Sunday, February 12, 2012

DVD Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I *
Directed by: Bill Condon.
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer.
Starring: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Sarah Clarke (Renée), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Anna Kendrick (Jessica), Michael Sheen (Aro), Booboo Stewart (Seth), Alex Rice (Sue Clearwater), Kiowa Gordon (Embry), Tyson Houseman (Quil), Chaske Spencer (Sam Uley), Bronson Pelletier (Jared), Alex Meraz (Paul), Julia Jones (Leah).

I read all four Twilight books, and while I wouldn’t describe any of them as good books, Breaking Dawn reached a level of stupidity and ridiculousness that was simply mind boggling. I feel the same way about the movies – only the third installment – Eclipse – directed by David Slade even approached being a good movie. For the final installment – split into two parts a la Harry Potter – they hired a very good director in Bill Condon – whose three previous films, Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls – were all entertaining and well made. But he is undone by the material he has to work with here, which is just plan awful. No, he really doesn’t do the movie any favors – the film is poorly made – but hell, if you hired Martin Scorsese to direct this movie, it would still be shit.

The final chapter of the Twilight Saga (and how pretentious is it to refer to it as a Saga?) begins with Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), her vampire boyfriend, getting married in what is admittedly an absolutely beautiful wedding, even if it is the type of wedding that only ever really happens in the movies. They then head off to an island off the coast of Brazil for their honeymoon – where after years, they will finally give into the urges they have been fighting since the beginning of the series and have sex. After the honeymoon, when Bella can experience sex as a human (and the sex here is literally bed shatteringly amazing, once again setting up unrealistic expectations of first time sex that will never be met in real life), Edward will turn her into a vampire, so they can “live” together forever. Of course, things don’t go as planned – and Bella ends up pregnant with some sort of vampire/human hybrid, that no one even knew was possible to create. While the obvious thing to do would be to give Bella an abortion – after all, no one believes that Bella will survive the pregnancy or the birth, and they cannot turn her into a vampire until the baby is born – she refuses. So the series, that has always been a religious series about not giving into sexual urges before marriage, becomes a pro-life tale.

The problem I have always had with the Twilight series – both as books and movies – is that for all the serious talk, for all the threats and bubbling resentment and sense of impending violence between vampires and the werewolves (led by Taylor Lautner’s Jacob), is that nothing much actually ever happens in the movies. They are all talk and no action, films that build and build and build towards a climax, and then simply deflates at the end. This is even more the case with this film, because the filmmakers decided to milk the series for all it is worth, and split the final movie into two movies, even though there is barely enough material in the book to make one movie let alone two.

The acting in the Twilight films has always been suspect at best. My favorite actor in the series has always been Billy Burke as Bella’s father, whose bitterness, resentment and almost hatred of Edward comes out in hilarious ways at times – unfortunately, he’s barely in this film. Kristen Bell has proved in other movies (Into the Wild, The Runaways) that she actually is a gifted actress – but Bella is such a blank slate, such a nothing of a character, that frankly, it’s annoying to watch her whine her way through another movie. I hope she gets good work after this series is over. Robert Pattinson’s Edward is perhaps an even more boring character – even more of a blank slate than Bella – and Pattinson really doesn’t bring anything to it either. Isn’t Edward supposed to be a bad boy? Why the hell is he is miserable all the damn time? I have seen nothing in Pattinson’s performance so far to suggest he is actually a good actor, but really, truly hope that he proves me wrong, as David Cronenberg has cast him in the lead role of his next film. The most interesting of the three main characters has always been Jacob, but unfortunately, Taylor Lautner is clearly one of the worst actors I have ever seen. If he didn’t look so good without his shirt on, there would nothing in worth watching.

The screenplay for this movie is awful – full of horrible dialogue that makes already questionable actors look even worse than they probably actually are. Condon, as director, brings nothing to the table here – the special effects, even the most simple ones, are laughably awful. The numerous CSI-like shots inside of Bella’s blood stream are also awful – and I defy anyone to watch the scenes between the werewolves where they communicate telepathically and not break out into unintentional laughter.
I know a lot of teen girls love this series – and they don’t care what I have to say about it. They made it one of the biggest hits of 2011, and no doubt, Breaking Dawn Part II will be one of the biggest hits of 2012. Good for them. I just wish that the Saga they love so much had something more to offer them. You can make a mass market entertainment about teenage romance, and not make it so god awful. Twilight isn’t that series.

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