Friday, November 16, 2012

movie review: 'breaking dawn, part ii'

You know, I've talked before about art that one could call 'So Bad It's Good'. You know, when something is so appalling awful and unbelievably terrible that it curves back around and somehow becomes enjoyable. You're not laughing with the performers, you're laughing at them. For music, this category includes stuff like 'Ice Ice Baby' and 'Afternoon Delight' and pretty much the entire discography of acts like New Kids On The block. For television, certain episodes of The Newsroom and Glee leap to mind. 

And for movies, the pinnacle of this genre is the Twilight Saga.

Full confession: at this point I have seen every single Twilight film, and I've read all the books. I don't think any of you will be surprised when I say that they're all fucking atrocious. The plot is a stack of dull cliche and bullshit, the characters are either paper dolls or gut-churningly wretched, the writing is universally shit, and the overall themes and messages are appalling offensive on every level. The Twilight Saga, as a book series, is a misogynist, racist, abusive, wasteful, utterly dull heap of badly written Mormon dogshit that I wouldn't wish upon even the stupidest of the audience it panders to. And there are countless blogs, articles, essays, and even a shitty movie (Vampires Suck) lambasting this awful fucking series for the asinine crap that it is. I have read Karen Traviss, Kevin J. Anderson, Jean Rabe, late-period Terry Goodkind, and even fucking E.L. James (who, if I might remind you, turned her Twilight fanfiction into Fifty Shades of Grey), and I still think Stephanie Meyer is a worse fucking hack then all of them put together. I don't think I will ever hate a series more in my lifetime.

And for the most part, the Twilight Saga movies fall much in the same boat. Taken effectively word-for-word from Stephanie Meyer's insulting fangirl-esque word vomit, the movies are some of the most wretched, horrendous data ever committed to digital film stock. The acting across the board is universally awful, the leads have no chemistry, the special effects wouldn't pass muster in a mid-90s music video, the pacing and script are atrocious, the orchestral score is either underwhelming or completely crap, and the original songs crowbarred into these fucking movies are a perfect example of talented people completely wasting their time. In fact, that's a good way of describing these films: people who I actually know are talented (Kristen Stewart was in Panic Room and Adventureland, and Robert Pattinson was actually good in David Cronenburg's Cosmopolis) either collecting a paycheque or completely wasting their time and embarrassing themselves. And everybody - absolutely everybody - is playing this as straight as they possibly can, because SERIOUS BUSINESS and all that.

And if anything, that's what makes the Twilight movies some of the best works of comedy you'll ever see in your life. I'm not even kidding about this - while all the fangirls are sucked in by how 'romantic' they find Bella and Edward's relationship, I can't stop laughing at how terrible the entire thing is. And while I will admit part of the fun is laughing at the idiots who enjoy this shit without irony (people who I tend to regard with caution and keep at arm's length), part of it is just watching what a colossal disaster the entire thing is, marvelling at how much money they blew to create something that which Uwe Boll would be embarrassed. 

And from what I can glean from the press interviews, the two actors who seem to 'get' how impossibly bad this shit is are Michael Sheen and Robert Pattinson, the former who looks to be having the time of his life camping it up for all its worth (I'm reminded of some Tim Curry and Wallace Shawn performances), and the latter who described his horror at playing Stephanie Meyer's masturbation fantasy and described the throngs of Twilight fangirls as 'the sound you hear at the gates of hell.' Now, I'm not sympathizing with them - after all, they're getting paid disgusting amounts of money to star in this tripe - but they know that the people at this point who still take it seriously are beyond deluded, and they've figured, 'Well, might as well deliver exactly what Stephanie Meyer and her fans dreamed about!' They know how rancidly unwatchable the Twilight movies are, and the fact they aren't winking at the camera shows a certain commitment that's admirable in a bizarre way.

So, taken from that perspective, knowing that there's no fucking way that anyone could take this bullshit seriously if they possess more brain cells than the average termite, you have to wonder if the movies are worth seeing because of ironic hilarity. And make no mistake, even without RiffTracks, the first two Twilight films, Twilight and New Moon, are comedy gold mines. If you're taking them remotely seriously, it's like having your eye sockets raped with a garden hoe, but if you're laughing at just how much of a colossal failure they are, you can laugh all the way to the damn bank.

