Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn", the fourth film of the series, is "just" a Part I: and we know what will happen to Bella

Now, we not only have big film franchises; individual films in these series are broken into parts, almost as if “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” really could have fit onto television.  Say, compare “Smallville” (the series) to “Superman” (two franchises).

The fourth film of the “Twilight” franchise based on the books of Stepenie Meyer is itself a “Part 1”: That is, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1”. 

We were left before with the “romance” between homely Bella  (Kristen Stewart) and the nice, handsome vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and the handsome werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner). 

First, let’s talk about Lautner, who has only a couple more months as America’s highest profile teen (if you don’t count Justin Bieber, who is just too larval).  I guess animals do have character, at least canines and maybe felines: a sense of right and wrong.  Jacob can change back and forth as necessary, but he is really the most likeable character, and maybe the only one in this movie with a moral compass, at least enough to satisfy Anderson Cooper. 

I was going to skip this one, but then I heard that the movie really does start with and center around a wedding, as did “Melancholia”. Rather than show a lavish reception too crowded with people and sugary desserts (and home telescopes), though, this film moves on to the honeymoon and "consummation" more quickly.  And the film has numerous nocturnal moon shots, menacing enough to be confused with Van Trier’s doomsday planet (as if director Bill Condon sensed his film would be compared to Trier’s – he probably did).  And Bella (like Justine and Claire in Trier’s film) seems doomed for most of the film. And that’s really the problem here. The mood is heavy enough that Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” could have fit the “love” scenes between Edward and Bella, in a sense. 

Most viewers know by now that Bella and Edward get married, and that Bella already knows her days as a human being are numbered.  It’s not hard to guess what she’ll become. 

In fact, you could look at this film (as Trier’s) as an attack on the “sanctity” of heterosexual marriage. You enter into a lifelong relationship at your own risk.  Edward takes Bella back to his favorite Brazil and Rio (the film credits give a nod to the country’s film ministry, almost making Summit’s effort a foreign film franchise like “Dragon”).  Almost immediately, too soon, she gets morning sickness, and it may not even be morning.  The Quileute and Volturi have moved in on them, maybe.   Earlier, there are some curious scenes where Edward and Bella play chess; Edward always wins; Bella is shown resigning a game by knocking over her White King. Chess players will wonder about this.

Enter the obvious comparison to “Rosemary’s Baby” (with no chance to "pray for" it).  But there’s something grostesque here.  Bella starts to look wan very quickly, but so does Edward (a process that had started in the previous films for him).   If you want a class of people who will live forever and if you want the movie audience to feel connected to them, make them stay young and strong. For example, consider turning them into angels rather than vampires (but then you break the laws of thermodynamics, which require entropy – aging and deterioration, necessitating reproduction).  Something odd was done to the actor Robert Pattinson here.  His body hair – particularly arms and legs – is thinned out, attenuated, perhaps chemically, or maybe by digital editing.  (I saw this movie in a digital projection version; maybe in the standard projection presentation Pattinson looks more "virile".)  In the Army, when I served in 1969, "they" (the other guys in the barracks) would have said “he’s losing hormones”.  (In fact, recent studies show that men do lose testosterone when they become fathers, at least in marriage.) The same thing seems to have happened to Justin Timberlake in some of his films.  Actors go through a lot of destruction – and forced entropy.  Maybe it’s permanent.

Jacob The Werewolf, however, looks manlier than ever (19 is older than 16) and really just about perfect (whether as a primate or a carnivore).  Lautner has some great lines in the script – they sound like things the real Taylor Lautner would say. (Lautner has said on late night TV that this film is complicated.)  Lautner has a particularly interesting line about “family” and the idea that when you marry, you’re committed to stand by your wife and progeny, whatever it takes. True, but this is Cullen’s family, not Jacob’s.  But Jacob seems to think it is his.  

As for Part II, we’ll learn what happens to the non-human Bella. (As for Rosemary’s Baby, I don’t know what to expect.   I’ll say, without spoiling anything, that the birthing scene is rough compared with what Morgan Spurlock would show us.)   But, think about it. If, on Smallville, Clark Kent fathered a child, would he or she be human?  Edward, by the way, has some Clark-like powers – the speed – but they’re half-hearted and unconvincing.

Christina Perri’s song “A Thousand Years”, sung during the closing credits, sounds like a Best Song candidate. 

Note something else: In the 1994 film “Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (Anne Rice), the ageless characters played by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise didn’t “deteriorate” as I recall.  They had a real love story. 

Summit’s official site seems to he ""  Webroot marked it as suspicious in Firefox only (not Chrome), so I didn't link (Webroot is very strict on "spy cookies" and sometimes gives false positives).  MyWOT and McAfee were OK with it.     (There are some fake official sites out there.)  "" lists all of Summit's movies but doesn't link separately to them, so it won't work as a link indefinitely. Oddly, imdb did not given an official site.  Summit Entertainment should clarify how it wants us to see its official site. 

There are a few reports of some audience members being disturbed by the lights in the birthing scene, with one case of an epileptic episode; this would be very rare or could be coincidental, but maybe theaters need to advise audiences in advance.  

Picture: downtown Austin, TX; nothing to do with this film, but a lot of indie film gets shot in Austin.


Anonymous said...

Thought I should point this out...his name is Edward, not Tim.

Bill Boushka said...

Thanks, fixed. I don't know where I had the false memory. There is a character Tom Cullen (not Tim Cullen) in Stephen King's "The Stand" (itself a TV movie series in the 90s). Maybe I mentally scrambled the names and didn't notice -- it's Edward on imdb, too.