The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The “Twilight” series comes to a close with the fifth film based on the four-book supernatural love story from Stephenie Meyer. This one is for the fans, with a loving farewell that includes a romantic recap series of flashbacks and final credits bringing back all the stars of the series.  It will be less satisfying for non Twi-hards, who will have a hard time ignoring the ludicrousness of the storyline.

In the last chapter, Bella (Kristen Stewart) at long last (well, not too long, she just finished high school), married her one true love, Edward (Robert Pattinson), a vampire.  They had a wonderfully romantic but bed-breaking wedding night, and she got pregnant, a surprise to everyone because it was thought to be biologically impossible.  The pregnancy left Bella so frail that childbirth would have killed her if Edward had not kept her alive by turning her into a vampire.  “Breaking Dawn, Part 1” ended with her eyes opening, vampire-ified to electrified amber with a kind of permanent mascara.  “I didn’t expect you to seem so..you,” Jacob says. “Except for the creepy eyes.”

In the past, we saw the “other” world of vampires and wolf-people like Jacob (Taylor Lautner) through Bella’s brown human eyes.  Now we see everything through the hyper-charged senses of the ultimate predator.  Ironically, it is only as a vampire that Bella feels most purely herself — strong, confident, capable.  This is the fork in the road where the fans will stay with it but everyone else may take a detour.  One reason for the sensational popularity of the books is the way they so perfectly capture a young teenager’s fantasy.  That works better when the characters are themselves teenagers.  Trying to project them into the adult world, even one as skewed as the vampire world, is a tougher stretch.

Bella and Edward have an idyllic existence of eternal adolescence, with a life free from work, struggle, and parents.  They do not have to eat or sleep.  They do not have to do anything but have wildly energetic sex and conversations about who loves who more, with banter like “We’re the same temperature now.”  You may ask, “Wait, isn’t there a baby with some kind of nutty name?”  Yes there is, and her name is Renesmee (after the two grandmothers, Renée and Esmé).  When Jacob calls her “Nessie,” Bella gets angry because that’s the Loch Ness monster’s nickname, though it seems likely that it is just another of Jacob’s protective instincts, her birth name being something of a burden.

Bella and Edward-style parenting is not very demanding.  The baby has a full-time staff of loving vampire relatives and an imprinted wolf-guy.  And it turns out that vampire/human children grow in dog years.  The movie, unfortunately, moves rather slowly, with a lot of time bringing in 18 new vampire characters from all over the world to help persuade the vampiric governing body, the Volturi, that they have not broken the law and produced an “immortal child” who could put the community at risk.  All of this leads up to a grand battle across a snowy field, the motley crew of good guy vampires and the robed Volturi.

The endless procession of new characters gets tedious except for a Revolutionary war veteran played by Lee Pace (“Lincoln,” “Pushing Daisies”), who talks about his time with General Custer and has far more electricity on screen than the vampiress who catches his attention with her super-tasing power to jolt anyone.  I also liked Rami Melek (“Night at the Museum,” “Larry Crowne”) as a vampire who can control the elements.  But the sheer volume of new characters made having to remember each one’s special talent like trying to keep track of the Smurfs.

We’ve spent a lot of time with these characters and it is good to see a satisfying resolution to their story.  But I couldn’t help feeling that Meyer had run out of ideas and just tossed in everything she could think of.  My primary reaction at the end was relief that this was the end.

Parents should know that this movie includes vampire violence with battles that include graphic decapitations and other disturbing images, characters injured and killed, sexual references and situations with some nudity, and some language.

Family discussion: What are the biggest changes in Bella’s outlook and abilities from the first installment to the last? How much should she tell Charlie? If you could have one of the special gifts of the characters in the film, which would it be and why?

If you like this, try: the other “Twilight” movies and the books by Stephenie Meyer

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More From Comic-Con: “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2” Panel

Posted on July 16, 2012 at 9:52 pm

It was the first last press conference when the cast of “Twilight” got together to talk to the fans and the press about the last episode and the journey that brought them to this moment.  Following their appearance at the enormous Hall H, with fans who had been camping out for days, the actors and author Stephanie Meyer met with the press.  Kristen Stewart told us about the transformation of her character, Bella, who has some major changes in store after she becomes both a vampire and a mother in the last moments of “Breaking Dawn, Part 1.”  She said her reaction to her new persona was, “I’m a sportscar; let’s break her in.  Even the way she walks into a room is different.”  As for filming the sex scene compared to the tender, if energetic honeymoon scene in the last one:  “We’re not even humans any more.  We tried and it was rated R, .  He was trying not to get his white paint on me and I was trying not to get my brown paint on him.”

Kellan Lutz talked about how his character, Emmett, has to battle Bella.  “To see the little things she would change was fun.”

They were all glad to be together again and enjoyed reminiscing about the earlier films.  Stephanie Meyer said that the first time she saw Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner they were in costume already and “they were all dressed up as my imaginary friends.”  They appreciated original director Catherine Hardwicke’s casting choices, and how well they held up as the actors had the unusual opportunity to create characters who have four times as long as the usual movie to explore their journeys.

