There are at least five successful ways to film a fantasy story. One way is to film it as an action movie, like the original JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. Another way is to treat it as a magical adventure, like THE WIZARD OF OZ, The third way is to treat it as a haunting or even eerie mystery like PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, which is a somewhat obscure but captivating oldie but goodie from 1948. The fourth is to film it as a serious epic adventure, like THE LORD OF THE RINGS. And, the fifth is to treat it as a comedy or comic adventure, like THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
The new TWILIGHT SAGA movie, BREAKING DAWN – PART 1, is filmed in none of those ways, although there are some action scenes and some unintentionally funny moments. Gone are the sweeping romance and interesting jeopardy of the first three movies. In their place, director Bill Condon has put bizarre tone changes, goofy CSI effects, and, last but not least, campy melodrama. (He’s a bizarre choice to begin with for the final TWILIGHT movies, having become famous for completely different movies like DREAMGIRLS, KINSEY, and the homosexual GODS AND MONSTERS.)
For those who know nothing about this series based on the young adult novels by Stephenie Meyer, here’s what’s happening, THE TWILIGHT SAGA is about a teenage girl in a small Washington town, Bella, who falls in love with a vampire, Edward. Edward and his vampire “family” refrain from human blood and just hunt animals instead. Bella becomes committed to Edward, even though he keeps telling her that it’s not always fun being a vampire, even one who doesn’t murder humans. Another teenager, Jacob, also is smitten with Bella, and he just happens to be one of the local Indians who can turn themselves into werewolves.
Part one of the fourth and final movie, BREAKING DAWN, opens with Jacob getting mad, taking off his shirt, and running through the woods as a werewolf when he gets an invitation to Bella and Edward’s wedding. He doesn’t want Bella to marry Edward, not only because he wants her for himself but also because he thinks sex and marriage with a powerful vampire will kill Bella before Edward can turn her into a vampire. Also, although this isn’t explained in the movies very well, Jacob and his fellow Indian werewolves have been trained to kill vampires. Only a truce between them and Edward’s family of “vegetarian” vampires has avoided that outcome until now.
At any rate, Bella and Edward eventually do get married. Then, Edward whisks her away to the family’s island off the coast of Brazil, where he and Bella spend their honeymoon night. Bella doesn’t want Edward to turn her into a vampire until after their honeymoon, but he manages to take special care in consummating their marriage, though he breaks the bed and leaves her with some bruises.
After several days of awkward honeymoon bliss, they discover that Bella’s become pregnant with what is apparently a half-human, half-vampire baby. Things go from bad to verse when the baby grows rapidly and starts consuming all the nutrition in Bella’s body. Edward, Jacob, and Edward’s family advise her to get rid of the baby, but she’s adamant about keeping it. Bella’s one hope is that Edward can turn her into a vampire before the birthing process kills her.
[SPOILER ALERTS} Meanwhile, Jacob’s werewolf pack wants to kill Bella and the vampire baby, but Jacob rebels against the pack leader, Sam. Can Jacob, Edward, and Edward’s family hold off the werewolves until Bella delivers the baby and becomes a vampire? And, will their efforts to save Bella’s life prevail?
BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 has some light moral elements, including a reference Chapter 13 of First Corinthians to the Christian New Testament, about putting away childish things. There’s also only brief foul language, but there is some passionate honeymoon scenes. In fact, the first half of PART 1 is consumed with the wedding and honeymoon in this bizarre tale of conflicted vampires and werewolves and the woman who comes between them. Then, when Bella gets pregnant, she becomes virtually bedridden. This leaves a plot that lacks true jeopardy until about the end of the second act.
To be fair, BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 has an exciting finish, but by then, only fans of the series or fans of these good-looking young actors may really care. Adding to this big problem are some campy, silly melodramatic moments the filmmakers have inserted into the plot. In the very first scene, the filmmakers have the young muscle-bound actor playing Jacob take off his shirt. That gets some of the silliness surrounding these movies out of the way, but it also sets a tone for the campy melodrama that follows. Some ham-handed direction gets in the way of some of the movie’s other climactic moments, including the biggest turning point in the third act, when Jacob has to decide for himself whether he himself should murder Bella’s baby. The moment is done in such a melodramatic, over-the-top manner that it reminded MOVIEGUIDE®’s reviewer of one of the hilarious moments in the recent animated comedy PUSS IN BOOTS. Trust us when we say that’s not good, from both a storytelling point of view and a cinematic view.
In that light, a word must be said about a transition scene in PART 1, [SPOILER ALERT] where British actor Michael Sheen is introduced as the vampire villain in the upcoming PART 2, who has it in for Edward and his family. Sheen can deliver a great performance, as he proved in THE QUEEN, but in this scene, he plays the villain as an effeminate vampire, almost exactly in the same way he played an effeminate villain in the TRON sequel last year. By playing the TRON villain in that way, Sheen emptied the plot out of a good part of its jeopardy. Thus, this brief insight into PART 2 doesn’t bode well for the next, final episode of THE TWILIGHT SAGA. In fact, the scene is pure campy melodrama all the way.
That takes care of the quality of this new TWILIGHT movie. What about the messages in the movie?
First, it’s admirable that Bella stands up for the life of her baby, but, paradoxically, that very fact points out that the movie is still preaching a woman’s “right” to choose whether her baby lives or die. This is, of course, the evil mantra of the pro-abortion movement, whose ultimate goal is to destroy all the biological and social differences between male and female, against the Word of God.
Secondly, it’s also admirable that Edward makes Bella wait until they get married to make sexual love. However, the marital sex between them is a bit bizarre, to say the least. Also, it may be explained in the books, but the sex makes no sense whatsoever in this movie. It leaves viewers with many questions, including questions of why Bella wants to delay becoming a vampire until after the honeymoon.
