Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 - Theatrical Review

The Twilight Saga:
Part 1

Release Date: November 18, 2011

What can I say about this movie or this series that hasn't already been said? That's the real trick though isn't it? What can I add to the conversation? Is it even remotely possible for me to elaborate on anything in a new way or try to find some kind of clever way of pointing out all its flaws? I am not going to try and tell you anything you most likely either don't already know or don't believe by this point. I am just going to give my honest opinion on what I thought about this film and if you don't feel like hearing yet another person speak the truth about this series then I suggest you check out now.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Arclight Pasadena
Time: 8:00 pm November 1, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: Romances in general
Likes: Vampire and Werewolves
Neutral: Teen romances
Hates: The Twilight Saga
From: The director of Chicago?

I had only recently started watching the Twilight movies. I had avoided them up to this point mostly due to the large amount of backlash the series got from both film critics and the fans alike (whom constantly claim the books are much better). I was however very curious about this fourth film in the series, I had heard a good number of things about the "pregnancy" and how it was handled in the book that caught my interest. I also don't care for poking fun or criticizing something I have never seen, it is not in good taste to lambast something that I have almost zero knowledge of. So I took the plunge and over the course of the past three weeks (I could only handle them one a week) I got invested into the world of Twilight and I have to be honest here, the first film wasn't that bad. Twilight was a decent enough little romance flick with some strange decisions made concerning how the vampires were handled (they don't die from sunlight, they glitter) and some pretty stiff acting. But the two sequels were mind boggling awful for so many reasons that it would be impossible for me to list them all here. With my preparation complete though I was ready to see the newest film in the series, Breaking Dawn Part 1 and I couldn't be dreading it more.

It has taken three films and a whole lot of drama to get here but Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are finally getting married. As the wedding is underway everyone is in attendance including all of Edwards vampire family, Bella's human parents/friends as well as Bella's friend/would be lover Jacob (Taylor Lautner) despite his objections towards this unholy union. Soon Bella and Edward are newly weds and off on their honeymoon adventure. Before Edward makes good on his promise to turn Bella into a vampire though she wants to spend their honeymoon as her last days before becoming a creature of the night. However, complications arise after they consummate their marriage and Bella finds that regardless of how implausible it is, she is pregnant with Edward's baby which doesn't sit very well with Jacob or the other werewolves back home.

Would you expect the movie to start any other way?
You got to hand it to writer Stephanie Meyer, she has tapped into the pulse of a certain audience that craves this rather ludicrous world she has created. I will openly admit that this film nor its three predecessors were never meant for me. I and just about every other guy in the world was the last thing on her mind when crafting this series. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't like it anyways. What I mean by that is that I love romance films, I love watching a budding romance between two people develop before me, the intricacies and the problems that must be overcome so the two characters can find peace in each others arms is something I feel a deep attachment too. Films usually labelled as 'female only' I generally like if not love. Pretty Woman, love it. Dirty Dancing, love it. Sleepless in Seattle, love it. As a matter of fact just a couple years back I named 500 Days of Summer my favorite movie of 2009!

So the problem isn't that the Twilight series isn't made for guys, it's that it just isn't made very well in general. You can complain about the bastardization of vampires and werewolves all you like, that isn't what these movies are about. The central focus of every single film in this series has always been Bella and the love triangle between her, Edward and Jacob. The supernatural trimmings are nothing more than window dressing, something to spice up or add flair to what is essentially your everyday typical teen romance. Putting aside the basic problems with how the series handles its own lore (all of a sudden the vampires no longer glitter in sunlight and even appear to no longer have pale skin in certain scenes), the one key ingredient this series has lacked from minute one is a lead character that we the audience can get attached too, someone we can empathize with.

Bella is about to make a lot of guys happy...she is finally off the market!

The character of Bella Swan is one of the most unsympathetic characters of all time. She simply lacks any sort of appeal. She is hopelessly selfish, doesn't appear to love either Edward or Jacob for any reason beyond the surface level attraction presented by their good looks and forbidden fruit nature of their lifestyles AND she is also rude to just about anyone that tries to deny her selfish needs...including her father and friends who are always just trying to look out for her well being. It would honestly take up this entire review for me to dredge up all her past indiscretions as evidence of this (although the moment in New Moon where she invites TWO different guys to the SAME movie and she sits with them trying to decide which one she wants more stands out as a great example of her selfishness). If your main character is not likable and doesn't seem to have any sort of common sense to them then anything else attempted is pointless. Without a lead character for your audience to identify with the entire affair is dead in the water.