When they made the first film, some of them were underage and they laughed that “we had some monitoring.”  The boys and girls stayed in different hotels. They laughed about their “cat classes” and said that like their characters, they felt they were surrounded by protectors, the cast and crew all looking out for them.  They especially enjoyed scenes where many characters were involved because “everyone has covers” (shooting the same thing over and over from different angles), so it meant they had more time together.  They laughed as they described the “dance-off” choreographed as a surprise treat for director Bill Condon by cast members Mia Maestro and Toni Trucks.  They were sentimental about the way “the fans have grown with us”

As for the last chapter, there are “a lot more vampires this time around.”  Jackson Rathbone says his character, Jasper, was “tweaked out, like a junkie going through withdrawal, but now gets more comfortable, more at ease.”  Nikki Reed said she finally got to smile — “a big deal! I look forward to having the audience root for Rosalie a little more.”  Ashley Greene says that Alice, always “lovable, friendly, upbeat, gets to act more vampire, gets more of an edge.”  Elizabeth Reaser said the events of the final film force Esme “into a different lifestyle.  She’s a pacifist forced to be a powerhouse.  She doesn’t have a choice; she has to betray her sense of herself in order to protect her family.”  Peter Facinelli laughed that the biggest change for him was instead of dying his hair blonde, he wore a wig.  And he joked about how much he will miss the woods–and the contact lenses.

Lautner said that in the final chapter it has” become less complicated.  Instead of a triangle, it’s a square.”  “No,” said Stewart, “it’s a perfect circle.”

 

 

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Posted on November 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm

In trying to balance the hopes of the passionately devoted fans of the Twilight series (are there any other kind?), who want to see every single word of the books up on the screen and the realities of cinematic storytelling that limit a feature length movie script to about 110 pages, Summit Entertainment has opted for a third priority, the maximization of ticket sales.  The decision to split the fourth and last book of the series into two movies may satisfy the most avid of the Twihards but the result is a movie that is sluggish and dragged out.  And when “Twilight” gets dragged out, that exposes the weakest parts of what even many fans acknowledge is the most problematic of the four books, with too much time to focus on some of the story’s most outlandish absurdities.

In the last episode, 18-year-old human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) became engaged to 100-plus-year-old vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and this one begins with the delivery of the wedding invitation.  Bella’s mother is excited.  Her father is resigned.  And Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the wolf-boy who shares a mystical connection with Bella, is so angry that he has to take his bad wolf self up to run around Northern Canada for a while.  Meanwhile, Bella has the usual wedding jitters — will she be able to walk in those high, high heels Alice is making her wear?  Will the friends and family on both sides manage to get through the wedding without killing each other — literally?  And will she survive a wedding night with a vampire?  She does not have to worry about whether Jacob will take his shirt off because that happens in the first ten seconds of the film.

Even some Twilight fans admit that author Stephenie Meyer wrote herself into something of a corner by the time she started the last book.  She has said that the idea for the human/vampire love story came from her commitment to writing about a loving relationship where physical intimacy was impossible.  But in the last volume (so far), she decided to go there anyway.  There are some things one can suspend disbelief for more easily in a book than more explicitly portrayed in film and a flashback to a 1930’s Edward watching Elsa Lanchester’s “Bride of Frankenstein” as he waits to pounce on human prey (meticulously chosen, Dexter-style — killers only) elicited laughter from the audience, as did the literally bed-smashing wedding night.  A bigger problem is that four movies in, Bella and Edward still do not have much to talk about beyond how much they love one another and the logistics of their very mixed marriage.  Edward actually researches vampire babies on the internet (a take-me-right-out-of-the-movie product placement from Yahoo search which should inspire nothing more from the audience than a Google search to see whether Yahoo still exists).  And, frustratingly, Meyer begins to bend the rules of her own world, where blood means one thing in one scene and then everyone seems to forget about it in another.  There is a very weird detour into a pro-life/pro-choice debate — is the creature Bella is carrying a child or a fetus?  If, as it appears, continuing the pregnancy means certain death for her, should she have an abortion?

I’m enough of a fan to have enjoyed the wedding scene and even the honeymoon, even with the cleaning crew at the perfect getaway with an ocean view glaring at Edward because in their simple native way they can tell he is a demon.  And I liked seeing Edward respect Bella’s relationship with Jacob.  I laughed, but I was touched, too, when Bella, terribly sick with the pregnancy, is cold, and all three of them realize that only Jacob, the human furnace, can warm her up, and even when he and Edward do a sort of Vulcan mind meld to figure out what Bella and the baby need.  But the best scene in the movie is the one that comes midway through the credits, featuring the much-missed Michael Sheen, letting us know that the final chapter will be less sap and more action.

 

 

(more…)

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Comic-Con 2011, Day 1

Posted on July 22, 2011 at 1:25 am

Any day I get to talk to Guy Pearce, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, get to hear the latest on “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1,” and get to hang out with Power Rangers and the Madagascar Penguins is a very fine day indeed.

