POSTED ON NOVEMBER 23, 2011:
Bigger, Better and Dumber
Breaking Dawn never manages to follow the bright light
It's tempting to call Stephanie Meyer stupid. After all, her monolithically lumbering series of books, Twilight, one so loaded with nonsensical plot twists, retrograde ideas about women and bafflingly resolved conflicts that never feel real, that you have to believe the author's mentality resides in a state of shallow absurdity.
But she's incredibly rich. So stupidity (and apparently shitty writing) isn't really a negative anymore.
Vampire burnout, as it were, was in full effect long before the Stormin' Mormon began spinning tales if sparkly bloodsuckers to the delight of fevered tweens and their creepy mothers. And the film series had taken off into stratospheric heights of success long before I was forced to see it.
That was last year with Eclipse, but previous to seeing that epically boring pile I did my due diligence. Instead of hitting up Wikipedia and reading the plot synopses of each of the previous films, I buckled down and actually...watched them all.
And I got a lesson in narrative wheel spinning that has yet to be topped by any film other than the Twilight sequels. From the beginning (and for the record, the first Twilight film might be the best if for no other reason than it's stupid and funny besides being boring) the rote, artificial, shallow story -- meant as an allegory for abstinence -- wallows in silly teen dreaminess, while setting up a ridiculous, enclosed world of vampires that don't feed on humans (the abstinence meme), have a wary peace with the local werewolves, and can not only walk around during the day; but sparkle when they do. Meyer subverts almost all of the darkness from her vamps in lieu of a dewy-eyed, Judeo-Christian morality tale.
A long, boring, one where no one gets laid. Bella endlessly pines away between Jacob and Edward. Without them she's an empty vessel with no personality. A more retrograde female character has yet to be unleashed in the last 30 years. Silly girl needs a man to define her.
But at least I can make fun of the stupid characters. It's really the narrative wheel spinning that has come to define what I hate about these films. So much of what happens is explained instead of shown and there isn't really a whole lot that happens (or makes sense) across a span of three films that could not have easily been made into one film.
With all the Bella moping, Edward looking like a lame, undead James Dean, Jacob running around shirtless with a bunch of homoerotic Twinkies -- the second film finds Bella sitting in a chair awaiting Edwards return for months, literally that's all she does -- the Twilight movies nearly re-define lazy, bloated writing. Loaded with pointless characters -- most of whom inexplicably exist to protect Bella -- narrative linearity as smooth as those Twinks hairless chests, suspense-free conflicts that resolve themselves with little impact, and the nonsensical whims of an author who clearly doesn't care one bit for narrative economy, and you get three films that I began to progressively hate more and more.
And that's not even getting into the weirdness of it all. Despite the religious motivations for the plot -- abstinence, submitting to men, etc. -- Meyer has basically set up Bella to make a choice between necrophilia and bestiality. On top of that, what's with Edward being over a hundred years old and dating high school girls? Total pedophile.
And after three of the most frustrating, boring, retarded goddamn movies I've almost ever seen, ones that did not need feature length movies to adapt their sparse plotting, we finally hit the cliff hanger. The proposal. Edward asks for Bella's hand. Took forever, but we got there.
And so we come to Breaking Dawn.
Bella (Kristen Stewart, as sleepy looking as ever) and Edward (The Patt, as furry browed as ever) are on the verge of marital bliss. Everybody is invited, including Jacob (Taylor Lautner, as blank as ever), who gets mad! He spends some time running around Canada to get it out of his system. Meanwhile the movie burns its entire first act on the exciting nuptials -- which Jacob shows up for, after all. Because despite the fact it would only be a cruel bitch that sends the guy holding a torch for her an invite to her wedding, everything MUST be chummy in Twilight Land. Besides, we all know Jacob is really just pissed that Edward is off the market.
During the wedding there's some little bit about vampire cousins from Canada stirring up some drama because the werewolves that killed her boyfriend -- who was going to kill Bella -- were invited to the ceremony. Like so many plot threads in these films it's brought up simply to be dropped. Maybe it'll pay off in another movie? Whatever.
So on to the honeymoon and finally, finally, FINALLY the sex. To his credit, director Bill Condon seems to get the soap operatic silliness of the story and really amps it up during a bedroom demolishing bit of cheesy, slo-mo, close up, muscle rippling, mattress mambo. Having bruised her with his empathic lovemaking skills, The Patt decides to go abstinent again. Once again, to protect Bella from himself.
She's not having it, doing her best to get Edward in the mood. Here again Condon wisely plays this for cheesy laughs during a musical montage that finds Bella humorously trying catch Edwards eye as he attempts to keep their activities fun, frolic-filled and utterly chaste (a little cliff diving, anyone?).
But Bella manages to get Edward to do her again and, oops!, she gets pregnant with a weird, half-breed baby that sucks the life from her already emaciated body as the vamps watch helplessly and the werewolves plan to kill Bella's mutant hell-spawn to keep it from doing something bad.
How Bella and Edward's mutant baby is a threat is never clearly defined. Of course why these undead and lycanthropic fucktards feel such affection for Bella to begin with was never really made clear, either. It's just the world Meyer likes to revel in. One that pleases her self-satisfied sensibilities.
But there is some small bit of improvement with Breaking Dawn. Sure the narrative wheel spinning is in full effect. But director Condon (of the great Kinsey) manages, with a script from Melissa Rosenberg, to jettison some of the endless exposition of the first films. Things are actually shown or alluded to, instead of explained, and that alone is the most significant improvement. Condon also brings a visual panache that was eluded by the series earlier directors, either by the stationary setting or the cheapness of the production. Breaking Dawn has some nicely blocked shots that are sometimes subverted by the wacky editing choices, perhaps purposefully done to add to the cheese factor that this film alone seems to have the sense to wink at. The wolves still look fake.
Kristen Stewart, typically wan and cotton-mouthed, seems as bored by her job as ever. The Patt still has that pinched look down, that tense jaw that seems like he's had something really heavy dropped on his foot and he's trying not to let anyone know it hurts. Taylor Lautner needs to get a different job. Cop. Chippendale's dancer. Whatever. His fans will follow him.
Billy Burke, as Bella's dad, classes up the place. He's easily my favorite actor in a series that is bettered by his presence, but the truth is I'd watch this dude in anything as long as, like Twilight, it's utterly ridiculous and he takes it as seriously as a goddamn heart attack.
But, once again, the film spins its wheels. Breaking Dawn fixes a couple of things that bugged me about the series thus far. It's not quite as boring and has the sense to make fun of itself by this point. Meyers plotting is as flat and unremarkable as ever, but Bill Condon elicits some cinematic interest out of it all. A few nice flashbacks might be the most interesting visual moments in the series, so far.
But it's not enough to get me on board the Twilight train, make me think it ever was or will be worthwhile or vindicate the love of its fans. So I'll close this out with a familiar refrain from over a year ago, when I first realized just how many people have horrible taste.
"Yes, The Twilight Saga is worse than 'My Humps.'"
Send all comments and feedback regarding Cinema to firstname.lastname@example.org.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A44633