The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

Regardless of who you are, for better or for worse, you have been waiting for the final chapter of The Twilight Saga.  The series has become the butt of all movie jokes over the last four years for reasons I can only fathom stem from its towering success.  Critics and audiences love to hate the popular one, and despite Twilight’s often deafening writing, I’ve come to accept that the films have been designed to appeal to a very select audience of teenage girls.

Now we have reached the fifth and final installment of this wooden epic—the ultimate morose love story drawn out over ten hours.  Breaking Dawn Part 2 finds Bella (Kristen Stewart) as a newborn vampire with a half immortal-half human child, Renesmee.  She’s married to Edward (Robert Pattinson) and on the cusp of a major attack from the Volturi, led by Aro (the maniacally over-acting Michael Sheen), upset by the disturbance in the undead force.  A half-blood of sorts has never been seen in the blood-sucking world.  Aro is under the impression that the abomination child is a toddler vampire, a being outlawed by the cloaked tyrannical reign.  The Cullens must assemble of horde of vampire companions to interact with Renesmee and prove to the Volturi she is not a full-blown vampire, but rather a half-blood and therefore not against the law.

An endless list of vampire characters are introduced through expository means from all corners of the world.  The group becomes an X-Men of sorts with varying powers in preparation for the ultimate throwdown with the powers at be.  Bella learns of her power as a ‘shield,’ able to stop another vampire’s gift and protect those she chooses from harm.  She can also apparently conduct a powerpoint presentation in her brain and send it to Edward.

If you’re wondering whether or not the battle for vampire supremacy takes place, rest assured it does.  Men will have something to watch as they did in Eclipse.  The battle often pushes the limits of its PG-13 rating, and features more beheadings than 300.

Brothers if not twins if not clones.

At this point I didn’t expect anything to change regarding this franchise.  The writing, the tolerable performances from Stewart and Pattinson, the awful performances from Lautner and some other supporting actors, the silliness of it all—very much intact.  Add in some impressive action, a few sprinkling surprises (one of them being Robert Downey Jr’s clone—Omar Metwally), and a baby’s face drowned in embarrassingly hideous CGI (seriously, it looks worse than the talking E-trade baby!), and you have what Twilight has always been, only now it’s over.

This installment is passable, no better than the series’ highs, and not quite the series’ low—New Moon.  If you’re a Twi-hard, you’ll love it.  If you’re in the hater camp, you’ll still hate it.  But can we all finally admit that these movies really aren’t the worst movies ever made?  Oh wait, yeah, there is New Moon.  And even the first film has gotten much worse over time.  I better just stop thinking about it.

 

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Bum-bum-ba-dum.  Bum-bum-ba-dum.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) is finally marrying sparkly vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson).  They whisk away on their honeymoon to a private island getaway home where Bella has decided to hold off on her ‘undead’ transformation and enjoy a few more weeks as a human.  Does this make much sense?  Jacob (Taylor Lautner) seems to think not.  He believes Edward will be too powerful and could possibly kill her on accident.  The morning after their first night together, Bella and Edward start the day in a completely destroyed bedroom suite.  The bride sports a few bruises.

Soon enough, Bella starts to get sick, rubs her stomach, and believes she is pregnant.  Is this possible?  What would the child be?  Human? Vampire?  Both?  Questions abound and fear skyrockets as Bella’s health begins to deteriorate rapidly as the baby grows and drains the life from her.  Jacob and Edward believe she should give up the baby.  The wolves want both Edward and the ‘abomination’ child taken care of for violating the treaty.  Bella sticks to her guns and sees the baby as a gift, even if it kills her.

The Twilight Saga continues to please its fans.  What more can I ask of a soapy melodrama meant for oooohing and ahhhing teenage girls?  I’ve accepted the fact that Stephanie Meyer had little interest in exploring a world of werewolves and vampires.  Her series could have trekked through endless accounts of mythology and created a rich world that addressed the complexities of living as a fiery beast or as an immortal dead man.  Meyer never seems interested in the grander worldwide scope of vampires or werewolves—though the series ventured a little further with Eclipse, but never to the point where we understood her created universe outside of the moderate-living Cullen clan.  Okay, so her story is not about ‘vampires’ and ‘werewolves.’  It’s about a moapy teen romance.  With no sharp turns on the horizon for the final upcoming film, I’ve been forced to accept and move on.

However, this franchise boasts two solid leads in Pattinson and Stewart.  They bring some credibility to this eye-rolling junk-drawer romance which features a herd of terrible supporting actors, chief among them Lautner once again who continues to throw a wrench in the engine of this series.  There are several laughable lines and moments to be found in Breaking Dawn Part 1, but I still found it to be plenty entertaining for its intended audience and in line with the steps forward made by the more eventful Eclipse last year.

