"Saga" always seemed to me like an inappropriate description of the Twilight twaddle. Sagas have a breadth and scope this franchise seems terribly unfamiliar with, and characters who evolve over time and circumstances. Sagas don't settle for being Chippendale shows with a cheaper cover charge and no drink minimum, or soap operas without commercials.
Twilight isn't a saga, it just sags.
Take heart, anyone else seeing Stephenie Meyer's creation as the cynical cash grab that it is. The end, while not exactly here, is within sight.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is the beginning of that end, and if time travel gets invented I'll be the first to leap ahead a year to Part 2's conclusion. Maybe a couple days extra, so I will have already endured it and written the franchise's obituary. For all the vampires and werewolves flashing fangs in these movies, the real horror comes from realizing how many Twihards consider this series the most important cultural event of their lives.
Anyone drinking the blood red Kool-Aid knows what happens here. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) finally stopped waffling and chose Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) as the supernatural pretty boy she wants to spend eternity with. Their wedding is a formal affair; friends of the mortal bride on one side and friends of the vampire groom on the other. Lurking in the woods is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the mopiest werewolf ever.
Bella and Edward aren't supposed to consummate their vows until she's turned into a vampire. But these crazy kids just can't wait. A night of bed-crushing hanky panky leads to Bella getting pregnant, and the worst case of morning sickness ever. Only a series of vampire hickeys gets her through a grisly Caesarean, and the final shot of Part 1 makes clear that Bella will wake up bloodthirsty for Part 2.
Director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg treat Meyer's material with undue reverence, hitting every inconsequential or repetitive note along the way. I'll confess to struggling at times to keep my eyelids open, when sleep could bring such blessed relief. Big thanks to Twihards for keeping me awake by sighing out loud and laughing at dialogue that's only amusing if you memorized the books.
Condon occasionally stumbles upon a striking image — a nightmare's "wedding cake" of piled up bodies, for example — hinting at the visceral experience Breaking Dawn might be. There are flashes in the performances of seeming awareness that this is all drivel, that sailed over the heads of devotees. So much of the movie consists of static narrative that the finale when Bella gives birth is actually entertaining by comparison.
Breaking Dawn Part 1 confirms suspicions that all four books could've made a heck of a single movie. I suspect that Meyer never expected Twilight to be more than a one-off enterprise, and movies never occurred to her. But what else are you going to do when millions of fans keep forking over money for such a flimsy idea?
Meyer could have quit when she was creatively behind. But taking the money and running is a show biz tradition she has turned into a marathon. One thing I have in common with Teams Bella, Edward and Jacob: Nov. 16, 2012 can't arrive soon enough.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.