Immortality Becomes You
Dear Kathryn ,
Thanks for getting us started on this conversation, and sorry to take so long to respond! I’ve been wanting to re-read the book’s ending to refresh my memory before I started writing about the spin taken in the film. I agree with you completely – this is the movie that ignites my “Team Bella” instincts, for sure. Just as with the novel, I was delighted to see the newborn Ms. Swan living into her powers. But at the same time, this was where I thought the movie fell short.
I guess the film-makers thought movie goers had to have a battle – [SPOILER] so the device of having Alice reveal to Aro the endgame of his power-lust allowed us to see the horrors of what an all-out ancient/vampire/shape-shifter war would be (didn’t it remind you of Gangs of New York?… faces being ripped open on a snowscape, but without the blood – which made it almost creepier to me!). When the whole battle scene was revealed as Alice’s vision people in my theatre actually shouted and swore at the screen (as did I!). But in the end I thought this insertion undermined the need for my two favourite parts of the book:
First – we no longer needed to see the development of Bella’s shield (which, in the book, is trained throughout, but only fully discovered and unveiled in the final showdown). This means that we cut all the badass training scenes from the book – which were where Bella really came into her own and revealed her full power. It also meant cutting the fun play from the book where Bella realizes how powerful she is as the fight is about to begin, but Edward does not yet know. In the book, it’s Bella who protects everyone and shows the Volturi that they can’t attack with the ferocity they thought they possessed. The shift in the movie makes Alice the true hero, but in the book, it’s Bella. Given that she’s been the heroine all along, why strip her of that in the final moments?
More importantly, the reason the shield was so interesting to me in the book was because it made the strongest power a maternal, protective power. I could never figure out whether I liked that or not, but it at least intrigued me. All that felt lost in the film with a cheap fake battle scene. I was eager to have that conversation with you – what does it mean to locate female power in maternal power? How does that enhance female power and how does it undermine it? How does it contribute to the saga’s ongoing support of traditional gender roles and how does it inadvertently undo them? With the shift in focus, all the fun feminist questions we usually bring to these stories were somewhat dissolved.
And second, by cutting out all the awesome training stuff, we also lost all the gorgeous character development of the cloud of witnesses. My absolutely favourite thing about that final book was how the strange little nuclear family of the Cullenses was expanded into a large and vibrant kinship network of super-cool freaks! We had loners, vegetarians and non-vegetarians, chosen families and even – I’m convinced – some Amazonian lesbians. The intense focus on hetero-couples that had dominated the family structures holding the narratives in place up until that point gave way to a motley crew community. I loved the inadvertent subversion of traditional family structures that happened in that arc – and I was so sorry to see it go in the film! In a sense, I read that alternative kinship structure as a type of utopian collective. It inspired radical politics that I’m sure Stephanie Meyer did not intend. By removing these elements, I thought the book’s (again, inadvertently) edgier elements were tamed.
That’s not say that the film wasn’t fun – it was fun. And it did maintain Aro’s final chilling reason for battle – fear of the unknown. In the end, it matters, I think, that evil is embodied in the desire to destroy what we don’t understand. In a series of movies that have such a conservative theological (and, by extension, sexual) template, I think it matters that the desire for certainty is what forces the bad guys to attempt obliterating the good.
In response to your love of the credits – yes, absolutely! But I have to add how much I enjoyed the closing credits too! They were so corny, hilarious and self-obsessed. Didn’t they remind you of the worst kind of soap opera, evoking characters loved, lost and forgotten in the most melodramatic way? That the franchise sees itself as something requiring such nostalgia, I found laugh-out-loud funny…and yet I loved it precisely because of it’s grandiose self-possessed illusions. Absolutely brilliant!
I’m sad to see our Twilight Saga come to an end, Kathryn – what fun that this whole Moth Chase began with our emails about the books so many years ago! For all Ms. Meyer has inspired in us, I think we both offer her a big thank you!
Wondering why vampires even bother wearing winter coats in the snow…