Friday, December 21, 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2

Let's talk about movies... When a franchise ends a series or saga there is always the expectation of a grande finale; a big send-off into the unknown. Once the cameras stop rolling and the credits come to a close, there's nothing left but your memory of the experience and possibly the DVD if you enjoyed it. There might be nostalgia if you were a fan of the series or relief if you weren't. Either way, years of hard work on the part of the actors, producers, directors, writers and more, deserve respect regardless of personal opinions. Someone I know once said "no one sets out to make a bad movie". As much as I may look on with a critical eye to whatever I'm reviewing, I try to remember that.  

This week on deck: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2

How it came to my attention:  Unless you've been hiding under a rock these last few years, you know about the Twilight Saga. You might not have read the books or seen the movies but I guarantee you that millions of adolescent girls (and women of all ages) have. As the end of sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves drew nigh, I decided to review it for posterity's sake.

Going into it: As someone relatively familiar with the twilight universe, I knew that there would be lots of long, drawn-out meaningful looks, professions of love, and so on.

Coming out of it: I came to the conclusion that, barring making boatloads of money, there was no reason why Breaking Dawn could not have been accomplished in one movie. Also, BDP2 was supremely underwhelming (even taking into consideration the extremely low bar by which I judge this franchise). 

The Review/Recommendation: Don't watch it. I'm fully aware that if you're a rabid fan of the franchise, I risk your ire by this recommendation. Also, if that is true then nothing I say will dissuade you from spending your money on this film. On the flip side, if you hate the franchise then nothing I do could persuade you to see this film even I wanted you to. The Twilight universe has always been a polarizing one. So I write to those who might be on the fence in the hopes that I can reach anyone still able to be swayed. BDP2 was over-done, over-hyped and entirely underwhelming. As the ending of a saga I expected high drama, excitement and intrigue. Having read the book I should have known better. The book had a lot of waiting around for, ultimately, the most ridiculously tame final showdown ever. The film takes some of the elements of what I did like about the book and either cuts them out or changes them enough that they're only mildly entertaining. I will say that the acting and writing were on par with the rest of the saga so if you enjoyed the other films, you'll enjoy this one. If you hated or were ambivalent about the other films you'll feel the same about BDP2. At the very least, the franchise was consistent in the product it put out. I just didn't enjoy most, if any, of it. The entire saga, from book to film, was a little too much "after school special" and not enough... anything else. If you're at all undecided, wait and rent this. Better still, just go watch Harry Potter.   

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers):  We open on credits imposed over scenic vistas accompanied by the dark musical score that has been used throughout the saga. The first visual of the film proper is of Bella Swan's (played by Kristen Stewart) eyes turning crimson red before she goes on a supernatural acid trip (apparently being a vampire means time slows down and you watch condensation, dust motes, and more, for fun. Bella's vision then centers on Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson) who holds out a tentative hand which she caresses and they embrace as he whispers "So beautiful" into her hair... Dear god. My gag reflex is already on overdrive. Time for smoochies! Bella and Edward kiss like they're hamsters nibbling awkwardly on a water bottle attached to the side of their cage. They go hunting to quench Bella's newborn thirst and along the way we see them cavorting through the woods in a dream sequence that reminds me of True Blood (birds chirping, flowers blooming, slow motion running, etc). 

Bella closes in on a stag when... Uh oh! She scents on the wind a human rock-climbing not far away. This guy slips, draws blood, and Bella's off like a shot and tearing up the mountain like this guy has the last "Twinkie" Hostess will ever make (too soon?). Edward pursues and confronts her on a ledge under our oblivious climber. She growls "I have to get out of here" and leaps off the precipice to the forest below. Bella has cougar for lunch then strolls back toward Casa de Cullen with Edward exulting her superior control of her thirst. We meet Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) outside the house where he remarks "I didn't expect you to seem so... you" (regular Shakespeare, this one). I feel like I should be at an RA (reviewers anonymous) meeting right now, saying something like "I will not judge actors on the lines they are given, but rather on how they deliver them" as a meeting mantra... But I digress. Jake remarks on what a great couple they make and I just can't reconcile this Jake with the tortured, scorned, almost-lover of the entire saga. I know he imprinted on Renesmee (creepy factor on that aside) but knowing and believing are two different things. The happy group heads inside to meet the baby.

