Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)
Twilight Saga, The: New Moon (Chris Weitz, 2009)
Twilight Saga, The: Eclipse (David Slade, 2010)
Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)
Twilight Saga, The: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Bill Condon, 2012)
This past week, I decided to watch the first four Twilight films at home, on DVD, so that I could then see the final film, Breaking Dawn – Part 2, in the cinema before my next appearance on the Midday with Dan Rodricks show – on WYPR, 88.1FM, Baltimore’s NPR News Station – on Friday, December 7. I knew that I would probably hate the movies, and I hadn’t read the books, but given the tremendous box office success of the franchise, and of this last film, in particular, I thought it would be irresponsible of me not to make the effort.
But effort it was. I won’t waste more of my time writing reviews for the films. Much (too much) has already been written about them, and I’m not sure I could really add anything new to the discussion.
If you want reviews – both positive and negative (though mainly negative) – let me point you to the Rotten Tomatoes pages for each of the films (as opposed to the imdb.com links, above):
Let me also direct you to two other links, which reflect some of my feelings about the series:
“MORE TWILIGHT” — A Bad Lip Reading of The Twilight Saga (my thanks to my friend David Etkin – a vampire – for pointing me to this site)
I would like to specify that I understand that I am far from being the target demographic for either the books or the movies, and that I may just not “get” the series. I have also spoken to a number of (adult) friends of mine who have read the books and insist that they are better (that would not be hard).
What I don’t understand, however, is how the films could be as bad as they are, from a pure filmmaking standpoint. These are not all bad directors. Catherine Hardwicke has made some decent films: 13 and Lords of Dogtown, for example. Before becoming a director, she was a Production Designer, and worked on films such as Three Kings and Vanilla Sky. Yet even she delivers dreck. Bill Condon, the director of the final two Twilight movies, made two very watchable previous films: Gods and Monsters and Kinsey. But his contributions are also terrible. So what gives? I want to know.
Kristen Stewart was an actress that I found unobjectionable and even kind of interesting in both Into the Wild and Snow White and the Huntsman. In the Twilight saga she is deadening, with no sense of line delivery, no presence, and with the affect of an unsophisticated California valley girl. Robert Pattinson was fine in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Water for Elephants, and I’ve heard good things about his performance in Cosmopolis. But he is close to unwatchable here.
I had never seen Taylor Lautner before these movies, and the irony is that he is the one I actually don’t think is that bad. Perhaps I’m just partial to werewolves.
Anyway, here are just a few thoughts I have about the films. I have kept them in short note format, typed up from my jottings as I watched the movies, since I’m kind of done trying to think deep thoughts about all this. I didn’t start taking notes until the third film, so we’ll begin there.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The more I watch, the more nauseating it all becomes. Stewart’s voiceovers sound so un-performed. This is the main problem with Kristen Stewart here. She has no training as an actor, and it shows. Her cadence and articulation are gratingly amateurish.
There is something so sick & deranged in Bella that she would choose to be a vampire and leave her parents. We are never shown how she is such damaged goods or what about Edward is so attractive to her (she falls for him right away in the first film). I mean, it’s tragic what she is going to do to her parents (and she doesn’t hate them, so why?).
Ok – at the end of the movie, she sort of fumbles through explanation of why she is a misfit, but it’s weak. Telling, not showing.
Men protecting women and choosing for them. That is the aesthetic here. Very Pretty Woman-esque.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Still hate voiceover. Really hate voiceover. Kristen Stewart is so un-poised. Which would not be so bad, in and of itself, if she were romancing a fellow normal teen. But she is supposed to be, somehow, incredibly attractive to this immortal who has seen and done a lot and therefore should be way more sophisticated.
The sunlight factor makes no sense. Sometimes the scenes look sunny, yet it is still supposed to be overcast, since the vampires’ skins aren’t glowing.
Stewart is passive, even at her own wedding.
Everything moves at such a glacial pace!
If I have to watch Stewart and Pattinson kiss some more, I think I’ll be sick!
The worst part of using the DVD subtitles as I watch (hard to understand what they’re saying since they mumble so much) is that I am told what song is playing on the soundtrack at what moment, and get to share in the lyrics. The songs are meant to tell the story for the filmmaker. Right now it’s happening as Edward awaits Bella in the ocean. Why couldn’t they put this song on the soundtrack?
Stewart does not give good close-up, as her face is vacant.
How does a vampire even have sex, without internal blood flow?
It’s really just another fantasy about an older rich guy who makes fantasies come true. Where did all of the money come from, by the way . . .?
Racial politics – let the Brazilian housekeepers clean up the broken bed! Nice!
Just think of all the good that ultra-powerful people, who need no sleep, could do in the world. Instead, they spend all of their time worrying about a self-involved, uninteresting girl named Bella.
I thought that at least the werewolves were free from some of the ick factor, but it turns out that when push comes to shove, aristocracy counts for them, too, as witnessed by Jacob’s sudden insistence that he is descended from chiefs. I guess that fits in with the whole superman (as in Nazi, not comic character) aesthetic of the series.
This stupid, stubborn and uninteresting girl causes all of this unnecessary mischief. Why do they all put up with it?
The fact that Jacob imprints on the baby is completely gross (another older man thing waiting to happen).
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2
[best part about the evening? good trailer for Jack Reacher]
The Amazonian vampires in “tribal garb?” Seriously? The Irish with caps? Seriously? This is racial and ethnic stereotyping that would make even some studio-era filmmakers blush (though maybe not silent-era directors like D.W. Griffith).
The tagline “Forever,” on poster, which is emphasized in use of book pages at end of film, goes a long way towards explaining the entire raison d’être of the series. If this entire exercise is about fulfilling the fantasies of teenage girls, allowing them to vicariously find the perfect loving and protective mate who will love them forever, then a vampire, indeed, makes sense.
Finally – the series’ greatest action scene – the epic battle between the Cullens and the Volturi – is pretty cool, heating up the glacial pace. But then, it all turns out to just be Alice’s vision. People around me in the theater blurted out, “Oh, my God! You’ve got to be kidding!” Exactly what I felt.
The end-credit sequence, with each actor from the entire 5-part series getting his/her own title card with their own footage, reinforces the TV series aesthetic of the entire “saga.”
So the big question is – what does the phenomenal success of this movie franchise say about us? I think we’re doomed!