Thursday, November 22, 2012

Breaking Dawn Is A Terrible Movie. I Mean, Awful.


I went to see Breaking Dawn tonight. Now, I went to see it with a friend, and neither of us are particularly big fans of the franchise (by which I mean that we intentionally went in order to heckle it), but we did run into some guy friends in the lobby who were there to see Red Dawn. To those guy friends, who mocked our movie choice, I have this to say:

You missed out on a hell of a comedy.

When you’re like me and you spend most of your time complaining about the various social injustices represented in the media, you, one, don’t get invited to many dinner parties, and, two, are expected to have very strong feelings about the Twilight franchise. They’re the worst thing to happen to feminism since the birth of Pamela Anderson, or they display an incredibly disturbing vision of domestic abuse, or they’re just plain CREEPY. All of these things are true. I don’t dispute that.

But my real beef with the Twilight movies, my real grievance, is that they don’t even have the courtesy to be good movies.

Like, I can deal with an emotionally damaging portrayal of the world’s most codependent “love story”, if it’s compellingly told. I watch Sons of Anarchy, you think I can’t handle a little freakiness in my romance? And unfeminist? I can deal. Really. I just demand that it be actually good.

Which this was not. At all.

Now, before all the Twi­lovers start complaining about how this was the second part of the book, and clearly I can’t just judge it without taking part one into consideration, allow me to make one thing clear: I don’t care. I went to this movie to see a movie. I have not seen Breaking Dawn Part One, though I have seen all the other movies, and I really have no desire to. My intentions in skipping it were to never see the icky teeth scene, and I am thrilled to have succeeded.

But even aside from my personal aversion to this franchise, a film can’t stand on its predecessors. Even if Breaking Dawn Part One – Creepy Baby Time was amazing, that still doesn’t give this one the right to suck. Every movie must stand on its own merit, and this movie really really doesn’t.

SPOILERS. But if you’re reading this you either don’t care or already know, so whatevs.

The film starts out with Bella’s awakening as a vampire. This is then followed by some really badly written scenes in which she tries to figure out how to be a vampire without killing anyone. She nearly kills a mountain climber, but it turns out that she has super self-control (as in, it is literally her superpower), so she doesn’t. Then she goes to see her baby. The baby is clearly CGI. Also Jacob is in love with it. We are fifteen minutes in and I am laughing so hard I nearly pee.

Bella’s father is worried about her, so Jacob goes to see him and explains that Bella’s a little different now. As a way of explaining, Jacob decides that it is absolutely a good idea and not weird at all to spend the conversation slowly stripping in front of his best friend’s father. This is not meant to be funny. I think.

Duly convinced that there is something supernatural going on, Bella’s father, who incidentally is played by Miles from Revolution and boy am I happy that guy has a better job now, goes to see Bella and meet her CGI baby. He is creeped out. Sad day.

Bella and Edward are given a Thomas Kincaid painting, I mean house, in which to live with their preternaturally good baby. Also they have sex. It is utterly irrelevant to the plot, and shot in such a way that I have no idea what kind of sex they were trying to have. I think it was butt stuff.

The CGI baby grows up very quickly. This is important because plot, I guess.

Some evil vampires think the baby is an evil vampire baby, so they want to kill it. I am reasonably sure this is the actual plot of the movie. Our heroes (I guess) decide to find allies to help them stop the evil vampires.

They look for allies. They get allies. Another fifteen minutes is wasted. I am now less amused and more bored. This movie is slow as balls.

There is an epic speech about how they need to be ready to fight because evil vampires blah blah. Jacob is creeping on a seven year old girl, that’s freaky. Bella and Edward continue to be the least interesting characters in the movie. Also Alice ran away for some reason. Don’t care.

Bella trains to become better at her other superpower, the power of having a shield. She becomes immediately awesome at it after three tries. There isn’t even a training montage.

Lee Pace is a vampire. Finally something I approve of, other than Taylor Lautner’s abs.

A vampire we know almost nothing about becomes irritated when it looks like Bella is protecting her daughter. He leaves. We never hear from him again in the film. I have no idea why he was in it in the first place. Seriously. Can someone explain this to me?

