The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012)

2019 #132
Bill Condon | 110 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

I may’ve been pretty quiet for most of October, but it’s Halloween today and that means it’s time to uphold a tradition I’ve had since 2015 — but for the final time! Well, all good things must come to an end. Fortunately, so too must Twilight.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2

As usual with films this deep into an ongoing story, I won’t bother making much of an effort to set it up for newcomers. Film series like this are more like miniseries, just with feature-length episodes that are released theatrically and years apart. You wouldn’t just watch Episode 5 of a five-part TV series, would you? That goes double here, as the title indicates: it’s also the second half of the final book.

Ah, the title… As regular readers may’ve picked up by now, I’m a stickler for title accuracy (heck, it’s literally my job at the minute). The ‘correct’ title is what’s on the film’s title card… which you’d think is pretty straightforward, but every now and then something challenges that methodology. The Twilight films have consistently been a problem with that. Always promoted as “The Twilight Saga: [Film Title]”, the main title card in the films themselves use just the individual title bit. But Breaking Dawn has decided to be even more irritating, because Part 1 was called Part 1, but Part 2 is called Part Two. No, seriously. Look, I know this kind of thing matters not a joy to most viewers, but I feel like it’s indicative of the amount of effort and attention that was actually spent on these movies. (Despite all that, I’ve gone with Part 2 for the title of this review to match my Part 1 review, because I appreciate consistency, at least.)

Numerical formatting inconsistencies aside, the opening titles are really nice. I mean, they’re not so amazing that you should go seeking them out especially, but they look good. And for once, it’s not all downhill from there!

Bella the vamp

But only because the climax is probably the highlight of the whole saga — unless you’re primarily here for the romance stuff, which was mostly tied up in previous movies. It does make you wonder somewhat who this final part is for, actually. The central couple got married in the last film — that’s the end goal of all conservatively-minded relationship stories. You get married, then you live happily ever after, so naturally there’s no story beyond that point. (Heavy eye roll.) But Twilight isn’t quite an ordinary conservative romance, what with one of the pair being a vampire, so there’s some mythology stuff left to tackle. Well, no spoilers (yet), but Breaking Dawn isn’t ultimately very conclusive in that regard. Maybe author Stephenie Meyer was deliberately leaving room for a further book.

As a commercially-minded theory, that seems a reasonable presumption. But the narrative of Breaking Dawn suggests Meyer was more than ready to move on. Out of almost nowhere, everyone starts developing superpowers (element manipulation, forcefield projection, the ability to deliver electric shocks, etc), which they must then learn how to use. Sound familiar? I can only assume Meyer got bored of writing shitty novels about vampires and werewolves so decided to make this one a shitty version of the X-Men instead.

Further evidence of restlessness comes from the amount of plot we’re treated to. In almost all my Twilight reviews I’ve specifically noted how slow the films are, or that nothing happens; but this time so much happens they have to condense events with montage and voiceover. New characters are introduced at a rate of knots, simply to fill out an ‘army’ for the final battle. Any writer worth their salt would’ve known this was coming and spent time introducing these people earlier — it’s not as if there hasn’t been room for it in the sparsely-plotted earlier instalments. Simply, this saga is exceptionally poorly paced.

Almost all of these characters are introduced in this film

It’s certainly not the film’s only technical flaw. Apparently it cost $136 million, so why does it look like it was made for £3.50? Inadequate CGI has always been a feature of these films, so what possessed them to think they could pull off a CGI baby/toddler?! The result is fucking creepy; the very definition of the uncanny valley. Sometimes I think the people who made these movies shouldn’t be allowed to work again. The dialogue, the editing, the obvious green screen, the cheapo effects… it’s not just that it’s a crummy story with dubious morals, it’s that the films are so shittily made.

But, as I said earlier, there’s almost some redemption. First, Michael Sheen rocks up as the head of the Volturi, who are the top vampire coven or something (I don’t really remember, it was explained three films ago). I think he’s thoroughly aware it’s all rubbish (I believe I read he only did it because his daughter was a fan), so he gives a delicious performance. It’s not over the top — he’s not just phoning it in for the payday — but it also seems aware that it’s all daft, so why not have some fun? He’s the Big Bad, so his presence enlivens the climax, which also benefits from a good old “two armies face off across the battlefield with rousing music” approach.