In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, I love Comic-Con.  Last night, we got to preview the Exhibition Hall and watch episodes of some upcoming television shows, including a story of a community of witches from Kevin Williamson (the “Scream” movies)  called “The Secret Circle” and a thriller with echoes of “Quantum Leap” and “The Bourne Identity” called “Person of Interest,” starring Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Hensen, and James Caviezel.  Today I attended a press conference for the cast of “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1.”  Fans who had lined up for days to get into the panel discussion in Comic-Con’s largest room, the 6000-person capacity Hall H, hit the jackpot when some of the cast stopped by to say hello.

Elizabeth Reaser (Esme) spoke about the satisfaction of exploring a character over a series of films, and Ashley Greene (Alice) mentioned she had grown up playing her character.  They all said that they enjoyed filming the wedding scene, though it was a challenge due to the level of security necessary to keep the details a secret from the fans.  Kristen Stewart (Bella) said they had “Secret Service-style” protection and that she ended up wearing a Volturi cloak to cover her wedding dress.  They joked about finding an extra in Brazil who looked so much like Lautner they had to move him to the back so that the audience would not get confused and think that Jacob had somehow shown up to spy on Bella and Edward (Robert Pattinson).

When asked about their biggest challenges in this film, Stewart said it was mothering an animatronic baby and Lautner said it was the scene where he had to “walk into the room intent on killing this baby, stop, twist, and imprint, whatever that means.” He said he spent a lot of time talking to author Stephanie Meyer about what she had in mind.  And Pattinson said his biggest challenge was having to take his shirt off.  “In the book, Edward’s body is there every three pages, but I’ve managed to avoid it until this one.”

Ron Perlman and Carey Mulligan spoke to a small group of reporters about their stylish upcoming thriller “Drive,” along with director Nicolas Winding Refn.  Ryan Gosling plays a stunt driver who gets pulled into intrigue and violence to protect a young mother.  Perlman told us that like his character, he is a Jew who always wanted to be an Italian.  Perlman is drawn to the culture and food of Italy, but his character wants to be a powerful criminal.  The character in the original script was not fully described.  Perlman liked the way Refn worked with the actors on “unearthing the world and what our value and function was in the story.”  Mulligan described her relationship with Gosling in the film as the “calm center with chaos all around.”  They are surrounded by “witty, intelligent, terrifying characters” while they are almost silent.  Refn told us that “It came out of my not liking talking.  Silence is the greatest word.”  He also said, “Music gets me going.”  In the film he used 70’s electronic music to match the main character’s vintage car.

More coming soon — stay tuned.

 

 

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The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Posted on November 30, 2010 at 8:02 am

Things — and people — heat up in this third chapter in the “Twilight” saga. Bella (Kristen Stewart) begins by quoting Robert Frost’s famous poem about whether the world will end in fire or ice. That will be more than a metaphor as she must decide between Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), both more than human, and both utterly devoted to her. Both, too, have sworn to keep her safe, and at times during this chapter that forces them into a grudging and very uneasy alliance.

Bella met Edward, a vampire, and they realized they loved each other in “Twilight.” And then in “New Moon” being separated and almost losing each other showed them that they could not be apart. But it also gave Bella a chance to grow close to Jacob, a shape-shifter who is part of a wolf pack. In this chapter, Bella and Edward are back together and she wants to become a vampire so they can stay together forever, even though it would mean giving up everyone else she has ever cared about. But Jacob insists that he loves her and is better for her. “You wouldn’t have to change for me,” he tells her.

And at graduation, Bella’s friend Jessica (“Up in the Air’s” Anna Kendrick) addresses the class, telling them that this is not the time to make irrevocable decisions.

Edward does not want her to change. He misses his human life and knows what it would mean to give it up. And his sister Rosalie tells Bella she feels the loss of her dream of living in a normal world. Bella worries that she might lose what it is that Edward loves about her if she becomes a vampire. But if she does not, she will lose him as she grows old while he stays forever young.

Edward and his family are benign vampires, living among humans and confining themselves to a sort of vampire vegetarianism, with animals as their only source of blood. But two groups of evil, destructive vampires are after them, Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, taking over from Rachelle Lefevre), bent on revenge because Edward killed her lover when he attacked Bella, and the Volturi, a ruling body that destroys any members of the vampire community they believe put them at risk of exposure.

Director David Slade ably takes over from Chris Weitz and Catherine Hardwicke, staying consistent with their vision but demonstrating his own take on the key elements of the story, adolescent longing and primal physical confrontations. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, continues her skillful adaptation of the books, respectful of the source material but translating it for cinematic story-telling. They maintain a connection that makes the the Northwest settings and the intensity of the fantasy battles feel like a physical manifestation of the between the teenage angst and desire.

Stewart and Pattinson still have the chemistry that launched dozens of magazine covers and Lautner really comes into his own in this chapter, showing more confidence and maturity as his character grows up. Like the book, this chapter has more action, more romance, and more drama, and sets us up very nicely for the grand finale.

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