Monday, May 14, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Twilight - Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (with RiffTrax)

Without RiffTrax, its impossible for me to wrap my head around the experience of viewing any of the Twilight films.  It's safe to say: I am not in the demographic to which the series is aimed.  But it's also become a hugely successful movie series, spinning off the classic vampire genre and tropes, and we quite like monster movies, so there you go.

In the spirit of full disclsure, before starting the movie, we armored up with a couple of cocktails and with the protective barrier of RiffTrax to shield us a bit from unfiltered Twilightness.  I, myself, wore the mithril coat of Manhattans made with generous portions of Bulleit.

Seriously, all of these people can shut up now.  Except the girl on the left.  She's cute enough, she gets a pass.

Let's get the preliminaries out of the way.
  • Kristen Stewart is both bad and insufferable in these movies, a fact which is mind-boggling considering how many directors have now had a crack at her.  I have to assume her stammering, energy-free performances in these films suggest a level of contempt for the material that one must share in order to properly decipher her true intention.  Or else she's just that bad.
  • Robert Pattinson's "Edward" may be handsome, I guess, but he's otherwise completely worthless as a character.  Since the first movie, in which he stalked Bella into submission, he's since mostly been dialog-free and at an arm's length from Bella, enough so that they seem like work acquaintances than the subjects of the most popular romance in pop fiction.
  • The core of the drama in the Twilight movies stems from the fact that the characters seem incapable of making decisions or taking action, and are very into waiting to see what happens.  I don't like the term "proactive", either, but I don't think its particularly useful to tell four books' worth of stories and never present anyone making a decision other than "I'm in love, I guess".
  • Oddly, discussing this movie aimed at a YA audience is going to spawn one of the more adults conversations we're going to have around here.  Mainly because I'm not sure any adults were associated with the making of this film.
  • Do not be confused by the length of this discussion.  This is a terrible movie.  Frankly, its one of the worst high-budget feature films I've seen in my entire life.  Its just astonishingly terrible on any level you'd care to discuss.  We're really going to rein it in here this evening so that we can try to retain some focus, but suffice it to to say, one could spill no small number of bits dissecting how this movie is a failure on every level.
Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1 is really nothing less than a body horror movie, the sort of horror movie like the Jeff Goldblum starring The Fly, in which what is happening to the lead character is repulsive but fascinating.  Its also an interesting examination of the leaps made by a creative team trying to interpret Stephenie Meyer's view of how one combines love, sex, marriage and child bearing into a movie that will make even more than the best-selling novels.  This film alone had a world-wide gross of over $700 million dollars.

Wanting to follow the Harry Potter model of splitting the final book into two movies, Breaking Dawn Part 1 has roughly a quarter of the plot and character development of your usual Hollywood film.  Given the water consistency of the preceding installments, splitting the wafer thin plotting over two movies absolutely does not lend itself to do anything more than throw the breaks on the pacing, stretch scenes out endlessly and amp up the awakwardness by a factor well beyond just a simple doubling.

At the end of the day, it's also a movie about the wish-fulfillment of folks religiously devoted to The Program* (either literally and/ or figuratively), but who think a couple of years of community college is for suckers when you could jump past the defining years of a young person's life and get straight to the baby-making.  Especially when your fantasy boyfriend is also a millionaire and you're genetically devoid of a sense of agency.

Also, because they are characters in one of these movies, Bella's parents may or may not have opinions regarding whether or not their beautiful, brilliant daughter is maybe making a bad decision marrying a creepy guy living in a compound with his cult/ family, but we'll never @#$%ing know, because they stand around uselessly through the first third of the movie, even though mustache dad looks like he's been taking tips from Stewart regarding how to look fidgety and uncomfortable in every scene.

Curiously, this movie based on a young adult novel is a movie entirely about sex in which nobody will just speak frankly about sex.  In different hands, one can imagine this could have been maybe vaguely interesting, but, instead, everyone involved dances around just saying the word "sex", chastely believing that one should speak only elliptically about the fact that sex exists.  What, had a single character been written as an adult in this series...