Now I have heard the cries of the Twilight faithful saying that most (or all) the women out there that are heads over heels in love with this series project themselves into Bella's place and use that as a way of finding meaning in the story. They quite literally replace her with themselves and that is how they rectify the issue with Bella being so unlikable. I am here to tell you that is bullshit, at least it is bullshit in the sense that no one can project themselves into a role that doesn't at least resemble them a little. I understand where they are coming from though, in the film I mentioned a little bit ago, 500 Days of Summer, one of things I loved most about that film was that I saw a lot of myself in the main character which helped me look past any of its supposed flaws. The problem here is that not only is it impossible for me to put myself in Bella's shoes for obvious reasons (I'm a guy after all) but that I cannot put myself in the shoes of anyone that is such a selfish bitch. If you are one of those people who can then I hope that works out for you, that just seems kind of sad to me.

Edward actually WANTS to live with Bella FOREVER!

I must apologize at this point because I know I haven't said much (if anything at all) about Breaking Dawn yet, but that is because I needed to clarify a few things before I got underway here. So let's recount everything real quick for you. I thought the first Twilight was decent, the second and third films were garbage, Bella Swan is one of the worst lead characters in cinema history, I could really give a shit how this series takes a giant dump on vampire and werewolf lore, I love romance films of all kinds (as long as they are done well) and finally I truly do not understand how anyone (female or not) can justify to themselves that these films are worth even a tenth of the amount of popularity it has received. So with that out of the way let's move on to the actual movie shall we?

Twilight fans will eat this movie up, it makes good on all the promises made by the previous films, all the build up with the growing love between Bella and Edward comes to a somewhat satisfying conclusion here. The whole Team Edward or Team Jacob debate is over, Bella has chosen and she has chosen an immortal life with Edward over a more furry one with Jacob. This movie has one goal and that is to give all the fans of the series what they have been waiting for, seeing Bella and Edward married as well as their romantic getaway for their honeymoon. In fact I would go as far to say that the filmmakers went a little overboard in this regard since THE ENTIRE FIRST HOUR of the movie focuses on nothing more than the wedding ceremony and the honeymoon. There is absolutely nothing else that happens in the first half of this film.

The Cullens should be the real focus of this series.

That normally wouldn't be a problem if you actually cared about the two people you spent that hour with. I already mentioned my disdain for Bella but what I didn't mention is how little I care for the relationship between her and Edward. The films have never made me care one way or another if they got together in the end. This of course has a lot to do with Bella but also with Edward. He has what I like to call the "sex and the city" syndrome which is when a male character has been written with the sensibilities of a woman in mind. His timid nature mixed with how he accepts the fact that Bella is still in love with Jacob EVEN AFTER THEIR MARRIED just reeks of a female mindset. Not every guy acts or thinks the same but how Edward handles certain situations (Bella's dance with Jacob after the wedding for instance) just doesn't jive with how a real man would deal with another seducing his wife RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

That's nitpicking though, Edward's personality aside, I just never found their relationship compelling. Let alone compelling enough to take up an entire hour of screen time with their wedding ceremony and honeymoon. I have often stated that I would have much preferred Alice (Ashley Greene) as the main character over Bella simply because of her bubbly personality and charming presence and that is no different here. I actually liked all the moments at the wedding where we spent time with all the secondary characters. Edward's family in general are much more interesting than anything having to do with the love triangle plot. Quite honestly the high points of that first hour is every single scene that DID NOT feature either Bella or Edward and the speech that Jessica (Anna Kendrick) gave at the wedding was so spot on self referential that it almost seemed out of place which I absolutely loved.

Uh oh...somebody wasn't practicing safe 'chess'...

As plodding as that wedding was though it doesn't even begin to compare with the nightmarish bore that is the honeymoon. Now, I get it, I really do. As far as female wish fulfillment's go for romantic entanglements this film has nailed it. From that elaborate and beautiful wedding to the picturesque honeymoon on a secluded island down south, it is all probably enough to send romance starved women into a frenzy. But this is the point in which the film truly felt like it was just padding out the time in order to justify splitting the final book into two films. We see Bella and Edward seal the deal pretty quickly, but after that it is just a series of montages (including every woman's inner desire with a chess playing montage) and dialogs between the newlyweds regarding having or not having sex. I know this section of the film felt longer than it actually was but that was the problem, nothing of any real consequence happened here beyond the moment everyone has been waiting for with Bella and Edward finally getting it on. That all changes though when the reveal of Bella's pregnancy happens.

