Monday, November 19, 2012

A Twilight Film That Actually Shows Some Promise, But Still Isn't Very Good: Our Review of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two" (2012)


Directed By: Bill Condon (Dreamgirls

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Michael Sheen

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Synopsis: Bella (Stewart) has just been turned into a vampire by her husband, Edward (Pattinson), following the complicated birth of their daughter, Renesmee. While enjoying the vampire life and marriage at first, a threat to their family rises after the Volturi are mistakenly told Bella and Edward's daughter is an illegal vampire child. Knowing a showdown is looming, the Cullen clan scours the globe trying to recruit as many friends as they can to back up their claim that Renesmee is no threat to the Volturi...but will it be enough to avoid a death sentence?

REVIEW

Andrew: Hello readers! Last night Sarah and I braved the throngs of teenage girls and caught a showing of the fifth and final entry in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two. Sarah, this is more your cup of tea, so why don’t you quickly break this one down for us?

Sarah: Well as you said this is the fifth movie in the series, having split the fourth and final book in the series into two films (as the trend seems to be nowadays). So picking up right where the last film left off, we see Kristen Stewart’s Bella as a vampire now as she is discovering her new strengths and abilities. The past four movies we’ve really seen Bella as a bumbling, clumsy teenager who is super-awkward and now we see her come into her own, like this was what she was always meant to be.

Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella also have a newborn daughter, Renesmee, who is alive and well but is growing at an alarming rate and because no one has ever had experience dealing with a half-human, half-vampire hybrid no one knows if she’ll keep growing this fast, if she’ll age too quickly, will grow old and die in a short period of time, etc. And maybe more importantly the Volturi, the vampire police, are informed of Renesmee’s existence and are lead to believe she’s an Immortal Child, which is a child that has been bitten and turned, which is illegal. That’s not the case with Renesmee, so the Cullen clan goes around the world trying to scrounge up “witnesses” to testify to the Volturi that she isn’t an Immortal Child. That’s about the first three-quarters of the film.

Bella and Edward's half-human, half-vampire hybrid daughter, Renesmee, is mistakenly believed to be an Immortal Child (a child turned into a vampire) by the Volturi, setting of the film's central conflict.


Then the filmmakers take a little twist on the books – they throw in a big battle between the Cullens, their friends and Jacob’s werewolf clan versus the Volturi. It’s not in the books, but I think fans of the series got a big kick out of it, and honestly the fight is the best part of the whole movie.

A: I was just about to ask you about that, because I, for obvious reasons, haven’t read the books. But you have and you just mentioned some of the smaller differences. So what about this movie – good or bad – was done differently than the books?

S: I guess if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want anything ruined, you should stop reading until you get a chance to see it, cuz we’re about to delve into the fight scene. (SPOILER ALERT!!!)

Like the book, the climactic scene does take place in a giant, snowy clearing with each side on opposite ends of the clearing like they’re getting ready to battle. They introduce Renesmee to the leader of the Voltui, Aro (played by Michael Sheen), to give him a feel for what she is. But even though the Cullens successfully prove to Aro that Renesmee isn’t an Immortal Child, he still plays it off as though they have no idea what kind of threat she may pose in the future when she’s full-grown, or what could happen if vampires and humans start mating because they know that they can now.

A: And let’s not forget to mention that earlier in the film they mention that Aro essentially tries to collect vampires that have special abilities to add to the Volturi, so he has an ulterior motive in wanting to fight because he wants Ashley Greene’s Alice and her ability to see the future, he wants Edward’s ability to read people’s minds and he probably wants Bella’s new ability to shield people from harm with her mind.

S: And that hasn’t been a secret, because Aro has always had a thing for Alice and Edward throughout the series.

A: But it wasn’t just that Renesmee could still be a threat, he was just using that as an excuse to fight regardless of whether she was an Immortal Child or not.

S: Correct. So then Alice and Jasper return (they had run away earlier in the film presumably to keep Alice and her powers away from Aro) and Alice explains to Aro that she has proof that Renesmee will pose no threat in the future whatsoever. That’s all exactly like the book, but that’s also the point where things change.

Whereas in the book all that happens is, through Bella’s point-of-view, we see Alice transferring the information about Renesmee’s future to Aro and then everything is hunky dory, but in the movie Alice sees that Aro still intends to fight and captures Alice, which sets off a huge battle, and the battle is pretty epic!

While this may look ridiculous (and don't get us wrong, it IS ridiculous), the climactic battle in Breaking Dawn - Part Two is actually pretty sweet. (Relatively speaking, of course.)

A: It’s quite epic…

S: But it turns out to all be a vision Alice is showing Aro – that if he intends to fight, the Volturi will lose and he will die. So that’s the big difference between the book and the movie, that we now SEE what it was Alice was showing Aro.

A: Gotchya. So not much else is different in the rest of the film?

S: Not really, no.

A: Ok, so let’s talk about the battle a little bit more because I’ll be honest – while the rest of the movie was crap, in my opinion, the battle was awesome.

