Breaking Dawn 2
Credit: Andrew Cooper/Summit Entertainment

ADAM B. VARY: Last year, I guided my colleague Dan Snierson through his very first experience with a wizard named Harry Potter — Dan had neither read J.K. Rowling’s books nor seen any of the movies, and we both wanted to see what would happen when a Potter newbie watched the final Potter movie. He had fun, I had fun, and I daresay at least four or five readers of our subsequent conversation about the experience had fun too.

And now it would seem the wand is in the other hand, or the the promise ring is on the other finger, or something. Because as I write these words, the final feature film in The Twilight Saga is nigh upon us, but this time, I’m the one who has never read any of Stephenie Meyer’s books nor seen any of the feature films. As I gear up to become the pop-culture guinea pig and see Breaking Dawn — Part 2 with only the second-hand knowledge I’ve absorbed walking the halls of EW, you, Denise Warner, have bravely agreed to escort me through all the vampiric romance and Taylor Lautner shirtlessness. I mean, there will be shirtlessness, right?

DENISE WARNER: You know, I can’t promise shirtlessness. I don’t remember Jacob — Lautner’s character, in case you don’t know — being shirtless in the second half of Breaking Dawn. But I can’t imagine Bill Condon and co. not taking advantage of his physique in some way. I mean, those abs! Regardless, I’m so excited to be your guide on this journey, Adam! From your days here at EW, what have you learned about The Twilight Saga? And what do you think it’s about?

ADAM: When the Twilight books first became a thing in the EW offices in the halcyon days of 2007 — before vampires colonized every corner of our fair nation — I shrugged them off as a teen romance with a mild blood sucking twist. (I personally prefer my teen romances to have a major blood sucking twist, like Angel and Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) By the time Twilight became a massive cinema phenomenon, well, I figured EW had given the franchise enough attention, and I could focus my energy on catching up on Mad Men and playing Red Dead Redemption. And then, at some point, it just became a point of pride that I’d avoided exposure to Twilight in any form.

But as you noted, one cannot work at Entertainment Weekly and not absorb at least some of The Twilight Saga. So here’s what I think I know: Edward (Robert Pattinson) and his vampire family (do these vampires have actual families?) move to the Pacific Northwest, presumably due to the region’s abundance of cloudy days. He meets Bella (Kristen Stewart) in high school — though I’m not sure why a presumably long-lived vampire is going to high school, but nevermind. They fall madly, desperately, world-shakingly in love. But then people don’t like it, or something, and Edward has to fight to protect Bella, or something. And then Edward leaves Bella because Bella gets a papercut, or something, and that’s when she discovers Jacob (Taylor Lautner), who’s a werewolf and often shirtless. Edward comes back because, well, I’m not sure why he comes back, but I gather it has something to do with Dakota Fanning being evil, or something. And then Edward and Bella get married, and they have sex that is so outstanding that it breaks their bed (I do recall that bit from one of the trailers). And then Bella gets pregnant with a demon vampire-human baby, or something, and when she gives birth, it’s so dangerous Edward has to make Bella into a vampire because otherwise she’ll die.

How’d I do?

DENISE: For someone who has only been exposed through work, you have an incredible grasp on the basic story. I would say you’re about 90 percent correct here. Do you want me to correct you before you see the movie? Or would you prefer to experience it thinking as you do?

ADAM: Well, it’s not like Entertainment Weekly has exactly avoided covering this franchise, so I guess I was bound to pick up some details. What I’m fuzziest on, though, is the actual, you know, plot — what other than the fact that these crazy kids are crazy for each other has made this franchise one of the biggest in recent Hollywood history? I guess there’s only one way to find out!

DENISE: Honestly — I don’t want to spoil too much because I want you to experience this as a Twilight virgin, like Edward and Bella on their wedding night — but there isn’t much plot beyond crazy kids are crazy for each other. Good luck, and I hope you don’t hate it!