While this installment won’t win any new converts, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls) approaches the material by doing what he can with what he has to work with.  For as little amount of ‘events’ take place in this first half of a film—a wedding, honeymoon, prenancy, and birth—Condon continually leans the audience back into Bella’s life-or-death scenario, despite a lot of the film’s unintentionally laughable moments.  By the time the emaciated Bella births her child in a disturbing sequence if ever there was one, the audience will likely be enveloped by the madness of it all even if they don’t care for this franchise.  You could do far worse at the movies than witness the insanity of Bella and Edward’s marital odyssey.  Chew on that.

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

After the monotonous disaster of “New Moon,” David Slade (30 Days of Night) takes the reigns of The Twilight Saga and gives “Eclipse” something the last installment hadn’t: a pulse.  I’m sure that really has more to do with the source novel from Stephanie Meyer, and Slade merely delivered the series a kick in the pants.

I couldn’t believe that events and actions actually take place. Dialogue doesn’t make you gag…constantly. The special effects and action sequences were impressive.  Characters have depth, detail, and explanation.  Everything that was absent from Chris Weitz’s attempt on the first sequel ceases to be quite so problematic.  I have to go back again to the first film and remind readers that I actually gave a pass to Catherine Hardwicke’s work.  Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart had something to their performances that held the low-budget “Twilight” together, when the production values couldn’t match them.  Then “New Moon” was unleashed upon audiences a little over eight months ago.  Absolutely nothing happens for over two hours.  Sure, we got a lot of moping, whining, horrific dialogue, and poor performances–but that doesn’t exactly make for a story.

With “Eclipse,” the series is still bogged down by its teeny-bopper trappings regarding ‘Edward or Jacob,’ but it finally addresses a bigger picture and some other-world mythology.  In the previous entries, I kept wondering about other vampire clans, wolf packs, where these characters have come from, and how these movies fit in with vampire/werewolf history. Director  David Slade and Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg may have warring specialties (Slade wants to rev things up, Rosenberg wants to play it safe), but “Eclipse” satisfies as a more intense story of warring vampires and wolves.

Edward (Robert Pattinson), the dusty vampire, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the fiery wolf, continue to battle for Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) affections.  Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard), the red-headed bloodsucker still running around to exact revenge on Bella and Edward for the death of her brother, James (from Part I), finally has conjured up a plan to eliminate the Cullen clan.  She will assemble a ‘newborn’ army of vampires to take them down.  Newborn vampires are driven purely by an uncontrolled thirst for blood, making them faster, stronger, and harder to kill.  The Cullens catch on to Victoria’s thoughts and manage to make temporary allies with the wolves, or spirit warriors, in an effort to defend themselves.  Meanwhile, the Volturi (led by Dakota Fanning) are watching the situation closely, and may potentially step in.  What they actually would do, I don’t know, but I would assume it has something to do with death.  In the middle of the warring effort, Edward tries to convince Bella to marry him.  She is conflicted as her feelings for Jacob continue fuel doubt towards her love for her vamp-candy.  Jacob wants her to stay human and grow old with him.  Bella would prefer to stay human as well.  But she wants to be with Edward more–even if that means becoming the living dead.  Hmmm… what to do… what to do?

Aside from the Bella-Edward-Jacob mumbo-jumbo, the series actually has time to look at other characters and their histories.  It also introduces a world outside of Edward, Bella, and Jacob.  Would you believe that other vampires actually exist?  There is a threat of bloodsuckers overtaking Seattle that the police are miscalculating as the work of a serial killer.  The wolves get a piece of the story pie too, as their hatred for vampires is illustrated through a back story.  I had no idea the vampires in Stephanie Meyer’s world were made of stone.  I also didn’t realize that the wolves are not werewolves.  They are more like hulks in dog form.  “Eclipse” has actual substance, and that was most refreshing, even though it still contains all that love triangle stuff–but even much of that aspect was handled better this time around.

Edward and Jacob actually have interactions.  There’s a good scene where Edward and Bella are in hiding shortly before the battle with the newborn army is to happen.  The temperature outside is freezing, and the characters take refuge inside a tent.  Bella is getting much too cold, and Edward has no body heat to help her, so Jacob has to come inside to keep her warm.  This doesn’t sit too well with Edward.  The two end up sharing a comical and interesting conversation that amounts to more than just a bunch of poorly delivered line readings.  The actors deliver more than they did in the last movie.  It helps that Pattinson and Stewart, the best actors in the movie, have more screen time together here.

Slade amps up the action too.  The battle between the wolves and vamps is a doozy, and is a large improvement in the special effects department.  The wolves look much better.  The vampires’ speed looks leagues better than it did in the first film.  Finally, “Twilight” is startling to look like the money it brings in.  I still think the final installment needs further increased intensity, and less soap opera, but there is a particular audience for the movie that can’t be competed with.  David Slade does his best to broaden that audience.  And the difference is more than noticeable, enough so that I was able to enjoy the movie and acknowledge its accomplishments despite it being a movie definitely meant for someone else entirely.