And then they fight… and, wow, they should’ve called this The Twilight Saga: Breaking Off People’s Heads. It’s possibly the best of the series simply because of how fucking brutal it is. If you watched the previous films thinking, “I wish most of these characters would just die horrible deaths”, this is the sequel for you. And it’s still rated PG-13! They pull a woman’s head and arms off, and toss the head into a fire, and then they toss a toddler into the fire too… and it’s still rated PG-13! But half a glimpse of a woman’s nipple and you get an R. You’re fucked up, America.

Michael Sheen shines

Post-fight, the film has one final good bit. I’m just going to spoil it, because if you’ve got this far I figure you don’t care. It’s revealed that the entire battle — which, note, killed off a slew of major supporting characters — was all a premonition. “It was all a dream” is frowned upon as a rule, but here it’s actually quite a neat twist. I didn’t see it coming, anyway. I guess I didn’t think anyone involved with Twilight was capable of such structural ingenuity. How I wish it was in a better film, more deserving of its effectiveness.

Oh, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. It means the fight never happens, which means the bad guy isn’t actually defeated, he just decides not to bother (because he’d lose). But is he happy about it? Duh, no. So he… just goes home… still in a position of power, still not happy with our heroes… Is that a victory? Or has the villain gone away to cook up a new plan? As I said, it feels open for a further story. A pair of characters who wanted the good guys to win for their own nefarious reasons basically tell the heroes, “you’re all fools, the Volturi might’ve left but they’ll never forgive what happened”… and all the good guys just laugh, because they’ve won, because they’re the good guys. But they haven’t won, have they? They didn’t defeat him. They didn’t convince him. It won’t take much for him to come up with a new, better plan. Fuck it, I was glad this was over, but now I want to see The Twilight Saga Episode 6: The Volturi Slaughter All Those Cocky Bastards.

Happily ever after

But there isn’t a sixth instalment. This is it. I have completed The Twilight Saga, just over a decade since it first came to the big screen. Back then it was a relatively significant part of pop culture, with a rabid fanbase clamouring for the movies to be recognised, and turning them into major, much-discussed hits. But they were always critically reviled, both in print and on screen, and now it feels like their relevance is waning, presumably as old fans grow up and new ones fail to materialise. Or maybe they still do good numbers in book sales / TV airings / Netflix streams, but we just don’t talk about them widely because they’re not new anymore. Who knows. The only reason I care is because I’m wondering if I’ve spent ten hours of my life watching something I knew would be poor, spurred merely by its cultural significance, only to find that significance has quickly evaporated.

Oh well. At least I’ll always have Face Punch.

2 out of 5

Another Month Bites the Dust: The Monthly Update for October 2018

Another month gone and another month gone, another month bites the dust. Hey, I’m gonna get November too! Another month bites the dust!

(So, I didn’t actually get to see Bohemian Rhapsody this month, but I thought of this title and it was too good to miss.)


#207 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)
#208 Prevenge (2016)
#209 Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)
#210 TiMER (2009)
#211 Suspiria (1977)
#212 Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (1999), aka Jin-Rô
#213 Matinee (1993)
#214 Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage (1966), aka Zatôichi umi o wataru
#215 The Night Comes for Us (2018)
#216 The Producers (1967)
#217 Rocky Balboa (2006)
#218 It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
#219 Unsane (2018)
#220 The Lives of Others (2006), aka Das Leben der Anderen
#221 Phantom Thread (2017)
#222 Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Suspiria

Phantom Thread

.


  • This month I watched 16 new films. It’s not the best month of the year, but it’s not the worst, either.
  • It beats the October average (previously 13.8, now 14.0), but not the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 21.0, now 20.4), nor the average for 2018 to date (previously 22.9, now 22.2).
  • One of those 16 was Rocky Balboa, which means I’ve now watched all the main Rocky films for the first time this year. That wasn’t the plan when Rocky scraped onto my WDYMYHS list in last place! But at some point I made the conscious decision to finish them (rather than let them spread out indefinitely, like many other series I’m in the middle of), and I’ve enjoyed them all (even Rocky V). With Creed II out at the end of November, I intend to get fully caught up on the entire Rocky legacy very soon.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: colourful and sonically bombastic horror in Dario Argento’s original Suspiria. I’ve been saving it all year for this month (for hopefully obvious reasons), and it didn’t disappoint.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: superb behind-the-Berlin-wall dramatic thriller The Lives of Others. And, as I only do ten of them, that’s the final WDYMYHS film for 2018!