Now I would have to assume that if I were invested in this series for the love story that the second half of this film would come as a complete mindf**k. This film has a serious case of split personality disorder. It's not so much that the second half goes off the rails, it just kind of goes a little nutty with all the different things it throws at the audience. It ceases being a love story and instead becomes this strange mixture of Rosemary's Baby and Juno with Bella supposedly carrying some sort of demon seed within her that literally sucks the life out of her (the make up effects they used to make Kristen Stewart look sickly were actually TOO good cause she looked like death itself). When you boil down this part of the film it is simply a teen mother who doesn't want to give up her baby with a certain number of concerned parties that think they know what is best for her but it is so much more than that.

Edward has a little chat with the demon inside his teen wife.

This is where Jacob comes back into the picture and after learning that his wolf pack is going to attempt to kill Bella's newborn once it is conceived (in probably one of the worst sequences in the film by the way) he ends up joining the Cullen's to help protect Bella from this threat. I was immediately struck with a sense of deja vu at this point since this was the exact same scenario that Eclipse had with Edward and Jacob forming an alliance to help protect Bella and I think if it were not for some of the lunacy that goes on during the third act that I might have actually been bothered by this blatant reuse of such a simple formula. I can't rightly say that everyone will have the same reaction I did to some of the things that went down during this films final moments but that doesn't really matter because it was during this later part in the film that I actually started paying a little more attention.

What kind of crazy crap am I talking about? I don't want to give everything away but I am also not afraid to spell some of it out for you. This series has never been afraid to make shit up as it goes and usually the mythology it creates for itself makes some sort of sense in the world of Twilight, but I was thrown for a loop here. Apparently a vampire is unable to have children...I think, cause everyone's reaction to Bella's pregnancy seems to point to that fact. So this "miracle" conception has everyone scratching their heads and when it comes time to explain something the film never feels the need to have it make just works the way they need it to. Why can't they tell what's going on with the baby? Cause it has a protective shield or something that they cannot penetrate. Why is Bella looking like a pile of shit? Cause the baby is sucking her dry. How do they solve this problem? By having Bella drink blood (she is not a vampire yet). OK, that makes a little sense...I guess, but why does she like it so much? Why does Bella break like a twig when bending over? Who the hell knows, but it's a good enough reason to rush her into child birth.

Edward finally realizes he is stuck with Bella FOREVER!

I honestly don't know what to say to properly explain what a bizarre second half this film has. Between the werewolves lust to eat Bella's baby and the entire sequence involving the birth as well as a decision that Jacob makes to save the baby (that actually makes him kind of creepy), I was completely dumbfounded most of the time. Just wait until you hear the names Bella has picked for her baby. The sad fact of the matter though is that even though I enjoyed this part of the film it doesn't mean I enjoyed it because I was entertained in any meaningful way. I suspect that most Twilight fans will find themselves caught up in the moment and be honestly intrigued by the events occuring but I also think that later on after they leave the theater they will do a double take as they replay everything they just witnessed in their head.

This is not a good film, regardless of all the inherent trappings of the twilight series. It isn't the filmmakers fault, he can't change the written word, he is just here to get paid like the last two directors. You can put some of the blame on Kristen Stewart  however or more to the point, the casting agent who hired her on for the part but that is just beating a dead horse by this point. Any bitching I have about the series in general is rendered moot by this point. This is the fourth film in the series and by this time you are either in it for the long haul or you wrote it off long ago. I can say with a degree of certainty though that just about all Twilight fans will probably love this film. It makes good on the promises made by the previous films and gives the fans a nice and long (very long) moment where Bella and Edward are together and happy at last. The second half has its share of problems as well but it is also has the most off the wall shift of events for a romance movie I have ever seen which just kind of turns it into some kind of awful awesomeness. So if you are a Twilight fan I suggest you see it, you will probably like it. Everyone else should heed my warning and....


Don't miss our latest episode of The LRA Show where we discuss Breaking Dawn Part 1 in much greater detail. The episode can be downloaded or streamed at the following link:



ReadTwilightSeries said...

Nice've got a nice point..

David Weaver said...

Why thank you, it wasn't easy to fully explain myself but in the end I think my feelings came across. There are just too many people that outright hate these movies because they feel they need to. I gave them a chance and they let me down. It's as simple as that.

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