The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) movie poster

director Bill Condon
viewed: 04/21/2013

The immensity of the crapitudue.

I’d like to just leave it at that, but having spent however many hours with this franchise of films, I feel I owe it to myself to say a few other things.

The gist of this film is about a war among vampires about whether or not Renesmee, baby of Bella and Edward, is an “immortal child”, which is apparently a very dangerous thing.  She is not an immortal child, but Edward’s family reaches out over the globe to various vampire groups to support his point that she is “normal” and doesn’t need to be killed.  The Vampire Vatican feels differently.  She grows fast and Jacob “imprints” on her when she’s a baby (In other words, he’s in love with her and she and him are eternally linked.)  He’s all like, “Hey, I didn’t choose to be pedophile!”  Lucky for him, in a year she’ll be old enough to rent a car at the rate she’s aging.  It all comes down to a battle.  But it doesn’t.  It’s all a vision, a vision of doom that averts the slaughter and yet perpetuates an opportunity for future sequels and stories since nobody is dead.

This whole series of films and books has proven to be almost a right wing agenda of fantasy films, with no sex before marriage, carrying babies to term even in threat of death to the mother, and other “family values”.  It’s also blah, bloodless, fake crap.  The effects are awful (why does everybody go in “superspeed” mode to move from one thing to another?)  Why is this so damn popular? I’ve heard that the books are terrible too.  I don’t need to read them to find it out.  I’m happily done with this series, with no desire to ever, ever revisit it.

Looking back at my thoughts on the films of this series (and my star ratings in Netflix), as bad as the first film was, it was the most tolerable of them all.  The rest vary from awful to godawful, while remaining morally objectionable.  I would be willing to argue that this is an exemplar of American mainstream cultural crap at its lamest.  I mean that for the whole.  Why single one film out from the rest?  They are all of one long soap opera of mute bullshit, sexless sex, terrible acting, writing, everything.

No more, I tell you.  No more.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (2011) movie poster

director Bill Condon
viewed: 04/25/2012

For the Twilight series, I’ve been in for a penny, in for a pound despite really despising the films.  Why I’m compelled to finish the series is becoming more and more of a mystery to me.  For the life of me, I can hardly remember what happens from one to the other.  It seems like a whole lot of nothing.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (I hate segmented series movie titles) actually got some of the worst reviews of the series, making me hope briefly that this might be more fun.  There were rumors of grown men passing out during the birth scene, so gruesome and intense it was, another flash of potential and possibility for note.  Still, it was not with bated breath that I awaited my opportunity to see the movie.

Oddly, I found this one marginally more tolerable than the prior film, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010).

I’ll sum this one up for you.  Bella marries Edward.  Jake pouts.  She has sex with Edward while he is a vampire and she is still a living human, though everyone is worried that he will kill her in the process.  Lo and behold, she gets knocked up.  With a baby that might be evil (it grows super fast.)  She looks heroin chic in the process.  The birth scene is gruesome but not the most gruesome thing I’ve seen (though for PG-13, this film is seriously pushing the envelope.)  It’s a girl.  Bella dies and becomes a vampire.

I’m sure that this has been discussed by others but these films/books have this fairly conservative approach to sex.  Sex is deadly dangerous (with a vampire – it might kill you), so you get married first (of course).  And when you get pregnant, even if the fetus is a threat to the mother’s life, you do not abort, you have the baby, no matter what the humans or the vampires or the werewolves think!  Bella keeps her baby, even though it kills her (luckily she had this whole becoming a vampire back-up plan.)  It’s like these films are stumping for the Republican “war on women” agendas.

I have no idea what’s left to deal with in Part 2.  I really don’t care either.  I’ll watch it.  I’ve watched them all so far.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Eclipse (2010) movie poster

(2010) director David Slade
viewed: 12/07/10

The third segment of  the “Twilight Saga,” after Twilight (2008) and New Moon (2009), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is the worst yet from a series of teenage vampire/werewolf books and movies that I’ve been following on their DVD releases.  While these stories of teen angst, love, and sexual repression have never been all that enthralling, the latest film is beyond a bore and slips into idiocy and inanity.

