Twilight: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Obligatory disclaimer: My girlfriend asked me to see this.
Going into Breaking Dawn, I had only seen about 45 minutes of the first movie, while slightly intoxicated at a party several years ago. It wasn’t good enough to hold my drunken attention (which can usually tolerate more), so the thought of seeing a sober Twilight sequel without any context of what happened in between was slightly frightening.
But I guess not a lot technically happened in the films I missed. Where I left off in the first one, Bella was drooling over Edward, and Jacob was mildly involved somehow. At the start of Breaking Dawn, Bella is marrying Edward, and Jacob is mildly involved somehow. It’s like the two movies in between didn’t even happen!
On that note, I'd also like to report that basically nothing happens for the first hour of Breaking Dawn. In fact, this whole film has sort of an odd, meandering pacing to it that felt like nothing was actually going on. There are numerous times where there are these super long, bizarre stretches of literally no dialogue, and just music plays over scenes of people doing normal things. It’s as if 75% percent of the movie was composed of uninteresting music videos. It eventually got to the point (the second time they did it), where I started to notice these dialogue-less music breaks, and I became slightly obsessed with them. It’s like they broke every rule of good film storytelling, and the audience was still eating it up. There could have been a scene of Edward and Bella eating sandwiches for 3 minutes with an Evanescence song playing over it, and I’m fairly confident they could have pulled it off.
The acting… well… pretty ridiculous. Lots of phoning it in. Taylor “Llama” Lautner is probably tied with Channing Tatum as my favorite unintentionally hilarious actor. Kristen Stewart actually did a convincing job (SPOILER ALERT!) playing a corpse. Very convincing lifeless performance. Probably a lot of real life practice being an empty shell of a person. I’m not sure that any of these actors care about the quality of their work in these movies anymore.
That’s kind of how I felt about a lot of the movie. I think a lot of hard work went into making Breaking Dawn, from the set designs to the special effects (not great, but I’ve seen much worse), but the featured players like the actors, the director, and the editor; they just don’t seem like they care. It came across as a very lazy film to me. And who can blame them for being so lazy? If this is considered the best of the Twilight films, then the bar is obviously set pretty low for the target audience.
Breaking Dawn isn’t trying to be Apocalypse Now. In fact if I asked the majority of the audience in the theater I was in if they’d seen Apocalypse Now, I bet they’d say “HUH? What’s that?”. I’d obviously be wrong to compare Twilight to a respectably decent film, or to relate it to the scope of all films. It’s a specialty film, a film designed for a very specific target audience. It would be like comparing Hannah Montana to Breaking Bad. Twilight: Breaking Dawn isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen by a long shot. I don’t even think it’s in the bottom 5 worst movies I’ve seen this year. It functions for what it is, and if it makes who it’s supposed to happy, then good for it. Unintentional laughs at least kept me slightly interested. But, I mean, in terms of raw filmmaking… it’s not very good, or very well constructed. Or very well acted. Or very well scripted.
It’s sad that barely anybody saw Drive or 50/50, and yet Twilight will make a billion dollars. It’s kind of annoying in the same way that Jeff Dunham and Larry the Cable Guy are the highest grossing stand-up comedians while Louis C.K. exists on the same planet. But it’s not worth wasting my time thinking about these things, really. Not unless I wanted to be unhappy all the time. I saw a Twilight movie in theaters, it happened, and now I will simply go back to watching the regular things I watch. No need for me to think about it too much.
13-year-old girl rating: OMG out of 10
Normal person rating: 5.5 out of 10
[Scott Roberts] "13-year-old girl rating: OMG out of 10"
As a 13 year old girl, I'm inclined to agree.
As a hairy flabby dude in my 50s, I'd only give it a B+....but I'd give it a B+...and ONLY on the condition that you'd seen the first 3 movies first. There's no way in hell I'd recommend anybody to see this under any other circumstances....but having seen the first three, I'm sticking solid on my B+.
[Scott Roberts] "It’s like they broke every rule of good film storytelling"
I disagree pretty strongly with that. Think of it as a European art house film for 13 year old girls. Those dialog-less sequences resonated with visual shorthand for powerful emotions, and no, I'm not kidding.
This is like a conversation we had about Dobby in the 7th Harry Potter movie. If you hadn't seen the second movie, it made no sense for the audience to erupt in cheers when this annoying elf thing showed up in 7. For people who'd been along for the dozen-year ride, his death was one of the two most agonizing events in the whole saga, even with how annoying he was...which was of course elaborately planned as part of a much larger scheme. Show up late, it makes no sense whatsoever.
