision of the future conjured for the head bad guy by the clairvoyant good vampiress. So in the end, no one actually died. Arrow was confronted with the fate that would befall him if he chose to take on Bella, Edward, and their crew.
DH: Which seems to violate some basic principles of future-telling—because then he changes his mind, and so the future he saw never comes to pass, and thus isn’t the future. But it still seemed awfully clever, in the moment.
JS: It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, does it? But I gotta say, I really admired the chutzpah! It allowed the movie to give you a bonkers battle sequence without actually killing anyone off. A brilliant, if utterly manipulative and nonsensical stroke. I loved it.
DH: Very much a have-your-gruesome-cake-and-peacefully-eat-it-too sort of thing. Though it also highlighted just how low the stakes are in this movie? Bella apparently has no special role within the universe, as I sort of assumed she would. Her oddly named daughter, while unusual, is no threat to the basic order of things.
JS: Right. Renezmay isn’t some golden child who will deliver the vampiric race. She’s just a kid experiencing a serious growth spurt.
DH: And the world is more or less as we all experience it, except there are a few dozen vampires out there, and some of them are assholes.
JS: And if you’re lucky enough to fall in love with a vampire, and get him to deliver your baby with his teeth (maybe?), you’ll become immortal and have an immortal child with a flexible diet and neat powers and you’ll get to make out with your husband in a field of wildflowers for eternity. Good deal.
DH: And have the best sex imaginable, with your super-senses.
JS: And that walk-in closet! David, did you enjoy this movie more or less than you expected to?
DH: More, I guess? It was a good romp, Kristen Stewart has just as much screen presence as I expected (which is to say: quite a bit), and there were enough batshit moments—that mountain lion snag, an unfathomably great cackle from Michael Sheen—to keep it from ever being boring. And it was great fun listening to a crowd that was very into a movie—if not so much into Kristen Stewart, who was not cheered nearly so lustily as her male co-stars (understandably enough, I suppose).
JS: I’m with you 100 percent. I had so much more fun at this movie than I expected. And though I’m still thoroughly confused about a lot of things—what does it mean when a werewolf “imprints” on someone?—it didn’t severely impair my ability to enjoy the movie. And that cackle. I won’t soon forget that cackle.
DH: Thanks for sharing this experience with me, John.
JS: Thank you, David. I feel like a new man. Twilight has imprinted on me. I think.