21 November 2011

BREAKING DAWN PART 1- Spoiler Review

This review contains spoilers for all of the Twilight films. You can read my spoiler-free review of Breaking Dawn Part 1 on Movie Reviews.

It's quite annoying that the myth of the ongoing Twilight saga being utterly eventless and worthless has gathered so much steam, or so much hot air, as the case may be. It's annoying because I find myself pushing extra hard in the opposite direction for what is only the difference between a one-star film and a two-star film. But when the former is Transformers- Dark of the Moon, and the latter is Breaking Dawn- Part 1, it's only fair to discuss the relative merits of a fangirls' franchise.

Having languorously adapted the first three books in painstaking detail, with not an awful lot of character development along the way, Summit have gone the way of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Stephanie Meyer's final novel in the series, and split it into two parts, with the second due in cinemas this time next year. In the first instalment, Bella and Edward finally consummate their dopey, mopey romance, by getting married. An explosive deflowering on their honeymoon leaves Bella with an inordinately powerful bun in the oven, and her pregnancy could pose as much of a danger to the world as it does to her own health.

The things that are wrong with this series are all present and correct, including the continuing reluctance to give Bella any personality or defining characteristics outside of her relationship with Edward. If this was meant to be a story about a lost young woman finding direction when she meets the love of her life, it's still coming off much more as the representation of women being worthless if they don't have super-powered paramours scrapping over them. And Bella's pregnancy brings a dogged anti-abortion stance in to supplant the long-running abstinence message.

Doesn't it suck that, after all that time spent extolling the sanctity of marriage, and how sex shouldn't be taken lightly, these two numpties forget to use contraception? Meyer, and in turn, long-serving screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, just couldn't let that go without even further muddling sex and emotional dynamics for their captive audience. The act of marrying Edward finally transforms Bella from a vacant anti-heroine to a passive object, over which a lovesick Jacob can argue with her husband.

And the film is anti-abortion, as opposed to pro-life. How could it be pro-life, with its complete lack of concern for Bella's life? Of course, every other character tells Bella to abort the pregnancy, but mostly because they're scared it's going to burst out of her chest like a face-hugger and kill them all. Edward is particularly dickish about it, further asserting the unintentional implication that he represents an abusive boyfriend, who just loves too hard for stupid, fragile Bella. And she, for her part, behaves precisely as Meyer apparently thinks women should- in utter peonage to everyone else around her.

But these are all problems that existed before Breaking Dawn Part 1, taken to their apex by the film's running jump into complete craziness. This is where I take issue with the apparent critical consensus that "nothing happens." I think it's so easy to sneer about a film like this that it's completely lazy to say that "nothing happens." Like the superior previous instalment, Eclipse, this film never bored me, and I even enjoyed watching it on a level that wasn't just down to its unintentional hilarity.

Yes, there's a scene where transformed werewolves talk to one another in the voices of their human counterparts, that was even more reminiscent of Charles Muntz's pooches in Up than Taylor Lautner's line delivery in New Moon. But the buttock-clenching sincerity of the series is almost endearing, and in the latter instalments in particular, I've found that more entertaining because it's interesting, than "so bad, it's good." Plus, to say that nothing happens ignores the shrieking hysteria of the final scenes.

Pushing the upper limits of the 12A certificate, the labour scene, in which the baby breaks Bella's spine, and Edward is made to deliver a C-section with his teeth, makes other grisly screen deliveries look like the stork delivery from Dumbo. It's really well shot, and in a series that's so producer-led as to make four films by four different directors appear completely uniform, I give kudos to Bill Condon for successfully mounting what must surely be the best scene of the entire series. He blows it when Jacob falls in love with the baby, five minutes later, but the labour scene was genuinely impressive and intense.

It's the general unity of direction that puts me off suggesting that David Cronenberg should have directed this instalment, because the early parts of the film, which correlate much more with the cod-romantic tone of previous entries, could have been done by Hardwicke, Weitz or Slade. I think that bringing back David Slade would have been a good move, but one could easily understand why he wouldn't want to be locked into another two movies based on rubbish source material, having done a totally passable job with Eclipse.

As I said, the film never bored me, even if it's slowly paced. The wedding takes up the first half hour of the film, but as a victory lap for the more enjoyable supporting elements of the series, such as Billy Burke and Anna Kendrick, I enjoyed watching it. It doesn't mean I liked it, but it's attention-grabbing in a way that the corresponding fanboy franchises so seldom muster. Even fans of the awful books don't like Breaking Dawn, so to make a film out of such aggressively hateful material might turn off some film fans who didn't see any of its weirder turns coming.

With everyone and their dads talking about how silly Twilight fans are, I would hope that its lapses into self-parody doesn't make those fans feel like the joke is on them. Teenage boys really don't need any more encouragement. And yet, as eventful as this film is, there's still one more film to go. Am I the only one who felt like this would be the best place to bow out? I know I said this about Eclipse too, but it feels much more like an ending than the first of a two-part story, and I struggle to think how the confrontation with Michael Sheen and his camp-ires is going to fill another two hour movie. It certainly can't top this one for being purely bonkers, but we'll see what happens next November.

Here's hoping that this review is enough to defend my stance on Breaking Dawn Part 1 from reductive readers in both camps. The fangirls will say "But it's not for you" and everyone else will say "Hurh, hurh, Twilight's gay." As I don't particularly have time for uber-serious people of either inclination, it remains to say that the film is at least out-there and interesting enough that I'm still thinking about it. Odds are, you don't need me to tell you whether or not to see it. No reality check is forthcoming for these characters, no sudden empathy for their motivations beyond what you already take in with you. A two-star film, it may be, but it's far too bizarre to ever be dismissed as fluff.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Breaking Dawn Part 1, why not share your comments below? Imagine if Nick Fury had turned up during the credits, instead of Michael Sheen, and it turned out that Breaking Dawn Part 2 was The Avengers. "You think you're the only werewolf in the world who loves a baby?"

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Rachel May said...

One of my favourite things you’ve ever said :-)

Well I haven’t seen any of the films up till this point and your review hasn’t inspired me to change that.