The 41st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of enjoyable films this month, including some high-quality Oscar winners… but it was October, aka horror month, which just tips the scales in favour of Suspiria. It was the first Dario Argento film I’ve seen, but I look forward to experiencing more.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There’s no point beating about the bush: it was definitely The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.

Best Demonstration That Shooting On Film Is Still Better of the Month
Phantom Thread may’ve looked gorgeous in 35mm-derived UHD, but nothing reminds you of the beauty of film quite like Unsane’s fugly shot-on-iPhone visuals.

Most Gratuitous Nude Scene Without Any Nudity of the Month
Bella and Edward going skinny dipping before finally consummating their marriage was barely necessary, but at least the whole series had basically been building to the point when they finally do it. Megan Fox going for a completely unmotivated nudey dip in Jennifer’s Body, on the other hand, was… well, gratuitous.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For only the fifth time this year, the winner of this award is not my TV column. In fact, it’s the second most-viewed winner of this award in 2018 (behind Avengers: Infinity War’s huge tally back in April). That would be Netflix’s Indonesian actioner The Night Comes for Us.

Leaving aside new posts, my overall most-read post of the month by an absolute mile (much higher than any other post has ever managed in a single month, barring that time Cracked.com linked to me, which is mainly why I’m mentioning it) was last month’s TV review. Why? Well, it included my review of Bodyguard, which, following its phenomenal success in the UK, debuted on Netflix in the rest of the world last week. It previously won Most-Viewed New Post in September, but in October it received over six times as many hits!



My Rewatchathon continues apace…

#39 School of Rock (2003)
#40 Face/Off (1997)
#41 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

Face/Off was one of the films I put into my 100 Favourites without rewatching, but if I had… well, I’m not saying I wouldn’t’ve included it, but I wouldn’t’ve given it 5 stars. It’s sort of terrible… but it goes about its business so outrageously and so ridiculously that it’s also sort of glorious. If it didn’t star Travolta and Cage or wasn’t directed by John Woo, I think it would’ve been a disaster; but they all carry out their roles with OTT abandon, and that’s actually what makes the ludicrous material work.

The South Park movie was going to become the latest in my ongoing series of “films I’ve owned forever on a DVD that I’ve never played, but were available on a streaming service in HD so I watched there instead”. Not that South Park’s self-consciously simplistic animation is crying out for the extra detail of 1080p, but a bit of crispness never hurt. But then it turned out it was only available to stream in SD anyway (goodness knows why — an HD version definitely exists because there’s a Blu-ray available in several territories), so I decided to pop in the DVD after all. But then I couldn’t find where my DVD copy was, so I elected to just watch the streaming version after all. What a story, eh? Look out for the movie adaptation, coming soon…

Oh, and the film was pretty good. It’s nearly 20 years old and has dated somewhat, but the vulgar irreverence has its charms.


A new Coen brothers movie! A new Orson Welles movie! Chris Pine’s penis! And that’s just on Netflix…

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

2018 #207
Bill Condon | 113 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English & Portuguese | 12 / PG-13

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

And so we reach the final book in the Twilight Saga… but not the final film, because Breaking Dawn hails from the era when Young Adult adaptations routinely split their final book in two, all the better to make more money fully adapt the story. Sparked by the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, said “era” lasted all of five years, taking in Twilight and The Hunger Games, before the two-part adaptation of the Divergent series’ finale was cancelled halfway through due to poor box office.

But back to Twilight. Breaking Dawn, Part 1 starts with an event promised by the end of the previous movie: the wedding of human Bella (Kristen Stewart) to vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). Sorry, Team Jacob; but let’s be honest, he never stood a chance. The double-length running time afforded this book means the film can spend its whole first half-hour indulging in the nuptials, which I imagine is the kind of thing fans of this series would revel in, so fair enough.

