Monday, March 4, 2013

Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II
Directed by: Bill Condon.
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.
Starring: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Taylor Lautner (Jacob Black), Peter Facinelli (Dr. Carlisle Cullen), Elizabeth Reaser (Esme Cullen), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Hale), Kellan Lutz (Emmett Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Hale), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Mackenzie Foy (Renesmee), Maggie Grace (Irina), Jamie Campbell Bower (Caius), Christopher Heyerdahl (Marcus), Michael Sheen (Aro), Dakota Fanning (Jane), Cameron Bright (Alec), MyAnna Buring (Tanya), Lee Pace (Garrett), Joe Anderson (Alistair).

I have often been accused of liking movies where nothing happens. You know the movies I mean – the long, slowly paced ones that have a lot of talk in them and not a lot of action. The films of Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff) are a prime recent example. But I always say that in those films, a lot happens, you just have to pay attention. The characters are struggling with their own morality, or with feelings they are trying to repress. It is all very subtle, but it’s very much there.

It may seem odd to start my final review of a Twilight film with talk of long, slow movies where subtle things are bumbling beneath the surface, but I think it’s appropriate. Because after reading all four of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books, and watching all five movies based on those books, I have come to the conclusion that The Twilight Saga really is a series of books and movies in which nothing happens. The characters stare longingly at each other, and have long, serious sounding conversations about love, vampires, werewolves, the Volturri, sex, family and everything else – but none of it really means anything. The dialogue is horrid, and the meaning behind it all ridiculous. Worse yet, it seems like Meyer was so in love with what she created, that she takes out all real conflict in her stories. You read the books, and it seems like we have four novels leading towards and ultimate showdown with the Volturri – one in which nothing really happens and EVERYONE gets to live happily ever after. No one pays any sort of price for anything that happens. At least director Bill Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg know enough to know we WANT to see a big confrontation, which they give us, even if it turns out not to be real.

The first hour of Breaking Dawn Part II is the worst this series has ever been – in fact, it’s as bad anything I have seen in recent years. In it, Edward and Bella deal with their young daughter Renesmee (the single worst name in history), and with Bella as a young vampire – incredibly strong and hungry. Everyone sits around looking very serious, and saying ridiculous dialogue to each other – especially if it involves Jacob and “imprinting”. Bella’s father is told that she is alive, but different – and seems to have no real problem with that. Then, of course, the Volturri – the powerful Italian vampires who run everything – find out about Reneesme, and embark on a journey to confront the Cullens. The Cullens gather their own forces, and it appears we are about to witness and epic vampire battle royale – which we do see, but it turns out not to be real.

My problem with the Twilight Saga has always been the same, and always been relatively simple. Nothing ever seems to be at stake in movies. There is never any real danger – we know that everything will be ok in the end, and so the movies lack any real dramatic tension. Perhaps even worse is that everyone seems so miserable for the entire running time of every movie. Love is hard, and is not all joy to be sure, but shouldn’t Edward and Bella – who end this saga in the most sickeningly cloying scene in the entire series, in a field full of flowers telling each other “No one has ever loved anyone as much I love you” seem at some point to be happy? They have spent the entire five movies looking, sounding an acting completely and totally miserable. I don’t even think it is either actor’s fault – this is clearly how these characters are supposed to behave, but sweet Jesus, does it ever get tiring.

You could argue, I suppose, that I am criticizing Twilight for not being the movie I want it to be, rather than the movie that it is. Fair enough, I guess. It always bugs me when people do this – telling filmmakers what they should have done, instead of just critiquing what they did do. Yet, in this case, what they did do is create a dramatically inert series of movies – movies with nothing of interest happening, with dour, boring characters, and horrible special effects - seriously folks, can you honestly looking at all the scenes of vampires running at full tilt in this movie – none worse than Bella taking off after that climber, and not burst into laughter at just how shoddy the special effects are? These movies make $300 million a pop, couldn’t they spring for better effects for the finale?

Still, I suppose that perhaps all I should do is just throw up my hands and admit the books and movies are not for me. Obviously, millions of teenage girls LOVE this series – both the books and the movie – beyond all reason, and they tend to be an underserved demographic, as Hollywood chases after the dollars of teenage boys, and simply assume girls will also show up. So, good for them I guess. I just wish the series treated these teenage girls with more respect – more respect for their ability to handle complex, intelligent plots and characters. There is no reason you couldn’t make a cheesy love story about vampires. But there is no reason that when you do, it has to be as dour and self-serious as the Twilight series.

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