NOVEMBER 16, 2011
I was tempted to give up on the series after New Moon, but the promise of vampire c-section was too tempting for this fan of batshit insanity, and so in order to keep up with the events of Breaking Dawn Part 1, I saw Eclipse, which turned out to be pretty good relative to the others. And BDP1 continues that tradition; if you were to go in blind you’d probably walk out before any of the truly ridiculous stuff happens, but compared to the woeful 2nd film and forgettable 1st, these last two border on genuine, no excuses entertainment.
Now, Eclipse is still the “best” in my opinion, because it had the most action and thus spent less time on the angst, minimizing the time I spent watching these thoroughly uninteresting people do thoroughly uninteresting things. But what BD lacks in action it makes up for in sheer ridiculousness, some of it bordering on some sort of Cronenberg-esque body horror, albeit filtered through teen melodrama. I mean, the movie is essentially a tale of a girl who is having a monster’s baby, one that is breaking her bones from within and essentially eating away at her (Kristen Stewart looks gorgeous in her wedding scenes, which is good since she is made to look like shit for the movie’s entire 2nd half) – certainly SOUNDS like a movie the average hardcore horror fan would dig, right? But it’s still Twilight, so before you get there you need a big wedding and dreamboat shots of Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, and sub-soap opera dialogue that you can either laugh, groan, or applaud at depending on your sensibilities. You also have to buy that Carlisle apparently owns an island off the coast of Rio, but, you know, whatever at this point.
So yeah, the first hour is pretty dull, bordering on New Moon levels of pointlessness. As Summit has decided to split the movies in two, you can see that the book didn’t exactly NEED a four hour film to tell its story, so everything gets dragged out, with several scenes that you know would have been tossed immediately had they only had a single film to work with. As much as I love Anna Kendrick, the only reason she is here at all is to keep people from saying “Where’s Jess?” – she doesn’t even share a single moment with what was her best friend a few years ago (Bella has no bridesmaids, apparently). Had this been a single 2, 2.5 hour film, Kendrick’s scenes probably would have been first to go.
Ditto most of their time on the island. Edward is hesitant in sleeping with her over and over like she wants because she gets a bit banged up on their wedding night. Apparently in the book he actually knocks her out, but apart from a pretty funny moment where he breaks the bed, it plays out like pretty much every other “and finally they fuck” scene from any other romantic movie ever made. So that’s fine, but I don’t think we need what seems like a full ten minutes’ worth of him resisting her advances to get the point. And if it was a single film, they’d probably just condense it so that she noticed she was pregnant the next morning (the baby grows at super speed so this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch) so we could move things along. We could also probably skip the pointless stop on the mainland in Rio; it’s the first time one of these movie’s budgets actually seemed to reflect what was on screen, but Summit could have made another movie or two with the money that was basically wasted here.
Anyway, once the pregnancy finally DOES happen the movie finally takes off, and that’s when Bill Condon starts to have more fun with the material. Unlike David Slade, who you could practically hear laughing off camera at times, Condon wisely decided to play this ridiculous material completely straight, which of course just makes it funnier. So while I missed some of Slade’s touches (no exploding glass vamps this time, dammit), I don’t know if Slade would manage to make the film’s climax as whacked out amazing as Condon did. Condon shoots the scene where Jacob imprints on a newborn baby as if it really is a man falling in love for the first time, and thus it completely lives up to its charmingly idiotic potential.
However, Condon actually manages to find a few scares in this one as well, so even though there’s less action it’s actually more of a “real” horror movie than Eclipse. An early nightmare scene is legitimately creepy, and the scene of Edward stalking a victim at a movie theater (showing Bride of Frankenstein – a nice little homage to his Gods & Monsters days) is played like any regular vampire film, and it’s pretty much the first time I saw Edward as a real vampire, not an emo weirdo. There’s also a fairly fun wolf vs. vampire fight in the 3rd act that sadly has no consequences (come on, kill Jasper!) but at least has some decent beats (read: shots of a vampire punching a wolf into a tree). The CGI is also much improved; the wolves still seem to change size depending on the scene, but at least they look pretty good and blend with the background/human actors better than they have before. There’s also a scene where the wolves all argue (with their human voices), and believe me - it’s even sillier than the sequence under the bridge in Transformers where they all debate about their next move.
