Monday, November 21, 2011

Breaking Dawn - The Twilight Saga

Last night Katieschmatie and I viciously eradicated the hopeful romantic delusions of 3 teeny-boppers who took the new Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn, very seriously.

If you take Twilight very seriously or if you haven’t read the book and don’t want to know how Breaking Dawn Part 1 ends, this is not the review for you.

I knew this was going to happen as soon as they sat down, and leaned over to whisper in Katie’s ear, “They’re going to be really sorry they sat in front of us.” Katie and I do not love these movies because they are good. We do not love these movies because the books are good. We indulge in these books and movies because they are so entertainingly melodramatic and terrible. It also doesn’t hurt that Jacob is constantly taking his shirt off.

Don’t get me wrong, there are one or two good things about the books. There have also been one or two good things about each of the movies. Last night we were treated to some of the best moments – truly good moments and not just delightfully laughable moments – in the movie series to date.

First of all, Bella and Edward finally have their first real conversation. By “real” conversation I mean something approaching an argument with actual emotion and addressing realistic issues. Bella is pregnant and has decided to keep the baby, and just as in the book Edward is agonized by the choice that she has made. Unlike the book, Edward is more than agonized, he is angry at Bella. He confronts her with their marital vows: “We’re supposed to be partners,” and reminds her that, “You made this choice without me.” It is one of the most tense and best acted moments I’ve seen in these movies. Edward is anguished, maddened with despair and almost hateful that Bella has made this decision without him, leaving him out in the cold and (eventually) he fears without a wife as she the decision she has made looks to lead to her death.

Later he will apologize, realizing that he has left her alone in this struggle for her and their progeny’s life; recognizing that he has not behaved well as a partner either. It was so refreshing to see something approaching a real relationship between the two of them, rather than the monotonous perfect love they usually portray.

Another refreshing moment occurs when Jacob tries to talk Bella out of having the baby and she tells him, “I’m strong enough to do this.” THANK GOD. Throughout all the previous books and movies Bella has been a whimpering female, constantly moaning and whining about her weak state as a mere human female and insisting that the only way she can provide something of value or worth is by becoming a vampire. Even in the third movie when she “contributes” to the fight between Edward and Victoria, her contribution is to mutilate and injure herself. Finally we see her fighting for something. Finally Bella see her weak human female self as being worthwhile, as having the strength and willpower to overcome incredible odds without needing to be turned into a vampire – she doesn’t falter when Carlisle informs her that carrying the baby to term will kill her and she will not have the opportunity to make “the change.”  Of course, that’s not what happens, but it’s still fantastic that this paragon of teeny-boppers is finally telling them that they can be strong in the face of adversity and personal pain/sacrifice and that they don’t need to be a vampire to be worthwhile. Hopefully they don’t all start thinking that they can only be that way if they’re pregnant; but, despite its circumstantial drawbacks, it’s still a moment that breathes fresh life into Bella’s character.

One of my favorite things about this movie is that it does not pull its punches in regards to Bella’s appearance. So often when Hollywood makes someone “sick” they just look attractively pale and drawn. Bella, as Jacob informs her, looks like hell. Her hair is stringy, her skin has an unhealthy tinge to it, dark circles bruise her eyes, and her already thin body becomes even more skeletal. And no one thinks that this weight loss is a good thing. She looks like she’s dying, and not in a sweetly, waif-like way. It looks like the life is slowly being sucked out of her one drop at a time, and it looks painful.

Of course, being a Twilight movie, there’s plenty of humor as well – intentional or not. First of all, there’s a lot of comedic relief needed throughout the movie because the producers decided to make two movies instead of one and, although there are two separate story lines in the book, there’s really not enough material for two movies. So they had to add some in. At least 10 minutes of awkward speeches at Bella and Edward’s wedding reception, which made me cringe and writhe in my seat. Jessica’s was particularly painful – “And suddenly Edward’s all about Bella… even though she’s not the captain of the volleyball team. Hahaha… just kidding. Or president of the student council.”  Who let that girl in front of the microphone?! Charlie’s speech, of course, was pure gold as he enumerates the many reasons he knows Edward will keep Bella happy, starting with the fact that Charlie is a cop and he has a gun. I love Charlie. He’s my favorite.

The honeymoon provides plenty of opportunity for movie extenders and humor. Bella and Edward apparently get a little bit of time in Rio, dancing, before heading off to Isle Esme. Then, of course, prior to Bella and Edward’s first night one as man and wife, he heads to the beach while she indulges in all the female hygiene rituals a girl must complete, especially before sexy-time. The first big laugh of the movie came when, the following morning, newly deflowered Bella tells Edward that “I can’t imagine it getting any better than that.” The teeny-boppers in front of us looked around in confusion, not understanding why the rest of the movie theater found that to be such a laughable sentiment. Less time could have been spent on the Honeymoon, but at least watching Bella try to seduce Edward again (and her frustration as they played chess instead) was extremely amusing. 

A moment of unintentional hilarity was the one and only time that the movie attempted to showcase the unique communication of Jacob’s tribe. This was almost well done at first, as voices overlap voices, and they seem to be coming from all directions, just like in the book. But then Jacob arrives at the pack and as he and Sam start their dominance showdown, the voiceover becomes much deeper and also slooooooower. The entire movie theater cracked up, especially as Jacob finally overpowers Sam and dramatically declares, “I was not meant to follow you” in his newly deepened voice.

