Friday, November 18, 2011
Following in the footsteps of "Harry Potter's" keen marketing ploy to split up it's final installment into two parts, part one of "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" (opening November 18 throughout San Diego) arrives in theaters for the weekend.
I was tempted to simply write "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" sucks without drawing a drop of blood. And leave it at that. After all people fall into one of two camps for "Twilight:" either you love it or you hate it. So nothing I say could possibly sway anyone's opinion as Summit Entertainment salivates over a hoped for billion dollar plus opening. Just writing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A billion dollars? Wow! That's bigger than the economy of some small countries.
I think what bothers me most about "Twilight" is how it desecrates the vampire genre. I mean there is now a generation of kids that believe vampires are lovesick creatures that walk in the daylight and sparkle in sunlight. Ew! That's just wrong. It might okay if Stephenie Meyer (author of the "Twilight" books) somehow acknowledged that she totally disregarded all the standard bloodsucking folklore. Something as simple as a vampire saying, "Yeah we like to let people think we can't go out in the sun but we can," or by calling them something besides vampires might make Meyer's version of vampires more palatable. I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon (okay I am) but dammit, vampires are losing respect because of this teen bodice buster romance that turns the undead creatures into soap opera buffoons. The hunky werewolves (or shape shifters as I believe they are referred to in the books) don't fare a whole lot better. None of these creatures could survive a freaking second with one of the classic vampires from "Near Dark" or the first "Blade."
So that's my big gripe with "Twilight." I'm fine with a film or a book reinventing something and creating a new fantasy world but it has to exist and operate within a credible realm. Zombie films keep reinventing the mythology and sometimes it works (as in "Pontypool") and sometimes it falls flat (like the big explainer at the end of the first season of "The Walking Dead). "Twilight" is a lame reinvention of vampire lore that falls flat for me. It's just so hooky in it's fantasy that I cannot buy into it.
That said, I do have to admit that I have nothing against the Twihards (the diehard "Twilight" fans). In fact I think it's pretty cool that they will camp out overnight for their film. I like to see enthusiasm for a film that can turn it into an event. My complaint is with the filmmakers and studio that rather than raising the bar to please their devoted and built in fan base simply slack off and deliver the barest minimum of quality.
In case you've been living in a cave or coffin for the past 3 years, this film is the fourth of a planned 5 films chronicling the romance of human girl Bella (Kristen Stewart) and sulky vamp Edward (Robert Pattinson). After suffering through 3 films filled with longing glances, and a surplus of teen angst, "Breaking Dawn I" opens with the event of the season, the long awaited wedding of Bella and Edward. But the scenes feel more like a photo spread from June Bride Magazine. We get to see precise details of Bella's outfit -- her shoes, her vintage hair comb, and an extended shot examining the lace on her dress. I'm sure someone will be selling the shoes or comb by Christmas time to cash in on Twihard stocking stuffers. Then we get a gallery of shots showing the outdoor altar where the marriage will take place. The setting is indeed beautiful but the whole affair takes soooooo long to set up and get through. For a non-Twihard it was like being stuck as a stranger's wedding where you can admire how pretty everything is but all you want to do is flee.
The two marry, while Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the hot-blooded werewolf still in love with Bella, hangs around the periphery looking pissed. Then there's the honeymoon, and I thought we'd loose a few of the Twihards to full-fledged swooning as Edward took off his shirt to go skinny dipping while Bella took care of such human things as brushing her teeth and shaving her legs. (That was only one of a number of stupid montages set to painful hipster pop songs.) Then finally, after 3 films-worth of exchanged glances, and lip biting the two get to have their long-delayed romp in bed!
Director Bill Condon, who did the magnificent "Of Gods and Monsters," steers us through a silly night of sex with vampire Edward destroying the whole bedroom before leaving his bride fully satisfied but badly bruised. Apparently it's tough for a vampire and human to mate. I felt embarrassed for Condon who gave us such superior seduction scenes in "Of Gods and Monsters."
My biggest complaint about the filmmaking is that it's bad in the most boring way. It's not even fun bad like the trashy "Vampire's Kiss." It's just bland, slow, and boring to those of us not on Team Edward or Team Jacob. And I don't think this is any kind of spoiler -- since the film is in two parts and we all know Stewart is in part 2 -- to say that Bella has the longest non-death death scene in recorded cinema. I won't even start to get into the other silliness that comes in the second half of the film in case people don't know what the story entails. But I was laughing in all the wrong places according to the majority of the audience.
I did find a full 10 seconds of the film to enjoy and it came after the end credits as Michael Sheen, as one of the vamp higher ups, complains about an assistant's bad spelling and grammar. That's less than one minute of enjoyment in 117. Not a good ratio. After the film was over a man in my row asked me about the books. He voiced concern over some of the odd ménage a trois elements of the story. But he seemed relieved to have found one redeeming facet to the film: at least it showed that one can have a passionate sex life after marriage. Well if that's the best thing you can wrest from nearly two hours of agony, it's pretty sad.
"Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" (rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements), based on the reactions of the nearly 600 squealing Twihards at the preview, is likely to strike sparkling gold at the box office no matter how much non-believers like myself criticize it for being badly made. The films have gotten progressively worse and the effects shoddier. The make up for the vampires is so bad and inconsistent that they just look like pale mimes. I think I would rather go see the Muppet version of this, "Breaking Prawn."
Companion viewing: "Near Dark," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (film or TV series), "The Lost Boys"