Eventually everything comes to a head in a big confrontation on an empty snowy spot. The evil vampires get ready to attack, but it turns out that they are willing to listen to reason, and are told that the baby isn’t as evil as they thought. The fight is averted.

But, wait, no! The evil vampires are too evil for that, and therefore they must fight in order to destroy the child because, I don’t know, fear or something. Big fight, lots of people die, sad day.

Except—

It was all a dream! Alice used her mind powers to show the evil vampires that if there was a fight they’d lose, and then she somehow managed to find the only other half-human half-vampire and make him tell the evil vamps what was up. 

So that’s it. The movie’s over.

In the epilogue we find out that Bella also has the power of flashbacks. I am not making that up.

Okay, so other than just amusing the snot out of me, why is this movie bad? I mean, I don’t like the Twilight books, but I think there was a way to make them into movies that were more than just literal filmic interpretations, and actually good movies in their own right. What went wrong?

Fundamentally, these movies focus on entirely the wrong things from the books. They aren’t well written, and they’re too tied to the source material to actually be good. The novels have a very un-movie structure, and that’s fine. They’re books. But in making a movie, you need to make sure that the pacing is consistent. These films didn’t do that.

In adaptation you have to be brutal to the source material. If something pays out in the book, but you can’t fit it elegantly into the movie, it has to go. You don’t keep anything that doesn’t work for you, no quippy asides or rabbit trails unrun. A movie needs to be clean and compact.

And you absolutely can’t let a movie devolve into self-indulgent reader fantasy. Not if you want it to be good.

A large amount of the appeal of the Twilight “saga” is that Bella is a stand-in for the audience. She gains amazing powers and so we are allowed to feel like we have too. It makes sense that the book spends hundreds of pages on her new powers, because it’s a book.

But in a movie, we don’t have that kind of time. You can get across information without letting the movie get slow. Layer scenes together, so that there is a tension and a level of stakes to every scene. Have Bella actually struggle with self-control when she sees her father. Layer together her discovery of her power with the development of her daughter. Create some freaking interpersonal tension, maybe?

A good book can meander and ramble through its pages. A good movie can’t. It has to be tight, it has to fit together. There’s no room for rabbit trails and wild geese.

So, while I wholeheartedly believe that Twilight is bad for our kids, I also think it’s just plain bad. It’s a bad movie. And somehow, that’s a little comforting.

It's. Just. So. Bad.

2 comments:

  1. Okay, I'm going to go back up to read this but I just wanted to comment on Pamela Anderson first.

    I get there are a lot of problematic elements. Sex tapes. Playboy. Scantily clad. Cosmetic surgery. Etc. But a lot of people don't realize that is not all there is to her and even those things tie into deeper issues. For starters, she was raped by over a half a dozen people before she was 18. She is a vegan/animal rights activist that travels the world putting her money and time and celebrity behind helping a lot of charities/non-profit organizations. She cares about and donates money towards a lot of human rights issues but animal rights is her heart because when she was mistreated growing up and saw the evil that lies in a lot of humans she said she could still look at animals as pure of heart and spirit and wanted to do everything she could to keep that goodness in the world.

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  2. When Jacob imprinted on Bella & Edward's daughter, Renesme, I just thought, "Well, that's one way to end a love triangle."

    I'm with you on skipping Breaking Dawn part 1. It's the only movie in the franchise I didn't watch. I may be pro-life but that doesn't mean that I don't support abortion in cases of medical necessity. It was so frustrating to read Breaking Dawn and to see a few clips from the movie and know that Bella was just laying there being murdered by her own baby who, prior to birth, everyone thought might not even have a soul/conscience since hybrids were so unheard of, without even once even thinking of saving herself. She practically begged Edward to sire her so that they could be together for eternity and then she was ready to leave him forever weeks into their marriage for the chance to maybe save what could've been a demon baby.

    Yeah, I didn't like that Bella was so "perfect" as a vampire. That she could be one of the clumsiest humans ever, get turned into a vampire, and within days is the most graceful of the lot. Even Slayers have to train. You don't just become good at things because you have an agile body. That's like saying someone getting eye surgery should wake up with the ability to paint masterpieces.

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