November 19, 2012

Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part II

When I started this blog, I imagined I might deal with the Twilight film once I was through eviscerating the novel. As it's developed, I've found myself referencing the film version regularly, calling into question the need to address it separately. Writing up the other films hadn't even entered my mind, as I was not (and am not) sure I'll have the strength to dig into their respective source novels. The first one is trying enough.

Yet this blog concerns itself with two things: Twilight and terrible movies. What could be more appropriate, then, than reviewing a Twilight movie? Plus I thought, considering my love-hate relationship with this series, I ought to see at least one of the films in cinema, surrounded by Twihards. So on the film's opening night, I went eagerly to see Twilight, Part 4: Part 2.

Yes, Breaking Dawn, the epic story that could not be contained in one movie, split in two and made shamelessly cheaply to maximize profits. Warning: This review is spoiler-heavy, including the one genuine surprise at the film's climax (along with its subsequent ruination). If you have any intention of seeing this film--and God help you if you do--I strongly recommend you read no further. Those who prefer moving slowly through the novel along with this blog will also want to avoid the rest of this review, as it's sure to give away plot points from throughout the series.

Having said that, let's get into Breaking Wind. Since this is the fifth and final in the series of films that make up THE TWILIGHT SAGA (you have to say it in all caps), let me bring you up to speed on what happened in the previous four films.

Edward and Bella got married and had sex, resulting in Bella's pregnancy.

You can see why they needed four movies to tell such an epic tale. And now we have the finale, and it is every bit the sputtering anticlimax you expect from a series of novels that gave away its inevitable conclusion in the first fifty pages but insisted on dragging the story out across three thousand.

Stephenie Meyer's manipulation of her series mythology--such as it is--to suit her plot comes out in full force in Breaking Bad. Vampires don't blink, or breathe, or eat, but they do continue to produce viable sperm and the semen to deliver it, and their hearts continue to pump blood. That's an odd mix of biological processes there. Why, it's almost as if the author hasn't thought through the whole vampire thing and just makes it work however her plot needs it to work.

The fetus develops so rapidly I thought maybe I'd missed Bella drinking the Water of Life, so the newly married couple decides to conceal her pregnancy from Mustache Dad. It sure is lucky they did, because Bella dies giving birth to the half-vampire child. Edward is devastated, but then he remembers that in the Meyerverse, vampire blood not only turns living people into vampires, but dead people, too! So even though she's already dead, Edward makes like the Re-Animator, and Bella's eyes open, vampire-red. End of Part 4, Part 1.

Part 4, Part 2 picks up directly from there. The power fantasy of Twilight's vampirism reaches completion in this installment, as we're treated to annoying zoom shots of Bella Swan's (Kristen Stewart) super-human senses: She can see the tiniest drop of water, hear the movement of air, see the dust motes between the carpet fibers, smell the slightest of farts. Instead of reacting in horror and despair that she is now condemned to the same damnation of attending high school over and over again until the end of time that Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) has endured for a century, she's ecstatic to be a walking corpse that feasts on the blood of the living. Now she can live her suburban white American upper-middle-class unlife until the end of time! Plus, she can run really, really fast by way of a terribly rendered CGI effect, smash slabs of granite with her bare hands without having to, you know, put in any effort to build muscles, and have sex literally constantly since vampires don't sleep or become fatigued.

And every vampire has a special vampire power, on top of all their other powers, so that Meyer can rely on mind-reading, clairvoyance, and seeing the future whenever she can't think of a plausible way to get the characters out of a situation. If you guessed that Bella's special power (which is that other vampires' special powers don't work on her, except when the filmmakers forget and have a power affect her) is the most special-est one of all, give yourself a cookie.

So Bella's the strongest vampire of all the Cullens, and has the best-est power, and is definitely--with the Twilight vampire make-up job and those red colored contact lenses--the hottest. There's the little trouble of bloodlust, though, since newly-turned vampires in the Meyerverse are very difficult to keep from eating people. Edward takes her out to hunt an animal instead, but she gets a whiff of some poor bastard who's just gashed himself open while rock-climbing, and she's off to eat him. Uh-oh, conflict! But this is Twilight, so conflict is either never brought up at all or brought up and then immediately resolved. This time it's option b: Edward runs after her and tells her she shouldn't eat this guy, so she doesn't, and the idea that she'll eat people is never mentioned in the film again; in fact, she's allowed to meet Mustache Dad (Billy Burke), alone, the next day. Man, Edward's one minute of training sure paid off! Bella is about to eat a deer, but not only are these vampires so neutered they don't eat people, they don't even eat cute cuddley-wuddley animals. So Bella instead eats a mountain lion that was just about to eat the deer. She vampire-jumps and hits the beast from the side, taking it down and tearing its neck open with her teeth. And yes, it looks just as ridiculous as it sounds.