The issue of the first part of the movie is that, apparently, sex between a vampire and a human could possibly kill the human**.  Maybe.  They don't really cite any evidence, but the werewolves seem to be aware that vampire sex is the most raucous doing it of all.  And they are concerned.

Both Jamie and Kristen tell me that there's a lot in the book which didn't make it to screen on this topic, which I completely did not understand considering the fact that the movie is devoid of motion or energy for most of its running time.  However, in the context of the movie, the problems inherent with rough vampire sex seem a little concocted, or something that would have kept Edward from agreeing to marriage or consummation of that marriage in the first place.  Even once we're past the endless wedding scenes (including Stewart's choice to appear just absolutely @#$%ing miserable of every moment of her special day), and onto the honeymoon on a magical island off Rio...  nobody can talk about what the problem is because they might have to act like adults and have that conversation about sex.  And maybe about safewords.

There's a lot to unpack in the fact that Bella is absolutely ready and enthusiastic about getting to make sweet vampire love, but that her eternally 18-year-old lover is somehow holding off because he's paternalistic-ally worried about her and apparently waiting for her to buy sex armor or something when suddenly all of this will be safe.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and, clearly, Meyer and the filmmakers have entered into a Bizarro World world that chooses to be completely uninformed when it comes to 18 year old boys (especially ones that have been 18 for 100 years and we have to assume haven't been with a lady for a while) and their decision making when given specific lady-related opportunities.

Much is made of Twilight-creator Stephenie Meyer's Mormonism, and that does inform some of the attitude regarding the romance/ attitude toward sex and marriage as intertwined in her world of sparkly vampires (I'm not sure Dracula actually got any clergy involved with the women considered his "brides").  Its also maybe not the worst suggestion to impressionable pre-teens that a commitment of some sort might dovetail nicely with a sexual relationship, but the merging of sex and marriage is presented in such a dopey fashion of make-believe dependencies that its sort of a hard sell that one must precede the other when Edward's concerns regarding sex do not diminish whatsoever once he's put a ring on it.

Its also mind-bendingly fascinating to present the combo of what boils down to Bella's insistence on a sexual relationship with Edward's super-loving as a "danger" and the insistence on marriage as key to this happening.  Don't worry, friends, the marriage is consummated, leaving Bella somewhat jolly, if a bit bruised and worn out.  While solving this dilemma might have strayed from Meyer's comfort zone and into gray areas of BDSM that a quick review of the backlog of Dan Savage's Savage Love columns could perhaps shed some light on, it turns out that after 30 minutes of build-up, maybe this wasn't such a big deal after all.

And, of course, despite Bella's enthusiasm and what appears to have been a successful wedding night, Edward is still terribly, terribly torn.  Which...  Shut up, sparkly fantasy boyfriend.

Its hard to tell if where the story moves immediately in Act 2 is a cautionary tale for young girls considering not using protection, or if its wish-fulfillment for the high school girls I used to overhear during my days manning the counter at Camelot Records informing one another that they were "ready for my baby.  I'm gonna have someone who is going to love me."***

But so potent is Edward's backed up sperm supply that Bella isn't just pregnant within a couple of days of their first demolition derby, she's Uber-pregnant.  14 days after her first time and she's vomiting into toilets.

Yup.  Sex is fun, kids, but it has one purpose and one purpose only.  Ie:  We have returned to concepts of sexuality that contain an insistence that women in fiction be punished for enjoying sex.  In this case, Bella exchanges one body horror (death by vampire penis) for another (death by vampire preggies).

The remainder of the movie is spent watching Bella get skinnier and skinnier by way of CGI as what US Weekly would call her "baby bump" grows and grows.  We know from the fact that he cannot sit down that Edward is either very concerned or is suffering from hemorrhoids.