Adam and Denise see the movie. Read EW film critic Owen Glieberman’s review here, and the rest of EW’s coverage of all things Twilight here. Naturally, there are SPOILERS throughout the rest of this conversation, which begins on the next page.

Credit: Andrew Cooper

DENISE: Okay Adam, let’s start off easy! Did you like the film at all?

ADAM: I did? I think? I mean, the acting was totally fine — not nearly as atrocious as the Twi-haters had led me to believe. I bought that Bella was truly enthralled by her new vampire powers, and that projecting her “shield” abilities would make her face look like she had a bad headache. (Not sarcasm! Actually enjoyed that!) There were some surprising moments of humor, and much more of a genuine plot than I expected. And that final battle scene was pretty remarkable — after a particularly gruesome decapitation, I actually screamed “Oh my god!” in the theater, much to the delight of the group of moms and tween daughters sitting next to me.

I do have questions, so many questions, about the details of this film — like, for example, everyone’s hair — but my first is this: As a Twilight fan, did this feel like a real conclusion to you? Because other than that final credit roll of every actor/CW star who’s ever appeared in this franchise, this movie did not feel like the final chapter of a grand “saga” to me.

DENISE: To me it did feel like a conclusion. The Edward and Bella story is done. She’s a super special vampire now, and they have their super special daughter and will live their super special lives forever. Of course, I’d love to see the rest of their happily ever after, but I don’t really need to. There’s no more conflict. The wolves are on their side again. Jacob is not a threat to the Edward-Bella relationship. (And I don’t think he ever really was, honestly.) Charlie gets to stick around as long as he doesn’t ask too many questions and the Volutri have been mind-melded into submission.

Why didn’t it feel like the end to you? Or a better question might be — what part of the story do you think is unfinished?

ADAM: I think it’s because the Bella/Edward storyline seemed to have concluded in Breaking Dawn — Part 1. They got married, they had a kid, she became a vampire, etc., and I was privy to none of it. Whereas Part 2 was all about how Resmenee (or is it Resnemee?) was a threat to the Volturi, who I’m guessing are kinda like the MPAA of the vampire world — a wildly powerful self-appointed governing body with hyper-strict and shifty rules that everyone else could choose to ignore but are compelled not to. Or something? In any event, after the fake-out battle between the Volturi and what appeared to be the vampire version of the X-men was over, I agreed with the gay Russian emo rock vampires: The Volturi were far from cowed. Evil Michael Sheen even looked back at Bella and called her a “prize.” In the world of “saga” franchise movies, when an evil threat like that is allowed to continue on, things aren’t over yet.

But I take your point that in the world of “epic” romances, when relationships are resolved and babies are born, things do tend to be over.

DENISE: First, it’s actually Renesmee. Renee (Bella’s mom) plus Esme (Edward’s “mom”).

As for the Volturi — they are the “rulers,” but there is really only one rule — humans can’t know vampires exist. And they punish those who break that rule. In Breaking Dawn, however, it’s clear that they are corrupt. Aro, or Evil Michael Sheen to you, wants Edward and especially Alice to join his guard because of their abilities. They were just looking for an excuse to attack the Cullens, which is why they were so excited when Irina (Maggie Grace) came to inform on them. Yes, technically, they were simply defending the tenants of the vampire world — but it was really just an excuse to indenture Edward and Alice.

But back to your point about the ending —I see where you are coming from, but in the book, it’s actually a little more concrete. The gay Russian emo rock vampires — a.k.a. The Romanians — were actually not as pissed as they were in the movie and Aro makes no such gesture toward Bella and Alice. As for the looming threat of the Volturi, Stephenie Meyer wraps it up neatly by basically saying that Alice will see when they will come again and they’ll be prepared. (There’s more too it, as well — one of the Irish vampires has the ability to will certain outcomes, but they left that out of the movie, probably because it’s a tiny bit confusing.)

