NEW YORK –– Here’s a puzzler wherewith to bamboozle your friendly neighborhood canon lawyer: Is being undead an impediment to marriage? The question arises, of course, because the gothic sequel “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 1” (Summit) opens with the nuptials of its by-now iconic but nonetheless ill-assorted central pair.
For the benefit of those who may have been napping in their coffins for the past half-decade or so, we tarry to explain that said couple is composed of courteous bloodsucker Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and 18-year-old mortal Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a freshly minted high school grad.
After a wedding clearly intended to make Wills and Kate eat their hearts out, it’s off to a honeymoon in Brazil that, despite an idyllic natural setting, belies the happily-ever-after cliche. It’s at this juncture that the content of this fourth addition to the blockbuster franchise –– adapted by director Bill Condon from the first part of novelist Stephenie Meyer’s best-seller “Breaking Dawn” –– begins to become unsuitable for youngsters.
In addition to a rather frank portrayal of the heretofore chaste duo’s first encounter, we’re also presented with a somewhat uncomfortable plot development about the unintended effects on Bella of Edward’s superhuman strength, at least when combined with his newlywed’s ardor. Wracked with guilt over his unwittingly abusive behavior, Edward shuns further physical contact with Bella, and the two eke out their days playing chess.
Things become even more complicated when Bella realizes she’s pregnant, an apparently unheard-of turn of events in the vampire world. With Bella’s life endangered by having a baby vein-drainer in utero, the Cullen clan –– led by adoptive dad Dr. Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and mom Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) –– debate what to do. And perennial third wheel Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) finds himself torn between his hopeless love for Bella and the laws of the vampire-hating werewolf pack to which he belongs.
Mature viewers will recognize a strongly pro-life message being conveyed via Bella’s unusual plight. She steadfastly resists all pressure to identify her offspring as anything other than a baby, and is determined to run whatever risks may lie ahead in order to give birth. Edward initially pleads with her to save herself by destroying the child, but undergoes a dramatic conversion after his otherworldly powers enable him to read the as-yet-unborn infant’s mind.
While all this transpires in a context far removed from reality, it still presents a welcome counterpoint to the all-too-frequent motif in popular entertainment whereby pregnancy is presented as a form of disease or an almost unbearable curse.
The aforementioned sexual interlude, however, together with some grisly ones, preclude endorsement for most of the youthful demographic at which this installment, like its predecessors, is presumably aimed. Parents will want to weigh carefully the possibility of allowing some more mature adolescents to patronize it.
The film contains a scene of semi-graphic marital lovemaking, some gory images, an abortion theme, several mild sexual references and jokes as well as a couple of crass expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III –– adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 –– parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.