Each of the films have had a different director.  Catherine Hardwicke directed Twilight and Chris Weitz directed New Moon.  Eclipse is directed by David Slade (Hard Candy (2005) & 30 Days of Night (2007)).  The films have a consistent look and feel to them: muted palettes, dreamy Pacific Northwest landscapes, broody young adults, bad special effects.  But for some reason, some combination of bad story and bad storytelling perhaps, this one is out and out awful.

This time around there is a vampire who is recruiting a lot of newbie vampires in Seattle to create an “army” of newbie vampires (who are stronger and more out of control than seasoned, older ones) in order to attack Bella (Kristen Stewart) to kill her, which the vampire seeks to do to get revenge on Edward (Robert Pattinson), who killed her life-long love.  So, Edward’s clan of good guy vampires has to team up with their rival werewolf clan (ancient enemies that they are) to protect Bella from the bad vampires.  And then there is also a group of vampires from the “vampire Vatican” from the last film that are going around doing nothing in particular as well.

Bella wants to be a vampire, so that she can be with Edward forever.  But there is Jake (Taylor Lautner), the hunky werewolf boy who loves her, who wants her to want him.  And Bella is supposedly torn between the two.  Except she’s not.  She clearly prefers Edward to Jake, even if loving Jake means not having to die and become a vampire.  So, there’s drama…except there’s not.

And that’s the biggest thing about the film.  All these would be passionate yearnings are passionless and not really yearnings.  The whole thing is a love triangle  without the drama.  And it’s BORING!

I was struck by one aspect of this relationship between Bella and Edward.  She’s about to turn 18, about to graduate school.  Her father doesn’t like Edward (not because he’s a vampire; he doesn’t know that), but just because their relationship is so intense and that spooks him.  He wants her to play the field and not settle down.

And like a lot of young love, Bella and Edward think that their love is for the ages, that they will pretty much die if they can’t be together, and that while she’s waiting to turn 18 and graduate, she’s hovering above the big decision.  Edward wants her to marry him.  She wants him to turn her into a vampire.  She also wants him to have sex with her while she’s still human.

There is a metaphor here for all young love and lust.  The big decisions, to have sex, to marry, to dedicate one’s life to another at a very young age and to be utterly unquestioning about it.  Of course, sex, marriage, even getting pregnant, aren’t quite the same as the virtual suicide of dying for one’s love and becoming an eternal vampire, but there is this sensibility about love and sex and youth that plays out here.

Maybe it will all make sense in the end.  I doubt it.  I’ll hang on for the final installment, since I’ve gone this far with this series of films.  I might as well get the closure when it comes out on DVD next fall.    But I won’t be looking forward to it.

New Moon

New Moon (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Chris Weitz
viewed: 03/29/10

The second film of the “Twilight” (2008) series, New Moon is the second in a current series of four stories, originally young adult novels by the author Stephanie Meyers.  It’s one of the biggest phenoms in a rather busy field of series of novels for the young reader set.  I’ve never read any of the books, nor do I currently plan to read any of them, but I did see Twilight and for some reason felt like keeping up at least on DVD with the teenage Joneses.

But frankly, New Moon is a major yawn of a film.  Directed by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass (2007) and About a Boy (2002) among others), the film has no major strengths, following in the casting steps and narrative directions set in the original film.  But perhaps most challenging is the namby-pamby-ness of the narrative.  There just isn’t a lot going on here.

Bella, the human girl who fell for the teenage-forever vampire Edward in Twilight is still seeing him here, but as she turns the ripe old age of 18 is already fearing the future when she’s an old lady and he’s still and young and vibrant as ever.  She wants him to make her a vampire but he doesn’t want to do that because she’ll lose her soul (which she doesn’t believe in).  Their little romantic scuffle leads Edward to flee with his family from the area (to protect Bella from other vampires that seek to kill her to piss him off).  And so, Juliet is bereft of her romeo.

Step in Taylor Lautner, along with his massively chiseled body, the local native-American lad, who is as sweet and true as purity itself.  Bella, mourning her relationship with Edward, starts a solid friendship with Jake (Lautner), but still she holds him at “friends'”-arm-length.  But then he literally “gets hot” for her and has to run off to discover what’s going on in his teenage body.  Turns out that he’s a werewolf and the werewolves typically fight the vampires to save humans, but nobody knows this big secret.

Long story short, Edward appeals to a vampire Vatican to kill him, when he believes that Bella is dead.  This leads to some other dramas around saving him, Bella wanting to be a vampire, laws, rules, regulations, and ultimately, only at the very end, a near skirmish between the two beaus, vampire and werewolf.

