Special Review: “The Twilight Saga”
Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Chris Weitz (New Moon), David Slade (Eclipse), Bill Condon (Breaking Dawn)
Produced by: Wyck Godfrey (The Twilight Saga), Mark Morgan (Twilight), Greg Mooradian (Twilight, Eclipse), Karen Rosenfelt (New Moon – Breaking Dawn), Stephenie Meyer (Breaking Dawn)
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay)
Edited by: Nancy Richardson (Twilight, Eclipse), Peter Lambert (New Moon), Art Jones (Eclipse), Virginia Katz (Breaking Dawn)
Cinematography by: Elliot Davis (Twilight), Javier Aguirresarobe (New Moon – Eclipse), Guillermo Navarro (Breaking Dawn)
Music by: Carter Burwell (Twilight, Breaking Dawn), Alexandre Desplat (New Moon), Howard Shore (Eclipse)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Mackenzie Foy, Billy Burke, Cam Gigandet, Rachelle Lefèvre, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edi Gathegi, Sarah Clarke, Christian Serratos, Michael Welch, Anna Kendrick, Gregory Tyree Boyce, Justin Chon, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Cameron Bright, Xavier Samuel, Julia Jones, Maggie Grace, Casey LaBow, Lee Pace, Jamie Campbell Bower, Christopher Heyerdahl, Chaske Spencer, Christian Camargo, Mía Maestro, Joe Anderson, Booboo Stewart… I give up…
Based on the books by Stephenie Meyer
Year: 2008 (Twilight), 2009 (New Moon), 2010 (Eclipse), 2011 (Breaking Dawn Part 1), 2012 (Breaking Dawn Part 2)
My stepsister is a Twilight fan. I’m honestly not sure what level of crazy she is to really qualify it, but the fact that she owns the books and the fact that she wanted the movies every time a new one came out is enough to at least qualify her as a pretty big fan of Stephenie Meyer’s thinly veiled saga about a young couple’s struggles to remain forever young, be faithful to one another, and practice abstinence until marriage – a struggle that apparently necessitates literal life or death battles that everyone else is willing to endure on their behalf. Twilight is a series that a lot of people hate on, myself included, yet I can’t exactly call myself blameless in enabling my stepsister’s misguided affections. What else would I get her for her birthdays when they were so perfectly in sync with every new DVD release? With Breaking Dawn Part 2 finally ending the saga, I’m kind of hoping that something new and better takes her interests next year.
It’s easy to think that you hate something, though, regardless of whether you’ve seen it or not. Watch the trailers, hear the premise, read the reviews, or, probably more than anything, hear the diehard fans express their love for it, and it’s easy to form an opinion of anything popular and decide that it’s just not for you. Truthfully, I only knew the basics of the story – Girl loves sparkly vampire, vampire loves the girl, too, but also wants to drink her blood, and he’s sad because he’s so different and sparkly, and there’s also this werewolf guy who also likes the girl, and the girl might love werewolf, too, and so… somehow this starts that war… right? Okay, joking aside, at its most basic premise, I’ll admit that Twilight is not inherently such a horrible idea for a series, even with its subtext. In the right hands, such a thing could easily transcend its camp factor and become a fairly entertaining, exciting attempt at creating a fantasy romance with an interesting world where monster and human lives secretly intersect in even the most mundane ways (high school romances, in this case).
The aspiring film critic in me felt a bit guilty for having such blind hatred for a series I hadn’t even had a taste of beyond the trailers, however, and trailers aren’t always the best indicators of what a movie is going to be about, let alone how good it actually is going to be. (A few people I’ve spoken to who refused to see Pacific Rim said it was stupid-looking and thought it would be yet another Transformers, though I’m honestly expecting those people to be the kind who will contribute to the new Mark Wahlberg-starring entry that is currently in the works because, well, sometimes even smart people contradict themselves. Others are just dumb.) Writing for a movie blog, even one that I had 100% control over, I knew that, one day, I was eventually going to get around to watching these movies and write about them, whether out of morbid curiosity or at the suggestion of my stepsister, or both.
And it almost happened sooner, with multiple promises to watch the first entry with my stepsister going unfulfilled. I just didn’t have it in me to do it any time she brought it up whenever I was visiting family on vacation. I didn’t want to waste the time and energy in reviewing all five movies on their own, either, fearing that it would be an exercise in tortured repetition, going over the same plot developments as I pointlessly waited to see whether (or rather when) Bella would choose Edward over Jacob and pondered why, exactly, this is at all of any importance. Luckily, as I placed my order for Breaking Dawn Part 2 earlier this year in preparation for her birthday, I had the epiphany that I now had one of the most convenient means of gaining access to the series without resorting to using up five slots in my Netflix DVD queue or by resorting to more nefarious means.