Still, the movie itself is overall not as bad as I thought it would be. The wedding was incredibly beautiful, and actually made me tear up a little. This is possibly because I was married less than two months ago, but watching Bella’s trepidation as she made her way to the aisle, then take her first deep breath as she sees Edward standing waiting for her, and the way her nervousness melts away… I related to that completely. 

Of course, they had to ruin it a few minutes later by rushing through the ceremony (fastest ceremony ever: apparently it consisted of just the vows and then making out) and using some awkward movie magic to “show” that they feel like they’re the only two people in the world (Seriously guys, you can show that feeling without a shot of the empty rows where the wedding guests were sitting). But the build up to the wedding ceremony, the peeks of her dress before they show the full get-up and the walk down the aisle are fantastic.

On a more gruesome note, Bella’s first sips of blood are just as grotesque and disturbing as they are in the book. Everyone cringed and gasped a little, even though we knew it was coming. Especially when she smiles a little and shows her red-tinged teeth; there is no attempt to clean up her mouth or make that moment prettier, and the movie is better for it. There is no attempt to sexualize or glamorize her blood drinking, it is dirty and gross and fantastic because of that.

Coming into the movie, I’ve been very curious how the two “mystical” transformations – Bella into a vampire and Jacob imprinting on Renesmee – would be handled, and I think they did brilliantly. The camera view shoots into Bella’s body, showing her nerves and blood vessels being encased in a diamond like substance, interspersed with brief flashes of red-tinted writhing and screaming so that we know she’s in pain, and then suddenly the camera’s back out of her body where she’s laying as still as a corpse. It was fantastic.

Jacob’s imprinting was handled just as skillfully, although in a completely different way. Just in case you haven’t read the books and didn’t remember back to the second movie where he explains the phenomenon, there’s a voice over of his explanation to Bella. Suddenly it’s like the universe is floating away, and there are clouds and a vision of the future, a vision of the young woman Renesmee will become (and man is she pretty!). It’s cheesy, but it works. Considering the subject matter, the cheesiness actually plays into everything.

The movie also played up the tensions between the vampires and wolves. I knew from the previews that there would be actual fighting, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that going into the movie. It turned out to be a very good thing. First of all, because throughout the entire fourth book every time there’s about to be a major confrontation, nothing happens. You can’t have that kind of climatic build up in a movie and then let it dissipate into nothingness. That’s not only boring, it’s frustrating. Instead, once Jacob informs the pack of Bella’s pregnancy and then leaves because he refuses to be a part of killing Bella, the pack surrounds the Cullens house and pens them in. This makes much more sense than Sam’s strategy in the book, which is to leave the Cullens alone and only guard the tribe (as if the Cullens are suddenly going to break the treaty and attack the tribe just because Bella’s pregnant… like they don’t have better things to worry about.). It also adds quite a bit of tension as the Cullens’ food situation becomes more and more desperate and they are unable to leave, especially once Carlisle breaks out the blood for Bella to drink.

When Carlisle and Esme actually do leave to hunt, forced into the situation because Carlisle must feed to be strong enough when Bella delivers, they are guarded by Emmett – and the guard is needed. Jacob distracts the majority of the pack, but the trio of Cullens are chased through the woods by Sam and Paul in wolf form. Esme, the slowest of the vampires, is actually knocked over and caught by Sam at one point, and is only saved when Emmett comes bulling in from the side. They finally leave the wolves behind when they jump off a cliff and over a large river, geographical barriers that would slow the wolves down too much even if they tried to follow.

Once Renesmee is born the pack comes to attack. Edward, Jasper and Alice are severely outnumbered. Leah and Seth jump in after a few minutes of fighting, and then the rest the Cullens show up and things get very exciting, until Jacob finally joins the action, and stands between the Cullens and the pack, commanding: "STOP." 

After a moment he turns into a wolf so that the pack will know he has imprinted on Renesmee. Fortunately we are not treated to another taste of ‘pack communication,’ instead Edward translates, a device which manages to heighten the tension and also the humor as he looks down at his future son-in-law.
The actual fighting is very exciting, although every time a wolf is actually in position to actually kill a vampire there tends to be a lot of snapping and growling instead of tearing them apart. The vampires show similar restraint. There is an obvious reluctance, for the most part, to do actual lasting harm to each other. The wolves don’t want to kill anyone but the ‘abomination’ and the vampires certainly don’t want to harm the wolves if they don’t have to (well, except for maybe Emmett). I’m not sure if that’s what the filmmakers intended, but that’s how it came off to me, and I appreciated the subtlety of it.

Overall, I think this is probably the best Twilight movie to date. Not saying it’s a great movie, just the best of the series so far. It’s entertaining, funny, and exciting; there’s tension, the heroine finally becomes a slightly better example for young girls, and Bella and Edward’s relationship starts looking a little closer to real life. Katieschmatie and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves watching it.

Although, I’m pretty sure our comments completely ruined it for the teeny-boppers in front of us who obviously thought that there’s nothing ridiculous at all about Twilight.

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