Ahhhhhh! Devil spawn!! The child actress who plays Renesmee Cullen (Mackenzie Foy) has her face superimposed using CGI on all the incarnations of her character until she "ages" to her real self. This reminds me of those E*Trade commercials that use talking babies. It's creepy, disconcerting, and totally takes away from any cuteness this scene could have had. The whole Cullen family looks on as as mother and daughter meet again. We have Dr. Carlisle Cullen (played by Peter Facinelli), Esme Cullen (played by Elizabeth Reaser), Rosalie Hale (played by Nikki Reed), Alice Cullen (played by Ashley Greene), Jasper Hale (played by Jackson Rathbone), and Emmett Cullen (played by Kellan Lutz). Devil-baby demonstrates her ability to project thoughts into another by showing Bella the first memory she has of her. Jacob moves to end mommy-and-me time and Bella's hackles go up. The inkling that something isn't right has finally penetrated her brain. Jake tells Bella that he's imprinted on Renesmee and she practically drags him outside by his ear and begins shoving him around. While Stewart gives it her best effort, the barely suppressed rage we should be seeing is not a kettle about to boil over but rather a tepid cup of weak tea. I don't know if this is a lack in acting or on behalf of the character as we've only ever seen Bella as a passive personality. 

As quickly as it comes, the conflict is resolved and later that night Bella is gifted with a cottage for her birthday, but she couldn't care less as Bella's immediately taken by the bedroom and all the nifty things married folk can do in them. The love scene that follows is about as thrilling as watching paint dry. Later on we discover Charlie's been hounding the Cullen's for news of Bella and Jake finds out that once Bella "dies" they'll all leave and take Renesmee with them. He rushes over to Charlie's house, and transforms (stripping down first to the delight of the tweens in the audience and the confusion of Charlie) and tells him Bella "changed"in her own way to survive her illness. Charlie and Bella reunite and he meets Renesmee, Bella and Edward's  'adopted' niece, though he suspects something more when he sees she has Bella's eyes.  

Fans get a thrill when they see Bella in her one and only "sparkle" scene as a shaft of sunlight hits her in the woods and she voices over her joy at being a vampire. It's jarring to have a voiceover thirty minutes into the film for no apparent reason. The other Twilight films incorporated the same effect much more seamlessly. Her monologue takes us through the wolf packs making peace, the Volturi gifting Bella with a diamond necklace and Renesmee rapidly aging as they have no idea how long she'll live. While on a disgustingly sweet outing to catch snowflakes, Renesmee is leaping around more gracefully than a prima ballerina and defying gravity more often than Wicked on Broadway. They're spotted by Irina (played by Maggie Grace) of the Denali coven come to make peace with the Cullen's about Laurant's death a couple movies back. She flips out, convinced Renesmee is an Immortal Child (uber creepy children turned into vampires, developmentally frozen at the age they're turned and thus a security risk to all vampires as they have no self-control or understanding of secrecy). Irina runs to the Volturi and hands them an excuse to attack the Cullen's on a silver platter. 

Alice has a vision and, in an overly dramatic fashion, drops a flower vase or something breakable and it shatters around her as she goes all Oracle of Delphi on the Cullen's idyllic scene. She portends that the Volturi will come to destroy them "when the snow sticks on the ground". Alice and Jasper 'desert' the cullens or (if you've read the book) go off on a wild goose chase to find the magic key to the Cullen's survival. The Scooby Gang circles the wagons and recruits vampire allies from around the world to bear witness to Renesmee's growth and thus be able to testify to the Volturi that she is not an Immortal Child. They round up Denali, Amazons, Irish, Nomad, Romanians, Egyptians and South Americans. It's an unprecedented gathering of covens, the size and talents of which could rival the Volturi (not including their witnesses). 

