Vampire, weak end

OMG. Went to the Curzon yesterday afternoon to be among the first teenage girls to catch the penultimate installment in the Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn Pt 1. As with all movie franchises based on popular novels, the studio has chopped the final part into two, so as to wring as much money as possible from the devotees who’ve made it such a box office success. There’s nothing like treating your captive audience as mugs, eh? If they’re stupid enough to effectively pay twice to see the fourth and final part, then fuck ’em, right? I am not a devotee of Stephanie Meyer’s novels, but I have been pretty faithful to the films, hooked in not by the same things that hook in teenage girls, but by a sense of deep astonishment that this passes as entertainment among today’s adolescent goths.

I admit, I saw New Moon, the second film, in 2009, before I saw the first, Twilight. And as far as I know, even, ahem, “Twihards” think the second film inferior to the first. It is. In it, very little actually happens beyond Bella and Edward and Jakob mooning over each other near a forest. Things picked up a bit, plotwise, in last year’s Eclipse, in that more people seemed to be trying to kill other people, but oh boy, do things slow down again in Breaking Dawn.

If this film, which lasts the full 117 minutes, is faithful to the book, then let’s hope it’s the boring half. Honestly, for all that actually happens, they could have dashed this one off in about 40 minutes. My guess – and it is a guess – is that the fourth book doesn’t have enough in it to merit an eventual 230 minute running time over two installments. But Summit Entertainment, who have thus far taken $1.8 billion with their hit series, couldn’t resist dragging it out. I don’t know if you care or not, but Bella, the pallid human, and Edward, the pallid vampire, get married in Breaking Dawn, and – no spoilers, as real fans know this already, and it’s in the trailer – Bella gets pregnant. But with what? That is essentially the plot. There are more smoulder-offs between Edward and Jakob, and more teasing between Bella and Jakob, and – new thrill! – some marital sex between Edward and Bella (chastely shown for a 12A audience), but it’s more of the same other than that.

Only in a film this desperate to stretch out the material over two parts would a wedding scene actually include all the speeches. The action only really picks up in the second hour, and the biggest plot-driver occurs in a post-credits teaser for Pt 2. Hey, stay to the end, kids! They’re making you cough up twice for this, so make sure you drain every last drop out of your first visit to the cinema.

My love-hate relationship with Twilight – or my bafflement-hate relationship, to be more precise – is stoked by the underwhelming presence of stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, who seem to exist in a permanent vegetative state. Their characters are so in love they will, we are told, risk everything for the other, not least social exclusion, possible infection and death. And yet, their expressions suggest little more than irritation. Stewart is particularly inexpressive and inarticulate as an actor. There’s so much apparently going on beneath the surface and yet, little evidence from where I’m sitting. (There are some of those computer-generated keyhole surgery shots inside Bella’s body in Breaking Dawn, racing through her veins, and it’s a shock to see that something is truly going on under her pallid skin.) Gosh, I hope teenagers aren’t like this in real life.

I guess I will have to see Pt 2 of Breaking Dawn whenever it comes out – which will be at the exact moment the accountants and marketing departments decide it will maximise potential profit margins – but I will do so only grudgingly. They’ve got me. I resent them for that. I know I’m not the target audience (I was the only male, and only one of two people not in a school uniform at yesterday’s 3pm showing), but neither am I Harry Potter’s and I can easily get why that’s so popular. I wonder if the demographically targeted youngsters around me enjoyed it. Two girls in the row behind kept laughing. Should they have been? Isn’t it all supposed to be rather grave?

Actually, the CGI wolves were quite exciting.

7 thoughts on “Vampire, weak end

  1. Great review, although the title does make me wonder if professional writers like yourself have a file of punning headlines for every possible occasion, or if you’re required to come up with these things on the spot 🙂

  2. It’s interesting that Mark Kermode loves the Twilight films. He is sometimes (rarely) wrong. He also loves Inception, for instance. But I recommend the Kermode and Mayo podcast from yesterday, it is interesting to hear his thoughts on it

  3. Oh this is my favourite review by far of Breaking Dawn pt.1!

    I’m ever so slightly ashamed to say I devoured the books in about two weeks a few years ago and have seen every film so far but with a definite sense of irony and, frankly, joy at not being a tortured teenager anymore. They really are quite dreadful which is a shame because although the books aren’t terribly well written (in my opinion), the source material was there to make a series of quite good films. Particularly as it presented the possibility to gloss over the slightly unhealthy, permanent, existential crisis and doubt that Edward could ever love her Bella experiences – sadly Stewart’s tortured expression in every film so far has taken its place. I’ll still go and see it though. Pt.2 should definitely have more substance.

    • We’re all willing mugs! (I still haven’t seen the final, final part of Harry Potter as it was in 3D. I’m waiting for the DVD. Please don’t let the final Twilight be in 3D.)

  4. Though I’ve still only seen the first Twilight, which I found passably entertaining, (the New Moon blu-ray has been sitting wrapped on my shelf for more than a year) I am a big fan of Kristen Stewart.

    What’s unfortunate is that these films are the films by which most people know her work, and these are the ones where she *is* inexpressive, hamstrung by an ineffectual, weak character. But I’ve been watching her performances since Panic Room, and in other films, such as Speak, Into The Wild and The Runaways, I think she’s truly something special. I’m glad this “saga” is winding up now, and she’ll hopefully get onto better projects (On The Road, due soon, should be interesting).

    One thing I will give the franchise credit for is going for unusual directors, such as David Slade and Bill Condon, though struggling against the source material is nigh on impossible.

  5. The final part will be released in 3D, with the left eye edition coming out first in mid-2012, and the right just in time for Christmas.

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