But here's where a problem popped up with Eclipse, arguably the most 'well-made' of the Twilight movies (it's from the guy who made Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night), because as the movie got better constructed, they got a lot less funny and a lot more hateable, half because it becomes so fucking dull and half because you're forced to realize just how contemptible all of the characters really are. Breaking Dawn Part I was much of the same in that regard, but added the further problems of shit-tons of padding and turning the most fucked-up elements of the series into utterly pathetic yet still incredibly insulting drivel. I mean, can you all imagine what Breaking Dawn Part 1 would have looked like with David Cronenburg directing, with the C-Section scene and the explicit violent sex and the goddamn imprinting? It could have been the most balls-out exploitation film released that year, with a chance of at least having one great gore effect to be remembered besides all the rest of the boring awfulness.

And really, I didn't expect much going into Breaking Dawn Part 2. I expected it to be reasonably well shot, full of characters I either don't care about or hate, the special effects to be a beer bong full of animal feces, and the soundtrack to be full of overwrought wailing from artists who should really know better.

And while all of that is there, I am telling you all that you need to go see 'Breaking Dawn Part II'. Because something of a miracle happened here, and to explain why, I'm going to have to spoil pretty much the whole damn movie, so after the jump, I'm going to spoil the fuck out of this. But I'll leave those who don't want to be spoiled with this: this movie isn't 'So Bad It's Good'.

It's 'So Bad It's Amazing.'

No, I'm not joking with that statement. Where Eclipse and Breaking Dawn Part I were too fucking serious and polished to be more funny than infuriating, Breaking Dawn Part II has none of that restraint whatsoever. I'm not going to spoil all of the little moments that make this movie so facepalmingly ridiculous (including one part of the Bella/Edward sex scene that had me in tears laughing so hard), but all of the reasons that made Twilight and New Moon hilarious are back here in full. The wooden acting, the stock characters that have less substance than lettuce, the awful, awful dialogue, the special effects that would be laughed out of an old-school Doctor Who episode from the 60s, the soundtrack full of keening emo ballads, the plot of complete bullshit as so many actors stand around looking completely lost trying desperately to comprehend what role they play in Stephanie Meyer's shaky masturbation set to film.

So yeah, all the great things that made Twilight and New Moon a laugh riot, but I noticed something interesting about the audience as I was chuckling from my seat way the back of the theatre - namely that most of them were laughing along with me. 

And that's when I realized something that gave me hope: I'm seeing a Twilight movie at 2:20 in the afternoon, and the crowd of high school girls who likely skipped school to see this tripe aren't swept away by the romance any more. They've grown up, they've matured, they've moved on, and they've finally begun to recognize just how fucking terrible the series has always been. And what's always concerned and infuriated me about books like Twilight is that they'd stick in the cultural consciousness of young girls, that they'd buy into its misogyny and racism and creepiness and its enabling of douchebags to emotionally and mentally abuse them. And when I heard the laughter, I felt a rush of hope (which is a foreign emotion in a theatre showing a Twilight movie, I realize this). They no longer consider Bella a role model, or an avatar for their feelings. They no longer consider Jacob or Edward acceptable targets for their affection. Finally, they get it.

And at that point, I couldn't be bothered by the misogyny and creepiness and racial stereotyping (lots of this) - because the intended audience saw all of it and laughed in its face, calling Twilight out for the crap that it is. Sure, I was offended by it, but I also knew what I was getting into when I saw this garbage. The fact everyone else was laughing with it shows that the audience has just as much contempt for this trash as I do, and that's fucking sweet.

But even that, even all of that, while heartening, wasn't quite enough to elevate it beyond 'So Bad It's Good'. No, that moment comes in the third act - last moment to turn back, people, because spoilers are coming fast now.

