Monday, January 9, 2012

Breaking Dawn: Part I: A Review


Breaking Yawns...

How exactly DOES a vampire produce sperm?

This question is not an idiotic one (although the reason for the question most definitely is).  This is at the heart of the story in Breaking Dawn: Part 1 (or to use the surreal and pretentious full title The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 1--so many colons...).  In fact, the entire story pivots on this oh-so-very-important-but-unanswerable-question.

Not being well-versed in vampire lore, one can say I may be unaware of how the undead can bring life.  However, if memory serves correct, the entire problem (plotwise) in Van Helsing (a film that was nothing but a series of problems for an audience) was that Dracula could not have a child simply because he could produce living sperm to create life. 

In all my adventures with Twilight Twits (those enthralled with Stephanie Meyer's tomes), none have ever been able to give me an answer as to how someone who is clinically dead (and more importantly, whose body, albeit beautiful, is as cold as a corpse) can create sperm.  I suppose it is possible to give a very long and convoluted explanation (something about male vampires being able to impregnate human females, though that does raise the question as to why more male vampires don't just marry/knock up dumb females who will give birth to an army of Blades),  but I think the best answer is the simplest.

They can't.

As a result, Breaking Dawn: Part 1 just doesn't make any sense.  Still, when it comes to the Twilight series (excuse me, SAGA), one has to suspend logic and intelligence in order to have a story.

I think I've tired of telling people what I think of Stephanie Meyer's ode to romance:

A.) A Sign of The End of Western Civilization

B.) The Erotic Musings of a Frumpy Housefrau

C.) Garbage

D.) All of the Above

I've repeated my one encounter with the actual Twilight books.  I made the effort to read Twilight (or to give it its full title: The Twilight Saga: Twilight)--twice--but simply could not get through it because I thought it was stupid.  Luckily, we had an audiobook copy of Twilight, so I went for that.  At a certain point in the reading, I wanted to pop out the CD and fling it out the window because I thought it was so awful, but I couldn't because it belonged to my employer, the El Paso Public Library.  I will say that when the narrator-as-Bella talked about how EDWARD CULLEN (the most beautiful and perfect being in the history of all literature) was literally sparkling (emphasis mine) I laughed uncontrollably for five miles.  In fact, the only other time I can remember laughing so uncontrollably hard as then was when I saw this:

Yet I digress.

With Breaking Dawn: Part 1, we know we are going to have a sequel (and thus round out the whole Twilight franchise...hopefully).  The book itself is so long that it could not be compressed into one film, much as Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 or the upcoming The Hobbit or Atlas Shrugged were forced to be split up.  Breaking Dawn, however, has not been acknowledged as a masterpiece of literature (which both Tolkien and Rand's books have; jury's still out on Rowling).  In fact, the entire Twilight series is junk, and given that, why should we have expected Breaking Dawn to be any better?  The big surprise to me, after watching Breaking Dawn, is that while not having read the novel, when the film ends, what exactly is there more to tell?

We start where we should in this turgid drama: with Taylor Lautner shirtless.  His character, one Jacob. Black. Ooh. runs out into the forest in a fury.  He's just received an invitation to the wedding of Bella Swoon...I mean, Swann (Kristen Stewart) and EDWARD CULLEN (Robert Pattinson).  All of Bella's fantasies have come to this: marriage at 18 to the most perfect man ever created--he won't touch her until they're legally wed (why do I hear Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee playing in my head?), keeps saving her (or saving himself for her, I don't know) has six-pack abs and sparkling skin.  Still, she hesitates (though we don't know why).

The actual story in Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is quite simple, easily described.  Bella (the human) and EDWARD CULLEN (the vampire) get married.  They go to an island off the coast of Rio de Janiero for the honeymoon.  They have sex (AT LONG LAST!) 