Speaking of Mustache Dad, he is now the only actual human being left in Twilight, since Bella's high school friends are absent this film. Progressively through the series, these friends have become more and more apart from Bella until they disappear entirely after her wedding, since her marriage signified her becoming a full member of the Mormon church Cullen clan and so she has no connection to these people from her pre-Cullen life. I don't think Meyer was going for the Cullens as a symbolic dangerous cult, but that's what she gave us. Bella's okay with the Cullens' telling her father she's dead, since she has Edward and is a vampire now and that's all that's important. Spurned suitor Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), though, says she'll want to have her father in her life, so, in a genuinely funny scene--in part due to Burke's acting, which I've already praised elsewhere--Jacob reveals he is a werewolf to Mustache Dad. He does this by stripping off his clothes, making this the obligatory "Jacob takes off his shirt" scene, much to Mustache Dad's annoyance. Somehow this means it's okay for Bella to continue to see her father. Whew, that was...too close. Another conflict raised and immediately hand-waved away!

But why is Jacob there, you ask? Well, the werewolves have this thing called "imprinting". Long story short, it's "there's someone out there just for you" taken to its Meyerverse extreme. A werewolf sees a person of the opposite sex (despite all the shirtless male horseplay throughout the series, these dogs don't roll with teh gay!) and becomes that person's creepy stalker: He has to be with that person, and no other, and the obsession can't be changed or removed. Jacob doesn't imprint on Bella because that would've brought about a genuine conflict with no easy resolution, and we'll have none of that. No, he imprints--and I can't believe I'm going to write this--he imprints...on...the baby.

The baby.

This man witnesses a birth, and upon seeing the bloody, squalling infant, he falls in love with it.

Which means that, throughout the film, he's constantly hovering around the little girl, looking at her with naked longing in his eyes. (It's very, very odd that Taylor Lautner's best acting in the entire series is giving creepy sex looks to a 7-year-old girl.) It was disturbing every time I saw it, astonished that the director filmed those scenes and included them in the final print. I mean, it just has to be seen to be believed. Wait no, because I saw it and I still don't believe it.

The plot, what little there is, is exactly the same as that of Part 3. In that film, Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her horde of vampires were coming to destroy the Cullen family, who had to turn to the underwearwolves for help. In this film, Aro (Michael Sheen) and his horde of vampires are coming to destroy the Cullen family, who have to turn to their other vampire friends for help. Most of these vampires are just names and faces that leave no impression, and they don't have much impact on the story. I laughed when one of them proved to be the Last Airbender, and it was nice to see some of the "good" vampires being vampires (i.e., eating people) when the Cullens go to ask for their help.

Now I've beaten up on Twilight a lot. Certainly it sucks, and it deserves all the scorn that has been and continues to be heaped upon it. But I do want to give credit where I can, and two of these new vampires are fabulous. These are Hanz and Franz--I don't know what their real names are, but to me they're Hanz and Franz--Romanian vampires who used to be in charge of the vampire world until the Italian Volturi overthrew them. These guys, with their best Bela Lugosi accents and the way they finish each other's thoughts, are only matched in the shameless overacting department by Michael Sheen--yes, that Michael Sheen--as Aro, the leader of the Volturi. These three men slice the ham thick, and I love them for it. Hanz and Franz are pushing the Cullens and their friends to fight the Volturi, but nobody but Edward is having it, since the Volturi are so powerful no-one can stand against them. Edward gives a "we few, we happy few" speech (consisting of maybe three lines) that won't have Shakespeare looking over his shoulder, and they're all ready to fight. (Personally, the hell with Edward, but I'd fight for Hanz and Franz.)

Carlisle (Peter Facinelli), the head of the Cullen family, exposits that the Volturi are coming to destroy the Cullens so they can force Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene), the vampire who sees the future, to become part of their clan. To disguise this naked power grab, however, the Volturi need an excuse, and they decide to use as their pretext a report that Edward and Bella's daughter, who has the hilariously stupid name "Reneesme", is an "immortal child". That is, a child turned into a vampire, for such are forbidden by the Volturi as too dangerous to be allowed to exist, since they have all the powers of a vampire but the minds of children. Carlisle decides to gather up as many of his vampire friends as he can to "witness" to the Volturi that Alia Reneesme isn't an immortal child. No one points out that this is a fantastically moronic plan, because Carlisle just said the immortal child thing is a pretext. But they carry out the plan anyway, because it's Twilight and Meyer had to fill up four novels despite telling a story that doesn't have a shred of tension or drama.