Before you start asking me questions, though, I really need your thoughts on the Jacob and Renesmee situation.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

ADAM: The Jacob and Renesmee situation, if I understand correctly, is that Jacob “imprinted” on an infant hybrid vampire/human girl, and now he’s bonded to her for life, yes? So it’s basically a consolation prize to Team Jacob: He can’t have Bella, but he can have her daughter (when she’s of age)? And Renesmee has zero choice in the matter? I have that right?

What’s so weird about that?

I mean, is it any weirder than the Amazon Tyra Banks vampire who’s a walking holodeck and doesn’t apparently need to bundle up in the wintry north even though all the other vampires do? Is it any weirder than the fact that Bella’s father apparently is okay with his daughter joining a commune of Gap models who all appear roughly the same age, and that he doesn’t seem to notice that his grandaughter has grown three feet in what appears to be six months? Is it any weirder than the sad fate of everyone’s hair once they become a vampire? I mean, seriously, Denise, what is the deal with the five alarm awfulness of vampire hair styles? Is it that they can’t see themselves in the mirror?

Wow, that got a little ranty. But I guess now is as good a time as any for me to just say in general that there is some strange things going on in the Twilight universe.

DENISE: 1. You basically have the whole imprinting situation exactly right. Renesmee technically has a choice, though. However, because Jacob is so devoted to her, the idea is that she wouldn’t choose otherwise. (Although, at the end of Breaking Dawn the book, Edward suggests that the other half-vampire/half-human Nahuel might be a little bit of competition for Jake.) But Emily stayed with Sam even when he ripped half her face off, so as long as Jacob doesn’t f— up to much, it should be fine for him and Nessie. I do wish they would have flash-forwarded to the scene where Jacob tells her that he used to makeout with her mom, though.

2. Vampires can be half-naked anytime they like because they aren’t affected by the cold. They run the same temperature all the time, no matter what the conditions.

3. Well, Charlie does notice that Renesmee grows — he’s just ignoring it, really. Charlie’s trying to live by their rules, which is to say that he can’t really know anything. (Otherwise, he’d have to be killed or turned into a vampire himself.) He shows a little trepidation when he first sees Bella, but I think he’s just happy to have her around, still. And I don’t think he approves necessarily — but it wasn’t his decision. She is 18. (Eternally, but an adult nonetheless.)

4. The wigs are just plain bad.

What else can I clear up for you?

ADAM: Um, who are Emily and Sam? Wait, are those the wolves who helped out Jacob but we never saw transform back into human form? That was definitely confusing. It seemed like Jacob was the only werewolf who wasn’t always a wolf!

And why does Bella call Charlie, “Charlie,” and not “Dad”? Does it have to do with Bella’s missing (and presumably dead) mother? I did think that all the Charlie stuff was the most relatable part of the movie for me; as the only regular old mortal human in the film, his befuddled, go-along-to-get-along reaction to everything was pretty much how I felt about the whole experience too.

DENISE: Oh dear. Sam is the big black wolf, the dude who came to shake Jacob’s hand when he was in the garage. He’s the head of the wolfpack that Jacob left. Emily is the woman he imprinted on. He slashed her face up badly — on accident — but she still stayed with him. She doesn’t really show up in this movie at all.

Maybe Bella calls him Charlie because she was never around him much when she was younger. In the book, she usually calls him “Dad” to his face and Charlie in her mind. Or it could be a Northwest thing? I lived in Seattle briefly as a kid, and we called all our teachers by their first names. And yes, Charlie is the best. I loved him! “Are you trying to get rid of me?” Pause. “Because it’s working!” Billy Burke is by far the best part of all the movies.

Let’s move on to the ending. What did you think? The novel ends without a fight, although they do talk about one happening. Was it effective? Would you have been disappointed if nothing had happened?