Mostly the film is a lot of romantic innuendo, bad moody pop songs meant to convey tone and emotion, lots of sullen brooding.  You see, like the bloodless vampries (who don’t drink human blood), we also have sexless teenagers.  Not only is nobody having sex, they hardly ever get to kiss without interruption.  It’s all love without the sex.  I noted before that this is not surprisingly why this flies so well in middle America.  Abstinence is truly the best method of protection against pregnancy, STD’s, and vampire bites.

But really, the whole thing is BORING.  B O R I N G ! B O R I N G ! B O R I N G ! B O R I N G !

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just not your typical teenage girl, but I just cannot sink my teeth into this series.  I did manage to like Kristen Stewart a bit more than before, which I’d started to do after Adventureland (2009).  Lautner is a nice hunk.  Robert Pattinson (Edward) is a modern day, emo version of Luke Perry.   Heck, in reality, Beverly Hills 90210 had a lot more drama and complexity in one episode than this series manages to pack in.  Will I be back for the next installment?  Probably.  But not enthusiastically and not til DVD.

Twilight

Twilight (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Catherine Hardwicke
viewed: 03/31/09

Twlight is “the” teenage vampire film, based on the best-selling novels by Stephenie Meyer, and is one of the current fads du jour among teenyboppers (or so the press would have you understand).  I hadn’t really had a lot of intention of seeing it, based on reviews, but after seeing the excellent Let the Right One In (2008), the prepubescent Swedish vampire movie, I felt that it would be an interesting counterpoint and cultural touchstone.  Sometimes it’s better to make references to things that you actually have some experience of, rather than simply casting aspersions because some things “sound” lame.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who got her start and notariety directing “teen” films with Thirteen (2003), which I considered highly dubious, the film is meant to appeal to the age bracket and target audience of the books, teens and pre-teens and the people who still identify with teeniness.  Hardwicke attempts to capture the experience from the perspective of the teens, making it more than anything, a “teen” film.  Parents are somewhat in the ether, either traveling and communicating by phone or present by unable to comprehend their lives.  Oddly, and this is probably an age thing, I felt identifying with the parents a bit more than the lead girl, Bella, played by Kristen Stewart.  But then again, Bella is a sullen, pouty girl, who really is quite charmless.  Robert Pattinson who plays Edward, her vampire love, is broodingly chiseled and angular, but capable of charm.

Interestingly, as a teen film, the teen perspective and the absentee parents are normal tropes going back for decades.  What is interesting in this fantasy romance is that Edward’s vampire family are more present, caring, and an intact family unit (albeit with a snarky sister).  They smile, are welcoming, and are protective, meeting Bella for the first time in their house.  Maybe this is the irony of an “unbroken” home?  Of siblings?  And a fantasy modern house?  And, heck, they even play baseball together.  How all-American can you get?  This is an idealized family unit.

One of the critiques of this film is that it’s sexless.  The vampire mythos being based on very sexualized metaphors, we have a family of “vegetarian” vampires (by being “vegetarian”, they only eat animals, not people — ironic, no?), which goes along with our truly vegetarian heroine (and author who shows up briefly to order a veggie sandwich).  So, they’re not monsters, they tamp down their cravings, and Edward can’t get into any heavy petting without getting a little too much bloodlust going, so they’re sexless too.  They’re kind of a repressed vampire clan who’ve made chastity promises.  No wonder this swings in middle America.

Hardwicke goes heavy in the romance department, but uses a cinematic color palate that is mostly blues and greens, with each character more pale than the next.  But where she is worst is in the action and special effects department.  The FX are worse than most shows on the SciFi Network shows, so cheap that it doesn’t even look like they cared to make it look good.  She does seem to like the woods and waterfronts of the Pacific Northwest, though.

As clunky and bloodless as the film is, it’s still not awful.  Though I found Bella to be lacking in charisma, other characters seemed to carry it out a bit.  I guess it works for the target audience.  But for me, it was just another genre film with modest slants and perhaps more interesting as a “teen” film than a “vampire” film.  Whereas Let the Right One In spoke somehow to me about isolation and loneliness and love, this film plays it out, acts it out, like a high school production of Romeo and Juliet, with lots of brooding and pastiness.