S: It was great! They were killing off characters left and right, good and bad. Some characters are ones that fans of the series have a vested interest in, like Carlisle and Jasper. They’re killing off werewolves, and the realization that they aren’t just wolves but they’re real people in there…it all shook me up pretty good. It throws the viewer off because that’s not how it was in the book, and I was thinking like, “No, no, no, no. That’s not how this movie is supposed to go!” I felt that move was genius and was the absolute right way to take the movie. That’s probably the biggest credit that I will give to Breaking Dawn – Part Two.

A: Ok, so then the rest of the movie I think we can agree was pretty much in line with the rest of the series, and that’s not a good thing. The dialogue was bad…

S: No, the dialogue was TERRIBLE. And I actually put a lot of that blame on the actors.

A: Yeah, the acting wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Even an actor that we’ve really started to like, Billy Burke, who plays Bella’s father in these movies but plays an awesome character in Miles Matheson on NBC’s Revolution, he’s not very good here either. And granted the script doesn’t give him a whole lot to do, but still.

There’s shoddy CGI, which is par for the course, but we’ll touch on that later. Here’s the big thing for me: the build-up to the big climactic battle that they’ve shown in the trailer and the commercials is everything we’ve seen before. Nothing is new, nothing is improved. So then get to the battle and it’s like the director, Bill Condon, is just like, “FINALLY! This isn’t in the book so I can do whatever the hell I want!” And we get cool camera angles, we get good action shots, we get deaths, we get a vampire opening a crack in the Earth to its molten core that vampires and werewolves fall to their deaths into…it’s awesome.

S: And it gets pretty brutal at times! They show a vampire snapping a werewolf’s neck, they don’t cut away from it and only let you hear the sound. No, they stick with it and show it to you. And it’s a werewolf that has been in the entire series, it’s someone fans might have come to love!

Yeah, THIS. THIS is in a Twilight film. It's actually pretty bad-ass.

A: There are also some points where vampires get their heads ripped off and – in a significant different between this and Eclipse – instead of the vampires crumbling into rock when their heads are ripped off we see the stump of their neck, and the vertebrae sticking out!

S: It’s vicious! It’s all pretty bad-ass.

A: So the fight scene…again, the special effects aren’t great in the fight scene but they’re better than the rest of the movie. The werewolves are still meh…

S: I can pardon the werewolves, it’s something else that’s done in CGI that irked me and we’ll touch on that later, too.

A: Sounds good. So let’s talk now about how the battle has an effect on the rest of the movie and the series as whole, because like you just said they killed off main characters in the battle.

S: They kill Carlisle, Jasper, Leah Clearwater, Seth Clearwater…characters that you’ve come to know and love…

A: And when those deaths occurred it reminded me of something similar in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II when they kill off a fair number of main characters…

S: Ones that you love, too!

A: That’s something that this movie still fell a little bit short on for me, and maybe it’s because I didn’t read the books, but I didn’t have nearly the same reaction to Carlisle or Jasper dying as I did when Lupin, Tonks and Fred Weasley died.

S: I think it’s because you didn’t read the books.

A: It probably is, but on the same token, if I feel like this series didn’t do a good enough job in building up the characters of Carlisle and Jasper, or the Clearwaters, to the point of me actually caring that they died. In Harry Potter at least Lupin and Fred were fairly large parts of Harry’s life, even though they cut out a lot of the things that make Lupin and Tonks’ deaths so sad.

Did Carlisle and Jasper’s deaths have a big effect on you when you saw them die?

S: Maybe not so much with Jasper, but Carlisle absolutely! I was like, “Wait a minute! You can’t kill him! He’s the patriarch of the family!”

A: Now were you more shocked or were you sad?

S: I think sadness would have followed, had the movie not taken the turn that it eventually did.

A: Ok, that makes sense I guess. For me, I liked the boldness the movie went with in killing Carlisle right at the top of the battle.

S: Yeah, it was the very first thing, it sort of sets off the fight. And it really did shock me because he’s the head of the family, he’s essentially Edward’s father and a de facto father-in-law for Bella, too.

A: I guess you’re right, because I didn’t read the books I didn’t have as vested an interest as you might have, but I still feel like it’s a bit of an indictment on the first films that they didn’t make me care about them as much as I should have.

Let’s shift focus now back to the CGI in the film. The special effects in these movies have never been a strength…

What...in the HELL...is THIS, Bill Condon??? Sarah didn't sleep at all last night because of this atrocity. Thanks a lot.

S: But I can forgive the werewolves because what else were they going to do? It’s not particularly good, but they couldn’t have real dogs or wolves instead. They didn’t look great, but they still looked like they fit in.

But Renesmee! When Bella first gets to hold her daughter, Renesmee is a CGI baby! Why?? Why make a CGI baby? I don’t understand why they decided to make that decision. It looked completely out of place and looked totally fake. None of the actors were able to interact with the CGI baby very well.

And then when Renesmee gets older, I know they used real actresses to show how she grows, but I don’t understand why they needed to use CGI to put the face of Mackenzie Foy, the young actress portrays Renesmee for most of the movie, over the faces of the actual girls they use to portray her growing from a toddler on up. All they did was overlay Foy’s face over the others girls faces and it looked like poorly done motion capture.