For another example, miss the end of the second Twilight movie, and the flash of Michael Sheen in the pre-wedding nightmare sequence makes no sense. As it was for me, I gasped...because I am after a 13-year old girl. And when he showed up again in the mid-credits coda, it's as big a deal as Nick Fury showing up at the end of Iron Man, if not maybe a little bigger.
Look, Twilight is goofy for sure. Nowhere NEAR the quality of The Vampire Diaries on the CW. (Not kidding -- even Roger Ebert is a fan -- and I cannot f-ing BELIEVE that I have to wait for new episodes.) But if you've been along for the ride, hey, this one was a lot of fun. I laughed a lot (in a good way) got weepy at the wedding (the best-staged movie wedding I can think of), and am really looking forward to the finale.
That said, did you see the trailer for Hunger Games? Now THAT thing is off the hook. See you on March 23, girls.
[Tim Wilson] "Show up late, it makes no sense whatsoever. For another example, miss the end of the second Twilight movie, and the flash of Michael Sheen in the pre-wedding nightmare sequence makes no sense."
Yeah I had no idea who those nightmare people were, or why they never showed up again in the movie (I didn't stick around through the credits...). I understand that I have something of a bias towards the content of this Twilight film, based on the fact that I had no actual context of the story walking into it, in addition to the general goofiness that goes along with a pop culture phenomenon as big as Twilight. It would be hard to argue against the statement that almost everybody knows about Twilight and its *general* storyline and (I think it's fair to say) less-than-stellar filmmaking without ever having seen a Twilight movie. I don't think there's a single person in this country who has never read/seen anything Twilight who would have a positive outlook going into one of these movies based on the general consensus and general silliness of the main fanbase. I'm not calling you silly, Tim, I'm aware you have a head on your shoulders. But ya know:
You don't normally see people reacting this irrationally at movie screenings. Or at least, you aren't supposed to. They have passion, I'll give them that. Good for them. I hope I can break down and cry like this if I ever see Scorsese walking down the street.
But throw all that aside; all of the story and legacy of the Twilight saga. Based simply on watching this film as a film, I still firmly believe the film had awful pacing, and the dialogue-less music breaks were terrible. I also forgot to mention in my initial review that I noticed that there were almost always moderately long pauses between almost every line of dialogue. It was bizarre. It made it seem like all the characters were sedated. Or just dumb. Take away all of the weird slow and dull moments, they could have made this an 85-90 minute film that flew by at a much better pace.
I also still think, despite a lack of any previous Twilight film watching, the acting is horrible. Maybe the only exception is Bella's dad, who may have gotten the only few intentional laughs out of me during the movie. Unlike the huge unintentional laugh I got when Edward was creepily staring at Bella while she was sleeping, haha.
[Tim Wilson] "That said, did you see the trailer for Hunger Games? Now THAT thing is off the hook. See you on March 23, girls."
I'm actually reading The Hunger Games right now, and I'm totally digging it. My only gripe with the way the movie is shaping up is that everyone looks like an underwear model. The way I'm picturing them in my head when I'm reading is more along the lines of dirty, smelly, poor, slightly ugly people. Definitely none of them use product in their hair. These people almost crapped their pants over obtaining a loaf of bread in the second chapter... Still, movie looks legit for the most part.
Do everything in your power to stay away from the first one. It feels like it takes forever for something to happen and once it does at the big show down the vampires just hiss at each other and then the bad one dies of boredom. Then you start to think about how creepy it is that a 500 year old man is dating a 17 year old. However, my hats off to Stephenie Meyer for creating something that has become so beloved.
Utah Video Productions
Check out my Motion Training DVD
Check out my Motion Tutorials
[Stephen Smith] "Do everything in your power to stay away from the first one."
I've seen 45 minutes of the first one, and it just looked so cheaply made. Now this is all speculation on my part, as I don't know anything about the cost of production of these Twilight movies (and don't feel like looking them up), but I assume the first Twilight movie was made for barely any money, using mainly unknown, cheap actors (at the time). The studio knew it was a popular series of books, but weren't willing to invest too heavily in them as they didn't know they would explode like they eventually would, at the time.
So they make the first one with pocket change (and by pocket change I mean pocket change to them, like 20 million or something), it's of low quality all around, yet the target audience eats it up and makes them a gazillion dollars profit.
Now for the second one, they invest slightly more money, mainly to keep the actors around (as they cause teenage girls to cry their mascara off) and maybe invest a little more in the special effects, as they appear to have improved since the first movie. At no point, however, do they feel like improving the writing or directing, and make them as fast and lazy as possible because why put extra work into something if the audience will pay to see paint dry?