Then Bella and Edward head off on a romantic honeymoon, and after spending three movies being an analogy for the wonders of chastity, the lead couple getting married means they can finally get. it. on! PG-13 style, of course (I believe some thrusting was cut to retain the teen rating in one or both of the UK and USA). Nonetheless, Edward’s so vigorous that he completely destroys the bed — well, the poor guy has been waiting for about 100 years. He also leaves Bella with some cuts and bruises, making him reluctant to go again. This leads to an extended montage where the newly wed girl desperately tries to get laid while the newly wed guy does his best to avoid it. It’s almost transgressive in its role reversal, except Twilight is too coy to present this quite explicitly enough to really nail that gag. Besides, if you’re looking for a human-vampire relationship that nails the sexual politics of teen relationships, Buffy got there over a decade earlier.

PG-13 fucking

Despite the paucity of their lovemaking, and the fact that one of the pair is technically dead, Bella winds up pregnant, with the baby growing in super-double-quick time and sucking the life out of her. Well, it is at least half vampire — that’s kinda their thing. All this means trouble for Bella’s life, but she insists on keeping the foetus — or baby, as one character forcefully points out when another refers to it as a foetus. Hm, I wonder what the conservatively-minded author might be drawing parallels with now? In fairness, it depends a certain amount on how you choose to read it. Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg has said she is pro-choice and wouldn’t have agreed to do the film if she felt it violated her beliefs, while acknowledging she had to find a way to not offend the beliefs of “the other side”. So, almost everyone tries to dissuade Bella from sticking with the pregnancy, but they let her make her own choice… and (major spoilers!) it ends up killing her. So they were right, basically.

And that’s the entire movie, more or less. Well, it is only half the story. I think it’s the knowledge of it being only half the book that led many critics to describe the film as slow and light on content (you always see such comments about multi-film adaptations of single books), because while it’s hardly fast-paced, I didn’t think it was notably less incident-packed than previous Twilight movies. Mind you, that probably says less about the pacing of this film and more about how little actually happens in all these movies.

Angry like the wolf

However, despite choosing to adapt only half the story, it still feels like the plot is making jumps at times. For example: Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf buddies factor into things because they want to kill Bella’s devil-kid, but there’s also the matter of a treaty between the vampires and wolves (which I can’t remember the details of, so don’t ask). The film makes a point of emphasising that the wolfpack leader doesn’t want the treaty to be broken, then later on it’s stated that in his mind the treaty is broken. Now, okay, we can connect those dots ourselves, but really it’s missing a scene where the guy undergoes this about-turn of opinion. And yet, despite such missing links, director Bill Condon finds time for numerous sequences where people do nothing while a mournful song plays.

On the bright side, Condon does manage to create a sequence that is the nearest this series has ever got to being an effective horror film (well, apart from Edward being a creepy stalker in the first film). It’s basically the ending of the movie, so, again, massive spoilers. So: Edward eats the baby out of Bella, who promptly dies, forcing Edward to flood her corpse with venom by biting her all over, which seems to do pretty awful things to her organs — that’s the scary bit, though it doesn’t sound particularly terrifying when you put it like that. Potentially more emotionally scarring is that, meanwhile, Jacob is off falling in love at first sight with Bella and Edward’s baby. That’d be their creepy CGI baby, which is roughly as convincing as a plastic one in a Clint Eastwood movie.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” “I think it's... pixels.”

Not that the acting of the humans is much more convincing. Kristen Stewart had a promising career before Twilight, and seems to have managed to reignite it as something of an arthouse darling afterwards, but here she’s just a personality vacuum. The film starts with her delivering a couple of lines of voiceover, and even from just that she manages to sound terminally bored. Later she asks, “why can’t you see how perfectly happy I am?” Probably because you’re not putting any effort into your performance, love. And yet, the less said about the rest of the cast, the better. Lautner doesn’t even get to wheel out his surprisingly-effective comedy chops this time.

But for all the terribleness, I sort of feel I can’t hate it, because the rubbish bits are too funny, and the mad bits too bonkers (for a movie that is primarily aimed at romantically-inclined teenage girls, at least). While I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, it was entertaining to sit through — kind of like The Room, for example, only still not quite as transcendently appalling.

2 out of 5

Join me this time next year when I finally finish this thing off. Unless I decide to do it next month, because Part 2 is currently sat on Netflix going “finish meeee”…