NOVEMBER 16, 2012
"You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?!?"
Intentional humor is pretty rare in the Twilight films, but damned if that bit didn't make me laugh like a loon with the OTHER PEOPLE in the crowded theater for the 9:30 am opening (school) day showing of Breaking Dawn Part 2. Usually my laughter is a singular sound, as the other folks showing up that early tend to really care about the characters/events in these movies and thus doesn't find it as amusing when one of them gets their head lopped off or says something that, to their ears, is poignant and beautiful.
That said, I've never been as down on these movies as some of my peers, who go out of their way to claim that they've ruined the genre (and Comic Con) before admitting they've never actually watched one of them. I mean, I certainly won't ever give any of them a second look (maybe an Alice/Ashley Greene highlight reel...), but apart from the interminable New Moon, I was never less than at least mildly entertained by them, either. I guess I have been blessed with the ability to not hate a movie because it was targeted at someone other than myself, and instead can usually find something to enjoy despite the fact that I'm not "supposed" to be in the movie's corner. Let's put it this way - I've walked out of more Halloween movies feeling disappointed than I have Twilights. Give me something amusing once per reel, and as long as the teen girls and 40ish women around me are cheering and squealing when appropriate, I have no problem dubbing the films as successful.
Obviously, being the 5th movie (or the 2nd half of the 4th, if you're cynical, though both felt like complete stories to me, if a bit unnecessarily padded), they're not looking to convert any haters/newcomers this time, assuming they ever were in the first place. Despite the trailers focusing heavily on the big battle between the evil Volturi and our vamp/wolf heroes, it's actually pretty light on action, which is even more surprising when you consider that (as I later discovered) the battle wasn't even in the book. If not for Bill Condon and (perhaps) Melissa Rossenberg realizing that the 5th movie in a fantasy/horror series should have a big climax, this movie's action would be limited to a quick chase scene that turns out to be a misunderstanding, a standalone vampire kill during a recruitment montage, and a brief skirmish between Bella and two wolves when things get heated regarding Jacob's "imprinting".
I'm not sure if the book went into that last bit more, but after hearing about it a while ago, I must say I was a bit bummed that it didn't have much significance to the movie. Jacob is basically in love with Edward and Bella's newborn child, who grows to be about 8 in a few months, but other than this one conversation, it never really plays as anything but a guy helping his friends protect a child. All it would take would be a quick line that Jacob felt the need to protect Renesme just as he did Bella out of loyalty or whatever, and the movie wouldn't really be any different. Again, maybe it's not a big deal in the book either, but I was excited at the idea of Taylor Lautner (by far the weakest actor of the trio) doing his angry young man routine and getting into eyebrow-offs with Robert Pattinson as he defended his right to be with this baby that he was destined to marry, but after it's first introduced (with that Loch Ness line), he's back to just sort of constantly hanging out at the Cullens' house and making bad jokes about them being cold or wanting blood or whatever.
So yeah, it's mostly more of the same. A whole bunch of new characters are introduced, and they each get a moment or two, not always integrated well with the rest of the narrative. Joe Anderson, as a weary, standoff-ish vampire, literally wanders into a scene to deliver a monologue out of nowhere, as if they realized they hired a good actor and hadn't given him anything to do - I can almost see a PA herding him back onto the set as he was prepared to leave the shoot, after filming all of the cutaways and crowd shots that his role otherwise amounted to. When the end credits came up, it was the first time I actually caught the names of nearly half of its characters, and that includes a few that weren't even in the movie. To either honor its legacy, or just to get Anna Kendrick in the movie SOMEHOW, the ENTIRE cast of the series (including both of the actresses who played Victoria) is given a full screen credit alongside a film clip, like it was a video yearbook or one of those "In Memoriam" sequences from the Oscars.
And it comes after a well-meaning but slightly unfortunate bit where Bella projects a montage of their history into Edward's mind (or something), so we see clips from when they first met, their first kiss, etc. The problem is we can see how much Mr. Pattinson has aged in 5 years, which goes against the whole "ageless" thing, so maybe they should have just had him reshoot those bits or something. The movie's budget isn't exactly on-screen (the FX during Bella's first "hunt" are sub-Escape From LA), so there should have been room for him to reshoot these 10 or 11 shots and thus prevent distracting an audience away from the point by marveling how much younger he looks. That said, having recalled how terrible they looked at first, I can at least take comfort knowing that the wolf FX have improved greatly, and while I missed the "shattered glass" effect that David Slade used in Eclipse when a vamp was killed, I was quite satisfied with the amount of decapitations and dismemberments during the final battle; bloodless as they may be, there's nothing funnier than seeing a particularly goofy character get his head knocked clean off.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
It's a shame that the big battle is just a dream though. Had I known it wasn't in the book I would have guessed right from the start that it was a dream, as there would be no way in hell that Stephenie Meyer, hater of the letter "A" and film series producer, would allow Condon to kill off so many of the primary characters if they didn't die in the book as well. It's basically a Final Destination lift; the future-seeing Alice envisions a (terrific) 10-15 minute battle with a huge body count, and then BAM! We snap back to the present and realize it was just a premonition. Honestly, the big deaths are handled better than they were in Harry Potter 7B (where Harry enters a room and we see a few big characters lying dead), and there are some legitimately great moments in that sequence - I particularly liked when one wolf sacrificed itself to save Mrs. Cullen. But none of it happened, nor does anything else happen to make up for it - everyone agrees to a truce and walks away. The film's body count for named characters is exactly 1, which must be a letdown even to the teenaged girls. They spent three books (I don't think the Volturi were in the first one, right?) setting up this war between the good and evil vampires, and neither side takes any real loss? Just some in-betweener who came out of nowhere (at least in the movies) and thus we couldn't have cared much about them anyway? Weak.
But hey, at least no one has to watch their favorite character die for real. In my case that would be Charlie (Billy Burke), who plays a part in the series 59657th and final scene of Lautner taking his shirt off (it's actually pretty funny if you think of Charlie as speaking for the straight males in the audience). I've long worried that he'd be doing his job as a cop or as Bella's father and end up dead since he's pretty much the only human character left at this point, but he's sent off on a fishing trip and presumably living happily ever after. And even in the dream, neither Alice or my boy Emmett get killed, so I would have been fine if it was all true.
Thus, it's a perfectly fitting sendoff for this polarizing series, which has never been as good as its biggest supporters OR as bad as its harshest critics have claimed. They don't aim very high, nor do they sink very low (it's not even the worst vampire movie I've seen this week; in fact it's the best!) - they just offer the bare minimum of vamp action to get folks like me to give them a pass, and from what I understand never change much from the text that can either improve or "ruin" the narratives that the die-hards know inside and out. After 5 movies I still don't get what made this particular saga such a phenomenon, but I understand even less why anyone feels the need to hate on them so much. I do wish that Condon had brought a bit more of the fucked up horror of the first half into this one, but he has once again given some class and personality to a movie that would have made just as much money if it was directed by whoever happened to be closest to the camera. So kudos to Summit for hiring a real director for these installments, and I hope that their success will give him a bit of the clout he deserves.
What say you?