Thirdly, when Bella starts dying because the baby inside her is taking all her nutrition, her vampire friends decide to let her drink some human blood from the hospital. The scene of Bella drinking this blood from a Styrofoam cup is just gross. It also violates Acts 15:12-33, where Christians in Jerusalem advised their brothers and sisters in Christ to abstain from drinking blood.
Fourth, when did vampires and werewolves change from becoming villains who threaten Christian civilization to being good guys? In the classic horror genre, the horror and excitement comes from the fact that natural boundaries are crossed. Thus, a werewolf is both Animal and Human, and a vampire is both Alive and Dead at the same time. Here, the heroic protagonists are tasked with the job of either destroying this abomination against God and Nature or banishing it from society. Of course, with the werewolf story, you can create a tragic character with a chance for redemption. This kind of storytelling tradition is much better, because it sets a clear definition between Good and Evil and produces stories that can support a Christian, biblical worldview.
Finally, there’s a Mormon subtext to THE TWILIGHT SAGA that Christians, parents, and moviegoers should be made aware. As such, it presents an allegorical story consistent with Mormon theology. Mormonism is heretical because it violates basic biblical truths taught by Jesus Christ and firmly accepted by His first disciples in the First and Second Centuries.
For instance, Bella, the story’s female heroine, yearns to become a supernatural creature like Edward, whom she views as a kind of God. Like his vampire family, the Cullens, Edward has risen above his baser nature (he refuses to drink human blood anymore), so he and the Cullens are now able to pursue higher and higher intellectual and humanitarian ideals (the patriarch of Edward’s family, Carlisle, is a doctor who goes around healing people). This scenario is a metaphor for Mormon belief, which says that people can become gods by rising above their sinful nature and pursuing good works.
Also, in BREAKING DAWN, much is made of the fact that Edward and Bella are made for one another. Also according to the story’s mythology, male werewolves imprint on their future mates, which establishes an unbreakable bond between them. Both these things fit in well with false Mormon theology, where women enter the celestial kingdom only through their husbands, who become the god of their own individual planet. In fact, according to heretical Mormon teaching, this is exactly what Jesus Christ is, the god of this planet, but not the God of the Whole Universe and whatever may lie beyond it.
Mormon theology is completely different from New Testament Christianity, which teaches that salvation and deliverance from sin is a free gift from the one and only True God, through belief in the vicarious atonement, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus, good works are not a means of salvation or redemption. Instead, they are only an expression of our salvation in Christ. And, faith, which is a gift from God, is the means by which human beings appropriate that salvation and start to have communion or fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The good news is that most people seeing BREAKING DAWN and the other TWILIGHT movies probably will not see these connections to Mormon theology. Even so, because of all the problems mentioned above, MOVIEGUIDE® deems the first BREAKING DAWN movie as unacceptable viewing for media-wise families, but especially for Bible-believing Christians, and even Jews. Children can be influenced negatively by this movie. In fact, the more intelligent they are, the more they may insert the goofy philosophic and metaphysical elements of BREAKING DAWN into their own worldview and scripts of behavior.
Perhaps if the filmmakers had taken their story more seriously, like Peter Jackson did with THE LORD OF THE RINGS, they would have made a more entertaining, more intelligent movie.
(RoRo, OO, Pa, FR, B, C, L, VV, SS, N, M) Strong Romantic worldview with some strong occult content about super-human supernatural vampires and werewolves and one vampire apparently can see the future plus human woman actually wants to become a vampire because she’s in love with one, pagan elements in the background about Indian totem animals which supposedly exist in movie’s fantasy worldview, false but rather hidden and allegorical Mormon theology, all mitigated slightly by some light moral content plus a reference to Chapter 13 of First Corinthians in the Christian New Testament about putting away childish things and shots of the large statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro; two obscenities (including one “d” word) and one My God; strong, intense, sometimes scary violence with blood includes woman has nightmare of her and her vampire husband killing all their wedding guests with image of bodies piled before them, large scary wolves jump at screen and argue with one another, wolves chase vampire people, scary wolves fight with one another and with vampire people, it’s implied baby is a vampire, woman drinks blood to feed her vampire baby and maintain her own nutrition level, woman becomes a vampire willingly; briefly depicted but not fully revealed marital sex, implied marital sex, passionate kissing; upper male nudity and possible very quick flash of partial upper female nudity in non-sexual context with no lingering shot so it’s almost unnoticeable; no alcohol use; no smoking; and, man injects vampire essence to save character’s life but also makes a vampire, husband wants wife to kill baby endangering her life but wife refuses, feuds between characters.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 takes 18-year-old Bella and Edward, her vampire lover who drinks only animal blood, to their wedding night. After a bizarre evening, Bella becomes pregnant with a half-human, half-vampire baby. This might be cause for joy, but the baby in Bella’s womb is slowly killing her by growing rapidly and sucking all her nutrition. Edward secretly takes Bella back to their small town in Washington State. There, the Indian werewolves who fear the vampires and protect the town’s humans decide to kill Bella and her baby. The question is, will Bella’s conflicted werewolf friend, Jacob, go along with the pack leader, or rebel?
BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 has some moral elements, including a reference to the Christian New Testament. There’s only brief foul language but some borderline sensual moments. Also, the story lacks strong jeopardy until the third act. It also contains some campy melodrama and bizarre moments, like Bella drinking hospital human blood to survive. BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 is not always entertaining. It’s also unacceptable viewing because of its Romantic, occult, pagan elements, and unbiblical content, which includes a heretical Mormon subtext.