Fourteen days later, Bella is pregnant (no, that is not a typo: fourteen DAYS later, she is pregnant and can feel the baby kicking).  Up from Rio back to Forks, Washington State, where Jacob. Black. Ooh.  continues to pine for a girl who's always made it clear she'll only see him as a friend.  In any case, his tribe (who are a literal pack of werewolves) discover Bella's preggers and flip out.  The half-human/half-vampire (or as I lovingly call the child, Baby Blade) must be destroyed.  Within a month of getting pregnant, Bella gives birth to their daughter, Renesmee (I know, but it's better than Pilot Inspektor or Kal-El).  The baby, which has been devouring Bella from the inside out, lives, but Mommie doesn't. 

Whatever is a vampire to do with a dead wife?  Obviously, bring out the undead.

The werewolves attack, but now Jacob. Black. Ooh., who has joined in an unholy alliance with the Cold Ones to save Bella, has 'imprinted' on Renesmee (meaning that she cannot be killed since he now plans to make her his mate...dear God is this nutty), and we end Breaking Dawn: Part 1 with Bella a vampire!

After seeing all the goings-on in Part 1, the only thing I could think of was, 'really, what MORE could there POSSIBLY BE?'  Furthermore, why would ever care about what more there could be when if one thinks about it, the story should have really finished when Bella and EDWARD CULLEN (or as I loving call him, Sullen Cullen) finally do it (whether you interpret that as meaning 'marry' or 'intercourse' I leave to you).  I could not shake the impression that Stephanie Meyer had basically run out of story once her wish-fulfillment of the perfect wedding to the perfect man was accomplished, so she had to give our characters a new complication.

One that was completely impossible.  I digress to say that when Bella frantically calls EDWARD CULLEN'S father figure Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and asks him, "Is it possible?  Can it happen?" I said, "It's impossible and it can't happen"). 

Perhaps the only thing that Breaking Dawn: Part 2 could ever explain is how a vampire could get a human pregnant (and do it so fast).  Other than that, why do we care what happens to any of the characters we've been suffering through for these four films?

Bella got what she wanted: she got EDWARD CULLEN, she got sex, she even got changed to a vampire (which has been her goal since Twilight).  Therefore, now that she has everything she's ever longed for (and even a surprise child to boot), why continue with her story? 

It's even more astonishing that screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (having adapted all the Twilight books) could possibly make two films out of something that, just based on the film adaptation, didn't have much of a story in the first place.  Again, I come at from a viewpoint of someone who's not read this book (and barely got through the first one), but if it is a faithful adaptation of the book, Breaking Dawn the novel must have had some really far-out, if not downright bonkers situations (as if the girl-getting-pregnant-by-a-vampire-and-giving-birth-a-month-after-losing-her-virginity-to-a-monster-who-is-somehow-destined-to-be-involved-with-a-Native American werewolf wasn't already psycho enough).

Chief among them is a scene where we get all of the Quileute Native Nation-cum-werewolves going to a council of sorts.  What we get is a scene where computer-generated wolves are talking to each other with their minds.  As seen on screen, it was laughable (the audience I saw it with concurred).  It was not only bizarre to see these obviously-fake animals growl their pretentious dialogue ("She must be destroyed!  I won't follow you!  I am the grandson of a Chief!") but it was laughable to take any of it with the same seriousness that Rosenberg and/or director Bill Condon want us or expect us to take it with. 

Moreover, it brought to mind something similar in Beneath Planet of the Apes, where the mutants were able to communicate with each other with just their minds.  Curiously, in that film it also looked comical (more so because they were trying so hard to be serious in something essentially silly), and the Wolf-Pack mind-speak still looked damn silly. 

Leaving that aside, and the total lack of logic in the plot (really, would it have killed Meyer and Rosenberg to at least make pretend a child takes nine months to fully gestate?), we still get so many bad moments that appear to only stretch the film.  The wedding itself has a montage of those 'embarrassing' wedding speeches that were boring, unfunny, and never added anything.  In fact, it looked like even the extras were bored having to listen to this go on and on.

The pacing in Breaking Dawn is so slow and quiet that, despite the urgency we're told there is at the rapid gestation and birth of Renesmee, it always appeared that everything moves so placidly during the film's nearly two-hour running time.  There's just an emptiness, a hollowness to Breaking Dawn, and while the blame lays partly in the source material, part of it also goes to both the adaptation, the directing, and the acting.

