Nov 25, 2011

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt 1 [12A]

Dir: Bill Condon
I am - ahem - not a fan of the Twilight series, which is irritating, because you'd think I would be. I'll admit this; I'm a hopeless romantic... why else would The Princess Bride be one of my favourite films of all time. I'm also a horror fan... why else would I write for a horror movie website for no money? I also find the ideas, the nuts and bolts, of the Twilight series pretty fucking cool. No, hear me out. So there's this girl (Kristen Stewart); not the school beauty queen, a bit awkward (just as I, historically, like 'em). She moves to a new town, and falls for a guy at school (Robert Pattinson), at the same time another guy (Taylor Lautner) falls for our heroine. This kicks off a love triangle, so far so dull and sappy... well... one guy's a vampire, the other's a werewolf, and there is a very shaky truce between the two, and it looks like this girl could ignite a war. That sounds COOL. WHY ISN'T THIS COOL?!

It was, is, and ever shall be a problem of character, or the increasingly distressing lack thereof. I think I've figured it out too, figured out why nobody has a personality. It's because Twilight isn't really a story. It's not about vampires, or werewolves, or war, or even love, it's a horrific combination of author Stephenie Meyer's sparkly sexual fantasies and 'traditional values' propaganda (see previous reviews for details). I have now sat through four films - nearly nine hours - of this. My job makes me stupider.

At the outset of this part, mutually parasitic couple Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) send out their wedding invitations, one of which is received - hilariously yet inevitably - with shirtless rage by Jacob (Lautner). Anyway, we get the wedding (which, unaccountably, Bella's father Charlie (Billy Burke) makes no attempt to rescue her from), the honeymoon and - insert menacing musical sting - the pregnancy. The pregnancy is the problem, as it is supposed to be impossible and Bella and Edward's child may well be a monster. So, as in ALL the other films, Bella becomes a target for the werewolves, but Jacob and her vampire family swear to protect her.

Unfortunately, as has become the custom for the series, none of this feels like it matters. Bella is a literal vessel in this film, little more than a pregnant husk, but that doesn't augment or change her character in any appreciable way, because she never had a character in the first place. Bella has always been a void for first Stephenie Meyer and then her readers to pour themselves into. The problem with that idea is that if you don't buy into it - and frankly as a straight man of 30 it's a BIT difficult to see myself as an 18 year old girl desperately in love with a vampire boy - then all you're ever going to see is that empty vessel, and that's just boring. When Bella is imperilled, I should care (particularly since the first three movies were essentially about how she's the single most amazing person in the world and omigod I wish she was my friend), but what is there to worry about, to care about, given that she doesn't have a personality?

This series tells us things over and over, like how much Bella and Edward love each other, and how disgustingly happy they are with each other, but it never shows us these things. For a series about a love that is, at least potentially, literally eternal, this is a disappointingly passionless set of films. The genuinely sickly looking Pattinson has no chemistry with his off screen girlfriend Stewart when the cameras roll, in fact, if there's such a thing as negative chemistry, that's what is displayed here. Pattinson looks like he's being jabbed with sharp needles every time he has to kiss Stewart, in fact, that pained grimace may be the most convincing expression he makes in the series.

What's really annoying about this instalment of the series is that it should be madly entertaining, because what happens in the last 15 minutes is the stuff of David Cronenberg's most viscerally fucked up night terrors, or, at least, it should be, but this is a 12A and Bill Condon - fine director though he may be - is no David Cronenberg. I can't imagine it will annoy anyone - you either know the books or are deeply unlikely to care - but SPOILERS AHOY... As the film comes to its climax, Bella's pregnancy is killing her (depicted through what is either good make up or the only competent digital work in the film, probably the former), so an emergency caesarean is required, some of which Edward does with his teeth, before Bella is vamped. THEN... oh then... Jacob 'imprints' - essentially falls body and soul in love with - Bella and Edward's child the second he claps eyes on her. Even if Taylor Lautner were a decent actor, which, bless his cotton socks for trying, he's not, this would be risible, faintly uncomfortable, and hilariously overblown. Unfortunately certificate concerns neuter this scene, robbing it of visceral as well as emotional impact, and the lead up to it is as drawn out, ponderous and overwrought as we've come to expect from the series.

That said, this is the least worst Twilight film, and that's probably down to Condon, who is a proper actors director. Okay, he gets nothing so revelatory from this cast as he did from Brendan Fraser in Gods and Monsters, but Stewart is better here than she's been previously, she has one or two more expressions (come on Kristen, you can do it, you can make me have to use TWO hands to count your expressions, I believe in you) and at least puts across Bella's sexual appetite with a little conviction. Condon also manages to execute one memorable sequence; a beautifully shot dream which uses bright red against stark white in a way that, if not original, is striking. Otherwise, it's franchise business as usual; laughably shitty digital effects; a cast outacted by Anna Kendrick's five seconds of screentime and Billy Burke's excellent mustache; far too little of Michael Sheen; far too much waiting around.

Ultimately there's no reason to see this unless you are either a Twilight fan already or hoping to have sex with someone who is a Twilight fan already. Otherwise, move along.

1 comment:

  1. Really top notch review Sam. I think you've hit the nail on the head with your point about everyone lacking a personality. Especially Kristen Stewart's character whose facial expression is, strangely enough, more lifeless than her undead boyfriend. Admittedly, I've only seen the first film and bits of the second, but I think I've seen all I need to. That said, if my wife happens to be watching this when it creeps its way onto my television screen I may give it a watch since the ending sounds like it is worth waiting for.