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon

twilight_new_moon_poster_0509I sat next to my fiancee in packed a theater full of young teenage girls just oooing and ahhhing over the opening title sequence of the highly-anticipated sequel to last year’s major blockbuster romance “Twilight.”  Soon enough, however, the excitement seemed to subside as “New Moon” descended into a monotonous bore of a film where so little happens for 130 straight minutes.  Even my fiancee and her best friend (huge fans of the books) felt shorthanded by the stupidity onscreen.

To the series’ credit, I enjoyed the first “Twilight” on its own terms.  The film actually had a serviceable romance and two solid lead actors out of Kirsten Stewart and Robert Pattinson as two young lovers with their own mortality (or lack thereof) doing battle.  The obligatory physical threat of competing vampires showed up far too late in the game, but the chemistry of the two stars and interest of the story carried the film.  Outside of choppy hit-or-miss visual effects sequences, I can see the appeal.  Director Catherine Hardwicke deserves far more credit than she earned as the movie took off into phenomenon-status, and the studio began to search for a more spectacle-driven director.

Summit Entertainment found Chris Weitz, fresh off his stateside box-office behemoth of a flop–”The Golden Compass.”  That film turned out to be a worldwide success coming close to $400 million and earning an Oscar win for its special effects.  Let’s forget it was an awful movie.  “New Moon” is about as much of a disaster, if not more.

The story picks up right after the last film.  The Cullen vampire family throws Bella (Kirsten Stewart) a birthday party, and through a course of events, the young lady cuts her finger which sets off Edward’s (Pattinson) blood-thirsty brother.  Edward enters into a brief tussle to protect Bella, and winds up realizing that she, as a human in his world, will find nothing but danger.  He decides to leave her, giving her a chance at a normal life, abandoning her in a forest which sends her into a state of depression.  Months go by before Bella develops a friendship with her childhood pal Jacob (Taylor Lautner).  He has secrets of his own, and wouldn’t you know it (for the only two readers who don’t know), he turns out to be a werewolf.  Now who is Bella to choose?  And does anyone really care when the movie moves at a turtle’s pace, throwing up incalculable volumes of awful dialogue, and implausible teeny soap opera nonsense?

In theory I could be chastised for falling into the first film’s trap of teeny-bopper romance fodder and then turning around to complain about this chapter, but something struck me with the two lead actors in the last outing, and I liked the film solely for their work which rose above anything I would’ve expected for such fluff.  I have to conclude that Catherine Hardwicke knew how to put the focus on the two actors, and inject some passion into the film’s proceedings.  That so-called ‘passion’ is completely absent here.  ‘New Moon’ is a 130-minute bore of massive proportions. So little happens, and the dialogue and much of the plot developments are excruciatingly painful.  Hardwicke made the sap-crap watchable.  Chris Weitz simply hits the gag-reflex.  Perhaps, the void comes from the fact that this story isn’t much about Pattinson and Stewart’s relationship.  Once he leaves early on in the film, Stewart is left to wallow and moap, while developing a new connection with Taylor Lautner’s character.  Lauter is a disappointment.  Whether his lacking talent as an actor has more to do with it than his terrible dialogue remains to be seen in further chapters.  But much of the film focuses on an awkward relationship between the Bella and Jacob characters that never fully works because she obviously doesn’t want to be with him.  She longs for Edward, and sets herself up for death-defying situations to catch a glimmer of his watchful apparition that appears when she finds her way into danger.  Needless to say, the attempt at establishing the Bella/Jacob relationship doesn’t work and feels like a waste of time for the audience when the real chemistry exists only between Pattinson and Stewart.

Eventually, Pattinson does return in the film’s ‘climax,’ a howler of sequence as he attempts to end his life in front of the head governing vampires over odd plot developments.  Too little, too late.  The sequel suffers without the Pattinson/Stewart romance.  No amount of spectacle that Weitz tries to amplify this time around can save the movie’s lack of a pulse.  With the lead characters seperated, Weitz could have possibly saved the project by delving further into vampire/werewolf mythology, and tying in some more mature storytelling and exploration of the major assortment of characters he’s been given (something Hardwicke missed as well in “Twilight”)–but why do something interesting when you can make a bare-bones cadaver of a movie?

“New Moon” undoubtedly blew up at the box-office, grossing $140 million in its first three days, and $72 million of that total on its first day alone.  Sitting currently at $270 million, it has been dropping pretty hard since its release, but it’ll still wind up in the $300 million range, making it a walloping success for the studio backing it (and far bigger than its predecessor last year with $192 million total).  Too bad it’s a stale installment.  Hopefully Director David Slade of the bloodbath vampire thriller “30 Days of Night” can develop a much more mature and exciting film out of “Eclipse” due in theaters June 30th of next year.

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