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The Twilight Saga:

People are fond of saying that good things come in threes, but apparently the reverse can also be true. The third film in the Twilight franchise is like a bleeding mouth ulcer following explosive diarrhea and an eight-hour case of the hiccups; it's hard to objectively say which you hated the most.

Let's be honest here: actually expecting something of worth to come out of this series at this point would be tantamount to expecting peace to spontaneously break out in the Middle East. While nothing about such an event contravenes actual physical law, it's just not going to happen, and expecting it to is just sort of pathetic and naive. The skeletal plot, which is less a skeleton and more just a few abandoned pieces of spine left lying around, is as follows: Bella can't decide. Lurking behind this and bearing a stronger resemblance to an actual plot is the fact that red-headed vampire Victoria, whose lover was killed by the Cullen vampire clan in Bella's defense back in film one, is raising an army of new vampires to get revenge. It's a lame plot, but it's at least recognizable as one.

Most of the remaining two hours are occupied by Bella's endless vacillating between the personifications of The First-Time Screenwriter's Guide to Cheap Symbolism's fire and ice paradigms, two rich opportunities for lemming-like teens to hop on their preferred permutation of Team "I'm with stupid." Edward the vampire is cold-blooded and blue and emotionless and his temperature causes his face to freeze in a single expression, which probably isn't meant to be true, but I'm offering it as an out to the actor, should he wish to take it. Jacob the werewolf has a high temperature, a quick temper and walks around shirtless even in the winter as he jockeys to secure the local Buff Hick of the Year Award. Edward proposes marriage so that he can boff his century-younger girlfriend "with his virtue intact," though she will have to become a vampire herself and leave her old life behind. Jacob, who seems to possess some trace of personality, or at the very least the means of articulating his face, offers her a life not requiring any species transmogrification and, although it's not explicitly stated, probably has no Victorian qualms about waiting for marriage. Naturally, therefore, she must file him in the "runner-up" category, because otherwise the story could mercifully reach a conclusion. Bella herself, after searching under various rocks and bits of bric-a-brac for a personality of her own, finally settles on "manipulative brat;" to whom this is supposed to endear her, I've no clue.

It's frequently been observed that these films and the books that spawned them are extended metaphors for teen chastity, a fact frustratingly reflected in the story structure itself. These are films about waiting for things to happen, which more often than not fail to ever occur. As with New Moon, there's an average of five seconds' worth of dead air between line readings; a dedicated editor could probably manage to get both films to occupy the same two-hour space without any of the dialogue being lost (or if he was feeling merciful, with all of the dialogue being lost). Edward and Jacob threaten to throw down over their mutually sought and dubious prize, but ultimately hurl not one single punch, in a desperate attempt to avoid any potential catharsis. Victoria's revenge scheme, which occupied about five minutes of context-free running time in New Moon, doesn't manifest in any meaningful way until the last half-hour of this film. Boring and badly-paced conversations must hold our interest until then, when three small armies clash over the fate of a character no one with three functioning brain cells would deem worth the effort.

While the last film's loathesome and probably unintended allegory of abusive relationships is fortunately absent here, one almost wishes one of her two suitors would give Bella a good smack upside the head as she teasingly strings both of them along for personal gain. Faced with the possibility that Jacob has lost interest in protecting her lame ass from harm, she finally kisses him and professes her love, only to run back to Edward and proclaim "I love you more" once wolf-boy has run off to fight for her. Excuse me, but Jesus Christ, what a bitch.

Just by-the-by, someone should probably tell the powers that be that Dakota Fanning is not scary, authoritative, or intimidating. At all.

-review by Matt Murray

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