Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:05 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
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Location: California/NYC
Also pubished on Cinescene.


Twist, zap, zoom!

The last film of the Twilight series is here and soon can be forgotten, at least by those who were never that interested. But it may not actually be that easy. After all, vampires live forever. There's just been a new Spider-Man series started up. Stephanie Meyer has already produced a spin-off novella, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. This franchise isn't over, it's undead. Anyway, Bill Condon's second film and the last of the current series, is out. And there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that Part 2 isn't as ill-made-looking as Condon's first. The bad news is that Part 1 was more interesting. Part 2 is an eked-out second half of the last novel in the series, which seems to lack a grand finale. It's more a denouement than a climax. Dargis of the Times calls it a "victory lap." Part 1 brimmed with touching romantic fervor, eroticism, and a titanic struggle to survive an inter-species pregnancy. Part 2 has nothing that exciting, and the ways its vaguer issues are resolved feel anti-climactic, almost cowardly. In the end, what one may remember of Part 2, and maybe of the whole series, apart from all those pale faces, Pattinson's sickly-sweet smile, the leaping wolves and Taylor Lautner's buffed-up tanned torso, are all the zaps and zooms of the special effects, which seem designed for the attention-deficit-disordered, ways of avoiding normal dramatic transitions, of moving logically from emotion A to emotion B.

The emotional heart of Breaking Dawn was in Part 1: after Bella and Edward's grand and touching (if hideously filmed) nuptials and romantic honeymoon, she's soon pregnant with a monster embryo, half-human, half-vampire. Pregnancy and childbirth under these circumstances are strange and scary processes, arguably a bit too real and disturbing for the teenage girls who are the target audience. Bella has to become a full-fledged vampire to save her own life, finally resolving the long-delayed question of whether or not to "turn." In Part 2, the child, rapidly growing up into an ill-defined cutie with the odd name of Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), awakens by her mere existence the wrath of the bad-guy vampires, the Italy-based (but Brit-accented) Volturi.

Some quickly fabricated vampire history has to be shown to make us understand why child vampires are a very bad thing in the eyes of the Volturi, who don't understand that Renesmee isn't really a child vampire but a warm-blooded mortal. (The Volturi haven't seen Kathleen Bigelow's terrific Eighties movie about a vampire family, Near Dark, whose wit and invention put all Twilight to shame.) The Volturi wrath means there may be a whopper of a showdown. Except that turns out to be an anti-climax.

It's also anti-climactic that Edward's passionate rival for Bella's love, Jacob (Lautner) has practically become a docile and accepted member of the Cullen household. Another issue, whether Bella's father Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) has to be told she's dead, is too easily resolved. The series ultimately just can't handle emotional complexity at all, and resolves everything with a little aw-shucks and a lot of speeded-up film. These films symbolize contemporary pop cinema's tendency to displace human feeling with tech effects.

After the first couple of Twilight movies, which switched directors and looks, the series tended latterly to become a Hallmark Card version of itself. A vampire-human wedding, with all the trimmings. A vampire-human honeymoon, with furniture-destroying sex -- actual sex of course not shown, because improper for teenage girls. Big screen postcards of pale Robert Pattinson, a newly pale Kirsten Stewart, an ever-buffer Taylor Lautner, shirt removed, just prior to morphing (zap! zoom!) into a wolf. Postcards of foggy woods in the Pacific Northwest, where vampires love to roam, at least this new PC kind invented by Stephenie Meyer, who avoid human blood in favor of deer. And now yet another series of panoramic battle shots of a grand and gory conflict in a vast snowy landscape.

These turn out not to be quite real. That may not surprise you.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, 115 min., the alleged end of the 5-part Hollywood series from Stephanie Meyer's book series, released in France 14 Nov. and the US and UK 16 Nov., 2012.


Brace yourself: Jonathan Levine of The Wackness and 50/50 has a funny zombie movie coming called Warm Bodies (this time the "turn" is from undead to human) with Nicholas Hoult (of the BBC Skins), Dave Franco (as in brother of James) and John Malkovich in key roles. In the trailers it looks very funny. Maybe an American Shaun of the Dead?

┬ęChris Knipp 2012

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