Breaking Dawn Part 2

ADAM: Yeah, judging from the reaction of the Twi-hards in my audience, I gathered that the battle — and all those brutal deaths! — wasn’t in the book. It definitely worked for me, though. First of all, it would indeed have been very disappointing if nothing had happened after the build-up of all those different vampires with their very specific special powers gathering together on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in Prof. X’s mansion at the Cullen home. But the sequence itself had a lot more violent, vicious bite than I ever expected a Twilight movie to have, and I mean that as a compliment.

But I’m curious: I know you’re on record as not really finding the “twist” ending to be much of a “twist” given what Stephenie Meyer herself wrote in Breaking Dawn the novel. But did you like the battle? Did you think it necessary for the film to work? And did part of you wish it all had been real? Because I sure did.

DENISE: I actually really enjoyed the battle. And it was definitely necessary. I remember reading Breaking Dawn and thinking “How are they going to make this into a movie? Nothing happens. They just stand there and talk, while Bella’s invisible mind shield protects them.” I know that Meyer likens this to The Merchant of Venice, and how Portia talks a way out of Shylock’s “pound of flesh” sentence on Antonio, but no one’s in a courtroom here. You’re telling me that a giant group of werewolves and vampires with special powers aren’t going to fight? I honestly did feel a bit short-changed in how Meyer chose to end things. So this was a nice surprise — a way to include a fight scene while keeping the purists happy and without altering the fabric of the story.

That being said, I did not want it to be real. If Meyer had actually written a real battle where there were deaths, I would have been fine with that. But she didn’t. It ends with everyone except Irina alive, and changing it would have upset me. These characters were alive at the end of the book and I wanted them to be alive at the end of films, too.

Since you’ve only seen this movie, what did you think of Edward and Bella’s relationship? To be honest, in the movies, it never seemed as intense as it did in the books. Were you under the impression that she just wanted to be a vampire and that’s why she was with him? Or did you think she just wanted to be with him so she had to become a vampire?

ADAM: You know, it’s weird. After hearing so much about how the reason the Twilight movies were so popular with women is that it was all about the love story, it felt to me like the love story was a third-tier concern in Breaking Dawn — Part 2. Honestly, I felt a little bit cheated. Yeah, we got some PG-13 nookie in the first act, but after that, it became all about protecting Reneesmeememeeemee and discovering all the different vampires in the world. There’s that whole section where Bella drives off on her own, and never tells Edward about her plan to send their daughter off with Jacob — not exactly a good sign for healthy communication in their relationship. And when Edward nearly dies in the fake battle, I don’t recall any shots of Bella losing her mind over almost losing her beloved. Judging only from this movie, Bella definitely felt much more into her new vampire powers than into her new husband.

But now that I think about it, the movie did also begin with that ridiculously beautiful shot of Edward looking at his freshly be-vamped bride, and it did end with them canoodling in the meadow, reminiscing about their love story. And for all the tabloid heartache they’ve endured this year, I gotta say that Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson do have palpable chemistry — at least, it seemed that way to me.

Still, I dunno, I can’t say it made me all swoony. Were you?

DENISE: I always felt in the movies that she wasn’t as in to him as she should be. And I wish it was more clear that she loved him more than anything else. (Even with the “triangle,” Meyer presents Jacob as a “safe” alternative — someone it would be easy for Bella to be with. She could have her family, she could have a life without becoming a vampire. Yet she still chooses Edward because she’s so in love with him. Not because she gets to turn into Ms. Perfect Sparkly Vamp.) But then, I realize I’m a 28-year-old woman who has her own life to lead, and I just enjoy it.

You’re right about Pattinson and Stewart, though. They are hot together. No matter what — or whom — they do in real life.

ADAM: That all makes sense to me save the notion of Jacob as the “safe” alternative to Edward. No matter which “team” you play for, no one is safe when Jacob takes off that shirt.

DENISE: You’re right. She could cut herself on those chiseled abs.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Pt. 2
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