I was also impressed with how they took what is just the first half of a book and made a 3 act, fairly “full” film out of it. Obviously the series die-hard fans will feel like it stops just when it gets good or whatever, but as far I was concerned, this movie was based on a book where the two main characters got married and dealt with the consequences of getting pregnant with a monster, ending on a note that set up the final book. The only obvious signs of it being halved involve the new characters, including some of the Cullen’s cousins (one played by Maggie Grace), who only appear in one scene and foreshadow some stuff that never pays off in this entry. Ditto the vampire overlords led by Michael Sheen, who only appear in a mid-credits scene that is pure exposition/set up for Part 2. But overall, the movie is about Bella getting pregnant, and in that respect it tells a complete story, from conception to birth.
It’s also the story of Jacob turning on his wolf family in order to “join” the Cullens, albeit only for Bella’s sake. And while that seems noble on paper, yet again the movies make me wonder why there’s any such thing as “Team Jacob”, because he’s just a total dickhead from start to finish. Everyone in the Cullen family (save the blonde girl who used to hate Bella but now is OK with her I guess) is perfectly kind to him, but he never stops insulting their kind and behavior. Even during a pivotal moment in the climax where Bella is in mortal danger (spoiler: she “dies”), he doesn’t seem sad or give a NOOOOO! but instead takes the opportunity to twist the knife a bit, insulting Edward for the 50th time. I mean, yeah, if she went with him she wouldn’t have to turn into a sparkly vampire, but she’d also have to spend the rest of her life with a guy who seems pretty damn hateful. Even when he turns on his family; it doesn’t seem like a guy doing the right thing, it comes across more as a dude who is still holding out hope that he can end up with her in the end. Let it go, man! At least he keeps his shirt on this time around; apart from the hilarious shot from the trailer where he disrobes after getting the wedding invite, he is welcome inside convenience stores for the rest of the film. Even when he returns to being human after wolfing out, he somehow instantly has a shirt on – I would have given them that one!
But, ultimately – who cares? The faithful will see it; the haters will still mock those who enjoy it and question why I bothered (what’s the current over/under on some anonymous ignoramus commenting “This teen shit ain’t horror!”). Even the Star Wars films are less critic proof than these, so it doesn't matter what anyone says, good or bad. However, if there ARE some open-minded folks who have yet to check any of the movies out, I guess you can start here as long as you know the basics, or maybe back up to Eclipse so the whole drama of what they plan to do after their wedding is a little more clear (the movie doesn't bother reminding us). The irony of them splitting the last book into two movies when they probably could have told the ENTIRE SERIES in as many films (given how un-complicated the thin “plot” is) is probably lost on most of its intended audience, but on the other hand there’s no real need to suffer through the first two wheel-spinning films to get the “context”. Twilight: Bella meets Edward and they fall in angsty love. New Moon: Edward takes off, Bella falls in love with Jacob, but then Edward comes back and she returns to him. There you go, now you’re all caught up. Pop in Eclipse for the exploding vampires and go see this one for the weird AIDS metaphor and hilarious wolf conversations.
And see you in November to see how it all wraps up! (p.s. What the fuck? A whole year for a split in half movie? Relative bull shit!)
What say you?
P.S. I’m busy anyway, but if I had any plan to talk about the deeper meanings and subtext of this thing, it would pale considerably to Film Critic Hulk’s piece on the series as a whole, which is as genius and well thought out as his other columns, and (goes without saying) much better than anything I’d come up with anyway. So I opted to more or less review this one at face value and how it stacks against the others, especially since this is hardly what anyone comes to HMAD for anyway. That said, I urge you to head on over to Badass Digest and read Hulk’s piece for a genuine critique of this series’ whacked out and potentially psychotic subtext.