I can't say anything more about the abilities of either Pattinson or Lautner than I have in the past.  They've proven time and again, in both the Twilight films and their own independent projects (Water for Elephants and Abduction respectively), that neither can actually act.  About the best that can be said about them in Breaking Dawn is that neither didn't embarrass himself as much as he has in the past.  They did in Breaking Dawn what they do best: for Pattinson, purse his lips, for Lautner, show his abs.

Stewart, who has been the only human character to behave as if she were already dead in all her Twilight appearances, has settled comfortably in the role of the mortal who appears to behave like a zombie.  Safe to say you don't watch any Twilight film to see turns of great thespianism.  The humans (in particular Burke, who continues to show no range), the werewolves or vampires (who do nothing but strike poses and spout nonsense) were indistinguishable from each other. 

The only exception is Ashley Greene as the psychically-intuned vampire Alice, but again, she's been the only character allowed to laugh, let alone smile, so at least she's given a chance to express emotions.  You have Kellan Lutz (or KLutz as I lovingly call him), someone who looks like a linebacker (and given his role in Twilight is to be the figurative and literal muscle for the Cullen clan that is an apt description).  Poor Jackson Rathbone (no relation to actual actor Basil Rathbone): still making Jasper look totally lost, as if he doesn't follow anything going on around him given his blank expression (or maybe he's still in shock over appearing in The Last Airbender). 

I know I've touched on how boring Breaking Dawn is, but I don't think I've quite communicated just how boring it is.  The long-vaunted love scene entre EDWARD CULLEN et Bella is suppose to be romantic (with him breaking the headboard in an effort to not overwhelm her and control himself--although that scene also brought laughter from the audience).  It didn't look anything close to romantic to me--perhaps because it was over so fast (insert your own joke here).  I digress again to say that Bella must be amazingly stupid (even for a girl who married at eighteen without benefit of child): she was too enthralled with having finally made love to EDWARD CULLEN to realize she had any bruising (or evidently, feel any pain from said bruising).  In fact, she keeps suggesting and attempting to seduce EDWARD CULLEN, but ever the gentleman (and fearful that his intensity and superhuman strength unleashed would kill her) continues to want nothing more than a bit of a cuddle.

Hence a honeymoon primarily filled with playing chess.  These were the parts where I was the only one laughing: loudly and strenuously. 

The birth scene, I was led to believe, would be gory and graphic.  In truth, the editing and camera work hid what could have been an extremely violent scene (though the flashing lights could cause epileptic seizures as has been reported).  I figure the tameness of both the love and birth scenes were due in order to keep the PG-13 rating, but I did not see anything in either that showed either a sweeping romance or a sick horror film.

However, at the end of Breaking Dawn: Part 1, when EDWARD CULLEN was attempting to bring back Bella and when she finally awakens with her golden vampire eyes, the only thing I thought of was whether they were doing their own version of Bride of Re-Animator

I will finally address any questions about possible subtext in Breaking Dawn.  You can make a strong case that the issue of whether to allow Bella to go full term (whatever a Baby Blade constitutes full term) is touching on abortion: to save the mother's life, whether it's a fetus to be terminated for Bella's survival (as Rosalie Hale--Nikki Reed--keeps saying) or a baby to be saved (as Alice keeps saying).  Even Papa EDWARD CULLEN joins in the fracas, stating that he will hate the child regardless if it ends up killing the love of his afterlife.  I think there is a pro-life (or anti-choice, depending on your point of view) stance in Breaking Dawn, but without knowing one way or another, this is only a guess. 

Breaking Dawn: Part 1 is a slow, dull, lumbering affair where all the characters are lifeless (even the living), the romance hollow, and the tension and suspense non-existent.  I really cannot imagine (besides wringing more money out of Twilight Twits) why a story already so long but with so little happening would be broken down to two films.  On the night Edward and his 'brothers' are going to a Bachelor Party (which constitutes entirely of hunting for animals to feast on, since these are good vampires that don't drink human blood), Emmett (that would be K-Lutz) shouts,

That seems to be the best description to...take full breath...The Twilight SAGA: Breaking Dawn: Part I.


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