And so, a little over a week ago, I asked to borrow the saga from my stepsister, with the intentions of shotgunning the entire series in one or two sittings with the intent to review them collectively as a complete work. I figured this was a fair compromise, and perhaps it would give me an overall better perspective of the saga as a whole, while also getting them out of the way, once and for all. I must admit, however, that my courageous endeavor was not without its pangs of anxiety, and, as I packed the stack of DVDs into my bag with trepidation, I made a mental note to myself: “Buy beer first.”
I settled down to watch the first of the movies around 9:30AM on Saturday, 8/02, and finished the last… [looking through multiple anguished Facebook posts made throughout the day]… umm… sometime later that night – around 10-ish? I didn’t drink until reaching 5PM, the universally acceptable time for drinking anything other than a Bloody Mary or screwdriver, for some reason, but I have to admit, there were several times when I was tempted to extinguish the burning pain these movies gave me with a few bottles of New Belgium’s 1554 – or even a couple of very large White Russians – much, much earlier than I had. (White Russians have milk and coffee [sorta], so why aren’t those acceptable pre-5PM drinks, anyway?)
Yes, these movies are that horrid. The actors are horrid. The story is horrid. The special effects are horrid. Pretty much the only thing these five films have going for them is that they are all consistently, universally, uncompromisingly, unbelievably HORRID. I think the biggest contributing factor in this film being so horrid, however, is the fact that its lead character, Bella is, well… you know….
There’s a moment in Breaking Dawn Part 1 where Anna Kendrick’s character, Jessica – apparently Bella’s closest human friend, though you really wouldn’t know it from what we’re shown – is making a speech at the wedding for the two lead characters (OOPS. Did I spoil it?) and pretty much asks Edward, in front of everyone, “Why her?”:
(It starts at 55 seconds.)
Oh, Jessica. I totally understand.
And it seems as if Academy Award-nominee Bill Condon, director of the two-parter series finale, also understands. I frankly don’t care if this was in the books or not, this brief scene feels like Condon acknowledging the ridiculousness that is the series’ lead character, said through a fellow Oscar-nominee, voicing what all critics were wondering throughout the hours they put into watching this garbage, and putting those words into the mouth of a character who is not only far cuter than Bella, but a character who, from what we can plainly see, is much nicer, funnier, and a more valuable member of society than Bella. Only she’s gotten stuck in the perky best friend role and is partnered with the dorky guy who outwardly lusts after every other girl around him – yes, Bella in particular.
Bella (and not Isabella, as she so sternly corrects people who are not aware) is basically a wish fulfillment proxy for all the obnoxious, awful girls with an immature attitude that you can think of. The girls who like to play games but also like to play the victim. Those girls who saw themselves as tortured souls, who dubiously diagnosed themselves with Asperger’s syndrome because, you know, they were totally creative but awkward to be around, and they always spoke their mind and didn’t fit in with their peers, even in spite of others’ attempts to befriend them. Those girls who secretly thought they were above it all and were just coasting with you until they found the right crowd that would indulge their oh-so-unique case of wishy-washy narcissism.
Bella is the least sympathetic, interesting, and proactive heroine I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching. She is without a doubt one of the most selfish yet envied hero characters ever created, regularly making the two inexplicably love-struck-stupid boys compete for her attention and affections. One minute she’s telling Edward how much she loves him and pondering his marriage proposal, then the next time she cuddles up into the shirtless bosom of Jacob right in front of him, “to keep warm” from the cold, before proclaiming the next morning her love to Edward in front of the still-shirtless Jacob, who then storms off in a huff. Apparently fearing that she’s losing control of the love triangle she’s created, she abandons Edward and chases after Jacob, asking him for another kiss, despite punching him earlier for doing just that (because she’s psychotic), and realizes she loves him, too… but just not as much as Edward. So, as Jacob skulks off to fight for her life, she goes running back to Edward’s open arms and tells him of her discovery, but proclaims she’s still more in love with him. Sound unrealistic? Well guess what? That’s essentially 80% of the plotting of the third movie!