Bella goes off on a side-trip arranged by Alice and Jasper to pick up fake IDs and travel documents for Jacob and Renesmee in case the shit hits the fan. We then find more about the backstory behind Irina's motivation and the Immortal Children. During a "talent show and tell" we see that Benjamin can control all elements and the Amazons can make any illusion seem real and forcefully project those visions on others. Bella is identified as a "shield" or defensive talent; any mind-magic won't work on her. She finds that with concentration she can project that shield outward in what can only be visually termed a "care bear stare". I'm not usually a stickler for strict book-to-film adaptation but this was an epic fail. The book describes it Bella's sheild as a sort of bubble dome radiating outward and the film majorly cocks that up. Due to the increase in vampiric activity in the area, new werewolves are litterally (pun intended) popping into existence all over the place. 

Christmas rolls around and there's plenty of family time. Charlie gets a "surprise" fishing trip far, far away to get him out of danger. The snow sticks on the ground and everyone seems to know it's time to gather for the showdown of doom. The Cullen Gang arrives first and the Volturi and their Witnesses arrive right after that. Carlisle speaks out first saying that a fight is not their intention, and Aro reads Edward's thoughts and agrees to meet Renesmee whom he terms "magnifico" when she demonstrates her ability on him. Aro summarily executes Irina after she recants her accusation and admits she made a mistake. The Denali move to start some shit but are held back and Aro announces Renesmee could still be dangerous.

Surprise! Alice and Jasper found the golden snitch, aka the only other known adult hybrid. I think his name was Patchouli, or something. Whatever it was, his adult presence signifies that Renesmee will grow to adulthood and be immortal as vampires are without posing a threat to humanity due to the fact that what's-his-face flew under the radar for the last hundred years or so. Aro reads Alice's mind to confirm this but she draws away and warns the others that he's already made up his mind to attack them... And. The. Fight. Is. On.

Bella throws Renesmee on Teen Wolf and the pair take off for several cutaway shots of them running. Alice is captured by the Volturi and the Cullen Gang goes full-on Avengers. Aro decapitates and burns Carlisle's body and I swear to you I can HEAR all the oxygen being sucked out of the room in preparation for the mass gasping, screaming and crying that is about to break loose in the theater. The tweens do not fail to deliver. As the entire row behind me has gone into shocked convulsions, the battle rages on claiming several lives (including main characters), we lose: Jasper, Seth, Alec, Jane, Demetri, Caius and Marcus. Marcus dies with arms open, embracing death with a whisper of "finally". He was my favorite of the Volturi, favoring peace rather than war.

Aro moves to confront Bella and Edward who perform some acrobatic ninja shit and kill him... Or do they? We flash backward and return to the point where Aro is reading Alice's mind. The fuck, you say?  In the book there's no battle (Alice shows Aro a future where the Volturi lose the battle and that's that) and I guess the filmmakers realized that a finale with no action would take this ponderous beast off life support and flatline the bitch. Aro, always the consummate schemer, does a 180 and decrees that Renesmee poses no danger and there will be peace. I still can't wrap my brain around this. Though the new twist was amusing in that I got to watch sheer pandemonium and hormone-driven pre-teens go batshit crazy in an enclosed space. It's quite an experience. 

We cut to Edward accepting Jacob into the family as Alice has a future vision where Jake and a grown Renesmee stand together on a beach as Bella and Edward join them. The film closes full-circle as Bella and Edward sit together in "their" meadow as Bella lifts the shield away from her thoughts and Edward sees a montage of how Bella feels about him. She says that "no one will ever love you like I do" and they'll be together "forever" I can hear the contented sighs of a couple hundred high-schoolers peppered with snorts from the slightly older among them. There was only one gagging sound in the theater (guilty). 

The Credits close on a storybook montage of characters and actors involved in the entire saga with "A Thousand Years" playing in the background. The End.

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