Third and fourth movies, same deal, more money to produce it mainly because they now have to pay K-Stew, Bobby Pattinson and Llama Lautner a private island each to continue, because their lip biting, cheekbones, and abs (respectively) are probably the biggest draw for the audience to keep coming back.
My girlfriend insists the books are actually well written, and even she reluctantly goes to the movies. She pulled the 'book card' on me the entire day before we saw Breaking Dawn and the entire ride home afterwords. "Twilight was great until the movies started to ruin it for everyone, I swear!". But I don't know, based on the plot line and cheap characterizations (from what I've seen in the movies), I just kind of have to assume that the books are glorified, slightly-edgy, teenage romance novels. The kind of romance novel you see in dollar discount bins at a strip mall, with Fabio modeling for the cover art. Only with a slicker design and a bunch of vampires. A boring teenage girl who's average in every way possible (hey! just like you, teen audience!) gets wooed by a sexy vampire. Then, despite her lack of redeeming qualities, also gets the attention of a sexy werewolf. I think they most admire her complete lack of confidence and lack of desire to be a unique individual. And all she wants is a sexy man to take care of her! If I'm accurate (and to be fair, I'm just guessing/assuming all this stuff), then it's basically swill as expected. But people love reading swill. And people love even more watching that swill get converted into bigger mediums where they can ogle attractive actors and buy more merchandise for their shrines.
Whoa, this Twilight rant needs to come to an end, Scott!
So all in all, my limited impression of Twilight is that they are a low quality product that comes along every year that people still flock to in spades for some reason, despite the fact that they are lackluster, yet bring a lot of unwarranted spectacle and media coverage. People love it despite the poor craftsmanship, odd ingredients, and horrible aftertaste. Twilight is the McRib of movies.
[Scott Roberts] "....I assume the first Twilight movie was made for barely any money, using mainly unknown, cheap actors (at the time). The studio knew it was a popular series of books, but weren't willing to invest too heavily in them as they didn't know they would explode like they eventually would, at the time. "
Give the man a gold star. That's exactly what happened. The story was optioned before the first book was published, and there were several bounces along the way as the project changed studios and writers. The production budget was $37 million. Compare this to $125 million for Harry Potter six years earlier - also optioned early, but also a safer bet.
And Steven, c'mon, Edward was born in 1901, and "died" at 17 during World War I. It's a running joke that he's perpetually a teenager -- the house has a huge, artfully displayed collection of all of the mortarboards from his high-school graduations. I found everything about him kinda creepy -- my vote for the weakest link in the cast, sorry -- but the age thing actually didn't bother me.
I liked the first one a lot, especially for the relationship between Bella and her father. I think Billy Burke slams this out of the park, although he pretty quickly becomes marginalized in the series for obvious reasons. Generally speaking, he's my favorite character in the series, and the first movie is the only way you get to see it.
The other thing I like about the first one is that it's not very vampire-y. It's got a lot of high school stuff that's really good -- the vampire stuff definitely drags it down. The framework of the story was there enough to keep me around, but the human parts were the most interesting to me in the first one, by a long shot.
Now, in fairness to the haters, none of the movies is especially elegant, and the first one had some real problems. And I find the sexual politics of the series absolutely horrifying. I'd say that it's a terrible influence developing appropriate sexual identities and behavior, but hey, almost everything is.
But it also turns out that the largest part of the audience for this entry in the movie series has been over 25, when unhealthy sexual identities and habits are mostly fully formed anyway.
Scott, re: Hunger Games, I think the underwear model thing is totally fair, although some of that is facilitated by a mostly accurate (for me, anyway) representation of the costume in that particular competition. I think they nailed the look of Kitsis, but I'm with you, they could have gone...let's be generous and say "more rugged" with the boys and I'd have been happier.
The other two books are insanely good, too. I just finished the third, and you've got some real treats ahead of you.
[Tim Wilson] "It's a running joke that he's perpetually a teenager -- the house has a huge, artfully displayed collection of all of the mortarboards from his high-school graduations."
Quick question: if he's 100 years old, but still just *looks* like a teenager, why does he keep going to high school? Why doesn't he just go to college and get a higher education (or... many colleges and get a ton of higher education)? How many times does he need to take high school Algebra and U.S. History before he gets bored with it?
Speaking of creepy, why would Edward want his "girl friend" to grow old why he stays a young buck. This video is great:
Utah Video Productions
Check out my Motion Training DVD
Check out my Motion Tutorials
I'm actually reading The Hunger Games right now, and I'm totally digging it. My only gripe with the way the movie is shaping up is that everyone looks like an underwear model.
Re-watch Zoolander. :-) Love this clip below:
Utah Video Productions
Check out my Motion Training DVD
Check out my Motion Tutorials