Seriously, what the hell!? Even right at that very moment, when basically all of the local werewolves and vampires have set aside their differences to fend off the invading evil vampires so that Edward and Bella can stay alive and find true love together, she has apparently just spent three damn movies deciding if it was actually what she wanted in the first place and was, up until that moment, undecided about who she loved more! Forgive me for using a phrase that I despise, but, for once, I feel this is 100% appropriate: THAT’S MESSED UP! When did we start making heroines of the pathetic damsels who suffer from chronic self-imposed distress? There is basically only one point in this series where Bella finally musters the courage and drive to be a proactive player in this struggle, and that’s in the big action climax in Breaking Dawn Part 2 – *SPOILER* and even that whole section was literally too good to be true! *END SPOILER* No wonder why the Volturi, the most powerful vampire coven in the world, don’t take kindly to her interference and insistence of joining them in their immortal lives. Who would want that around for all eternity?
Bella’s reason enough to hate this series, but I haven’t even dug into the actors yet. Robert Pattinson broods blandly, his pale makeup enhancing the fact that his performance feels like they gave a terminal patient who can’t act a role in the film as the series’ primary love interest. Taylor Lautner actually starts off not quite so bad, if only because he appears to be the only one happy to be there (unlike Pattinson, who would continue to grow more resentful of his role and fame as time went on), but by the time we reach the final films, Lautner’s hamming it up with the rest. Given the fact that his character is called upon to basically just walk or run around half naked and make the ridiculous transition from lusting unrequitedly after Bella to suddenly having his own idiotic epiphany – discovering that, no, it wasn’t Bella that he loved, but rather the freaking egg inside her that would become her rapidly aging baby girl who is rendered in the creepiest CGI ever –
I honestly don’t know whether I should commend him for doing as well as he struggles to be or discredit any potential he may have had for remaining with the series throughout its batty twists and turns. And, of course, there’s Kristen Stewart, who ontinues her endless struggle to figure out human expressions and emotions – which she apparently perceives as a persistent stoner’s gaze which relents to a series of abrupt exhalations, false starts, and random moments of not knowing where her hands should be.
At least it seems like the editors started to take out all the hair tussling later in the series. Costars, which include such big names as the aforementioned Anna Kendrick, the delightful Michael Sheen, and the always reliable-but-kinda-creepy Dakota Fanning, fair a little better, despite the material they’re given, with Sheen in particular having fun as the theatrical Volturi leader and the series’ de facto big bad, Aro. These three actors are the seldom seen but are colorful little bright spots in this otherwise drab, bizarre franchise. If Twilight wasn’t so concerned about making sure everyone else – most especially the Cullens, the vampirdom’s answer to the Brady Bunch – fawned over Bella and made sure everything was just ever so perfect for her, perhaps we could have cared just a wee bit more about the what is essentially the story about three hormonal teenagers and a series of epic cold showers.
I’m fairly open to watching almost anything, and I know that this attitude inevitably leads to watching some pretty crappy movies. This is the only time, however, when I seriously considered giving up in my quest for impartiality. The Twilight Saga is honestly one of the stupidest things I’ve ever watched, and how I chose to watch them may have been one of the stupidest things I ever decided to subject myself to. As previously stated, I didn’t even open the beer until about 5PM, at which point I was already on to Breaking Dawn, so… yeah, poor planning on my part. Again, I wasn’t drunk, but I kind of wish I was by the time Edward decided to give Bella the most unsettling cesarean delivery the only way a vampire would think of going about the process. I think what I’m most unhappy about my choice in going on this little endeavor, though, was not realizing that I was completely justified I was in my pre-judgment of the series, but how off I was in discerning just how stunningly terrible it actually managed to be across each of the five films. Not one of them is actually any good. They just sit at varying levels of crappiness.
And so, with that in mind, since this is such a special, one-time occasion, I’m going to forgo my usual numerical rating system and use a ratings system measuring the movies’ and saga’s crap factor using snack food-based naming schemes. ‘Cause, what the hell – if vampires have reflections, can turn “vegetarian,” sparkle in sunlight instead of burning into ash, and cannot transform into bats, but Native Americans can apparently turn into giant wolves, then what’s the point in making sense anymore?
The Viewer’s Commentary Ratings:
Twilight: Crap Original
New Moon: Crap Xtreme
Eclipse: Crap Lite
Breaking Dawn Part 1 & 2: Double Stuffed Crap
The Twilight Saga Overall Rating: Flamin’ Hot Crap Party Mix