Oh, right.  Werewolves.  There's a lot going on with Jacob and the werewolves in the movie.  I'm not sure what.  Bourbon is a powerful drink, and I recommend you imbibe in conservative amounts.  But sometimes you need for the bad to go away, and so your Unky League says "go ahead and have another".  You may piece together at some point that you ordered Domino's cinnamon sticks when you find the box(es) in the morning.

I do remember that Jacob and the other werewolves were sort of unhappy with one another and, for reasons that went completely unexplained, very freaked out by the impending birth of Blade: The Day Walker.  But I was having too good of a laugh during the cartoon dogs' "telepathic" conversation on a wood pile to glean much of what was happening.

For about thirty minutes, you thrill to a digitally emaciated Kristen Stewart rubbing her belly and finally having an excuse to act like she has no energy or will to live while Edward's cult/ family watches them take their drama into the living room.

If sex was supposed to be awesome and powerful and scary to Meyers' fans, she certainly works that same magic when it comes to pregnancy, posing it as nothing less than a parasitic malignancy which will destroy you from the inside, shredding your being , even as you make weird pledges of love to the monster and refuse anyone with an MD's attention.  Its...  amazing.

I won't spoil it too much (she has the baby, but Edward has to turn her into a vampire afterward because giving birth literally kills her).  But the important thing is that the movie ends with Team Jacob falling helplessly in love with a newborn infant, which is the creepiest ending to a love triangle I've ever seen in any media.  (We might as well call in Nancy Grace right now.)

I mean, seriously, Stephenie Meyer.  WTF.  You couldn't just have Jacob meet a nice girl?  It has to be something that exited the amazing Bella's/ Your personal stand-in's loins for him to find her worthy?  Just...  GAH.

If anything else happened in this movie, I don't remember it.  But the movie was basically about five scenes, all too long, and it had the creepiest subtext you're likely to have found in a movie made in the last 30 years. Or, since the last Twilight film.

In a way, I'm very glad I don't have a daughter (or son) I'll ever have to walk through the minefield of horrendous messaging these movies put out, and I will never understand their ubiquitous popularity.  While morbidly fascinating, as far as mainstream entertainment goes, it's shocking to me that Disney films are under such microscopic scrutiny for the slightest hint of Film School 101 attack points, but somehow these things have gone undiscussed.

Never underestimate the magic of what a dreamy high school boy can do for the right audience, I guess.

But, movie going public and critics, you can no longer talk about strictly adolescent male fantasies when we go see shit like John Carter.  You've got a multi-billion-dollar franchise to answer for.

*the assumed path of high school, college, marriage, production of 2.5 kids named Skylar, Jacob and Britney, food allergies, soccer and a mini-van.

**paging Dr. Freud, Stephenie Meyer on line 1

***oh, yes.  This happened.  Also, the high school girl who came in carrying her baby upside down and had to be told to turn the baby right side up by our friendly staff.


Jake Shore said...

My wife and I landed on this while channel surfing about six months ago. Curiosity got the best of us and we started watching. I knew it was going to be bad. I just wasn't prepared for HOW bad it was.

Two things:

1. Kristen Stewart is a horrible actress. I mean, her acting seems to consist of constant facial ticks to communicate her emotions.

2. I found myself dumbfounded as to why any guy (or vampire) would be attracted to this pale, sullen, anti-social brat. And apparently in the next movie, two guys(!) are fighting over her?!! Please.

Give me Molly Ringwald any day.

The League said...

What's shocking is how much worse each succeeding movie is after the first Twilight. The mystery of the allure of Bella just deepens and deepens as she stammers and sulks her way through being The Most Important/ Attractive Person Ever.

Indeed, a 19 year old Molly Ringwald would have run rings around this twit.

Simon MacDonald said...

You'd have to arm me with more than a few cocktails in order to sit through this movie or any other in the series.