Okay, so the way the book Breaking Dawn ended was when all of the good vampires and werewolves got together in a big snowy field to fight the Volturi (the evil vampires), but instead of there actually being a fight, Alice (the vampire that can see the future but only when it's convenient for the plot and Stephanie Meyer you are a hack of an author) arrives with a character nobody has ever seen before or will ever see again to convince the Volturi to turn back and leave Bella and Edward alone. And all of this happens and the book lands with complete anti-climax on a saccharine and insultingly awful happy ending that made me want to set it on fire. And when I saw Alice show up on screen, I steeled myself for the worst.

And then the head of the Volturi, played by Martin Sheen in a gloriously campy performance, says he doesn't give a rat's ass what Alice thinks and calls for a full on attack against all of the good vampires and werewolves.

And it's glorious. You see, the only way vampires can die is when their heads are torn from their bodies, and while they're no blood, there's plenty of people ripping each other's heads off. Better still is that all of these vampires have a special power of sorts that allows them to do crazy things like shoot fireballs and lightning and do mid-air kung-fu like it's fucking Dragonball Z and split the ground by punching it open to reveal lava. I'm not going to spoil some of the better kills, but suffice it so say there's a part where Dakota Fanning encounters a wolf and it's the kind of WTF!glorious that shows what this series could have actually been.

And you want to know what makes it even better? These are all characters that over the course of five fucking movies, you have come to despise. You see characters, heroes and villains, get mercilessly beaten and slaughtered, and you're not cheering for one side or another, you just want to see what ridiculous way they're going to kill more characters next! It's a rush of catharsis for everyone who despises these films and the terribly characters within them, and you can only imagine Stephanie Meyer wailing in protest as so many of her precious characters die and die horribly. It's fucking amazing.

And then...

The camera cuts away, and Alice says in a harsh voice that the past fifteen to twenty minutes of footage you just saw was an image she projected into the head of the lead Volturi to show them what the future would be like if they fought that day.

My tone was as even and flat as they come as I spoke a single word very audibly in that darkened theatre as silence fell.


Everyone in the theatre burst out laughing - and really, that's all you can do. When you see the movie so dramatically and explicitly undercut itself and the one shot it had to be kind of awesome or at least satisfying on some level, you just have to shake your head and laugh. To kneecap your pacing and plot so thoroughly, to show that there was indeed an ending to the Twilight Saga that might have finally earned the word 'Saga' in its subtitle, and then to completely toss it aside in favour of Stephanie Meyer's asinine, insulting, offensive bullshit is a marvel to behold.

At this point, it was impossible to miss. To see Bill Condon, a director so self-aware that he'd knowingly sabotage his own film in the most glorious way possible... yeah, that's saying something all right. And as Bella finally lets Edward read her mind and you see a montage of scenes from all of the Twilight movies (although I think Eclipse was missing - funny that the best-made of the films is ignored), all set to Christina Perri's ridiculous 'A Thousand Years', you just have to shake your head at how unbelievably stupid it all was and how utterly pathetic the Twilight series was shown to be in the capstone of the series. 

At this point, you have to salute the daring of the director, to so willingly make a complete joke out of everything the Twilight series has built itself to be. To show just how insubstantial the plot is, how worthless and disposable the characters turned out to be, how insane the internal mythology is, just how shit the special effects are, and just how goddamned demented the entire things could be delivered from the words of a talented writer. It makes a laughingstock out of everything Stephanie Meyer hoped to achieve with her happy ending, and it does it with the sort of vicious, brutal catharsis for everyone who has hated this series since the very beginning. It is exquisite.

So for those of you out there who can't believe I actually paid money to see this piece of shit, who hate Edward and Bella and Jacob and Stephanie Meyer and everything about this god-cursed series, I urge you to go see Breaking Dawn Part II as soon as you can. You're not going to find such a fantastic payoff for your catharsis anywhere else. It is a movie that delivers a better indictment for just how awful the Twilight Saga is than anything else could have, and I don't regret seeing this for a goddamn instant.

Bravo, Bill Condon - you're a gentleman and a scholar. And the Twilight Saga fucking sucks.


  1. Good review, Silens - I found myself openly laughing all the way through it.

    Especially the 'bullshit' one-liner.


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    That was hysterical.

  4. Of the 2000+ posts on this site, this is by far my favourite. Thank you.