So we're set for the final confrontation, the climax of Twilight, the showdown between the Good Cullens and the Evil People-Eating Vampires (never mind that the Cullens' allies also eat people) to close out the THE TWILIGHT SAGA. But it's Twilight, so people have to yack first. Carlisle offers Aro his witnesses. Aro's special vampire power is to look into the minds of those he touches, so he says forget the witnesses and asks to touch the child. Of course he discovers the kid isn't an immortal child. Well, she is immortal, and a child, but what she's not is an immortal child. He then declares she is to be destroyed anyway, since they don't know exactly what she is and that makes her dangerous. The Cullens react as if this is some big betrayal, but Carlisle earlier said the whole thing was just a pretext to get to Alice. What did you expect Aro to do? Say "Oops, our mistake!" and turn around and go home? What's surprising is that he's even talking about this, and that he doesn't lie after working the mind-mojo on the kid. But we have to pad, pad, pad, so now Alice shows up and says that she's seen the future and the child isn't dangerous, allowing Aro to touch her and see her visions for himself as proof. He does and sees she's right, but now he does lie about it and declares the child is to be destroyed because the whole thing is a pretext. God, this is so dumb.

The big fight begins, and something impressive happens. No, really. The fight begins with Carlisle charging Aro, and Aro kills him. That's right, in this series in which nothing bad has happened to any of the Cullens, in which no one is ever really in danger, in which none of the good guys has even been hurt except the time Bella was bitten by James in the first movie, the Cullen patriarch gets kacked. This doesn't happen in the Breaking Down novel, and let me tell you, there were gasps in the audience. This film series has so far proceeded more or less in lockstep with the books--changing minor details but forbidden from tinkering with anything important--but Part 4, Part 2 threw the Twihards a curveball, and they didn't know what to do. I myself couldn't believe it was happening (for good reason, as it turned out). Meyer produced this film, so she had to approve Carlisle's death. Not only that, they kill Harpo and some of the werewolves in the ensuing bloodbath, before finally Aro himself falls and the Volturi retreat. Finally, some actual stakes. Finally, genuine consequences. Finally, triumph at least tinged with sadness and loss. Finally, everything doesn't turn out all right in the end, not totally. Even though the good guys won, there was a cost. A price to be paid.

The entire fight was just Alice's vision, showing Aro what would happen if he fights the battle. Since the result is his own death, Aro takes his army and goes home.

Fuck. This. Movie.

The old "it was all a dream" is the cheapest and laziest way to manufacture drama in the hack writer's handbook. No artistic work has ever been improved by it. All it does is piss off the audience because it means everything we just saw wasn't real and so nothing was ever really at stake. That's what infuriates me the most about Twilight. It's lazy. It doesn't even try to be any good. It doesn't put any effort into being believable or memorable or effective in any way. All it does is pander to the fantasies of a particular demographic to rake in the cash. It's the gender-reverse of the Michael Bay Transformers series. And people buy into it. As long as your product works my fetish, I'll pay you for it, no matter how cheap and lazy and sloppy it is. People, I don't hate romantic films. I don't hate action films. I don't hate superhero films. I hate lazy films. And I hate people who don't hate lazy films. Have some goddamned standards, ya heathens! Make 'em earn it!

Some critics are praising the film for its climax, even as they also criticize it for chickening out in the end. But by making it all just a vision, the filmmakers destroy all the interest they've crassly manufactured. In the end, it's the same old Twilight: toothless, neutered, non-threatening, status quo-affirming, consequence-free.

Still, the Twihards' reactions were damn fun. I mean, they even killed Harpo!


  1. I just read half of this entry. It is so long n im knackered. Will continue tomorrow. I chuckled out loud several times. And i shouldnt be around Bella since she can sense the slightest farts...hahahahaha

  2. I just borrowed the first book from a teenaged girl and I haven't started it yet because I had to cut my children's toenails and pick up cigarette butts in the cul-de-sac! Write something I can read, won't you?

    1. What can I say? Sunday is Twilight update day. I have to maintain the fig leaf of this blog's purpose.