A: Good point, it looked like a motion capture character from one of Robert Zemeckis’ films or like when they tried to use Jeff Bridges real face and make him look younger for the villain in Tron: Legacy. It was sort of like that in this movie, but even then it’s not as successful as in Tron: Legacy.

S: The mouth movement didn’t quite match up with the actress’ lines, it was tough to watch. And for reasons like that I was struggling for most of the early parts of the film.

A: I struggled with how they have never improved on the effect of the vampire running fast through the woods. It is god-awful. There are things you can do with green-screens and special effects to make it look real, but explain to me how George Lucas, in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, can make speeders flying through the forests of Endor look more realistic than the vampires in the Twilight films look running through woods in 2012. At the very least couldn’t they have just had the actors actually run through the forest and then speed up the film so the movements look natural? Come on.

Another thing I wish they had done with the series, and I blame this on Stephanie Meyer and her books more than anything else, but I found this movie the most interesting because they delved further into vampire lore and showing and teaching Bella how to be a vampire. That stuff is interesting! That’s neat! That sort of thing should have been focused on more throughout the entire series!

S: And the fact that different vampires have different powers, that’s kind of cool!

A: Yeah! But even then they blow it because, as you mentioned, one of the central conflicts in the film is Renesmee growing too fast. They worry if she’ll die quickly. That’s a legitimate concern! That’s a great conflict, and they skip over it by having Bella do a voice-over. They should have made that part longer and shot scenes of actual dialogue and research into that conflict. Make us actually concerned about Renesmee’s well-being.

S: Those lines Bella says are actually word-for-word from the book and they do kind of jump right over that concern until they bring it back up at the very end, so that is on Stephanie Meyer.

A: They needed to bring all that stuff into the series earlier. I understand that Stephanie Meyer wrote her books for a certain purpose and a target demographic, but I think she also vastly underestimated her audience and patronized them by giving them what they wanted and then ultimately bringing some interesting things into the series only in the last book.

On the same token, I blame the screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg, who wrote the screenplay for all of the Twilight films, for not taking any liberties and expanding on the interesting stuff.

Seriously, Stephanie Meyer and Melissa Rosenberg, this guy should have been in the series WAY
MORE because he's actually sort of interesting, is played by an actually good actor, and clearly isn't doing anything except waiting around.

S: Yeah, I don’t understand why they felt the need to have Bella do so many voice-overs in the series, because they’re lazy and Kristen Stewart isn’t good at doing them. I agree with you, Rosenberg should be blamed for a lot of the series’ faults because the dialogue is so terrible. And Kristen Stewart isn’t a good actress, so the least you can do is give her some good dialogue to work with to make her bearable.

Ok, we need to wrap this up. All in all, this movie is pretty much on par for the course except for the fight scene, which is where Condon decided to really take his shot and make it shine, because none of the others are good and he knew the source material wasn’t good to begin with.

A: In a nutshell, I didn’t mind the movie but I didn’t like it, either. I liked the finale, I liked many elements of the final battle, and one of those elements was Michael Sheen hamming it up. Again, I blame Stephanie Meyer for not focusing on making Aro more of a central villain throughout the series, because the conflict between the Cullens and the Volturi would make a much better movie than any other in the series. I understand that that wasn’t the point of the books, though, and therefore wasn’t the point of the movies either. They had a target demographic…

S: And they were extremely successful with that demographic. Overall for Breaking Dawn – Part Two, if you’re a Twilight fan you need to see this one in theatres. The fight scene is actually really good and worth it to see on the big screen alone, I think. There’s almost nothing different here from the rest of the series for both good and bad reasons if you’re a fan of the series. Is it my favorite? No. I’d say my favorite in the series is still Eclipse. But other than that, I thought this was alright. The ending is kind of weak, but so is the end of the book.

A: Again, that just means they were too faithful to the book. They were faithful to a detriment.

S: I couldn’t agree more. I’m kind of just glad the series is over with now!

FINAL VERDICT: If you’re a Twi-hard, see it in theatres, otherwise skip it!

(Individual Scores - S: 3/5  A: 2/5)

6 comments:

  1. Tell you what...I'm a guy and I was absolutely blown away by this movie. I spent the previous week watching all four previous movies, I think the highest rating I gave any of them was like...a 72% which in and of itself is 3.5/5. Lowest score was like 56% - that would be 2.5/5 Guess what I gave this one? That's right a full 5/5 at 93%.

    The audience was cheering, crying, gasping, laughing, clapping...and I joined in with the applause at the end. I'm not even a fan, but it was so refreshing to see them do everything right with the writing, character development, even acting, it was all done right. The fight was epic, and the smartest thing they have ever done. I truly believe it deserved that 93%

    ReplyDelete
  2. btw I never noticed Rensmee was CGI. Honest to God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Impressive! This is certainly one of the best in the series, if not THE best, so we suppose if you're grading on a curve then we might agree with that score. But relative to everything else in theatres it's still lacking for us. We really wish they had taken more liberties and gone with more vampire lore stuff.

      And yeah! She's totally CGI as a baby and when they're measuring her height her face stays relatively the same but the bodies change. It's weird.

      Delete