Part 3 of the Geek Actually multi part opinion piece about the films of “The Twilight Saga”
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright;?The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,?And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;?But there is no joy in
Mudville– Forks, Washington. Mighty CaseyJacob has struck out.
With apologies to Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer ©
Greetings, Gentle (patient and faithful) Reader. At last the end is in sight. I have been immersing myself so much in this Twilight world, I feel like an undercover cop who has been ‘too deep for too long’ – so I have decided to forget about rules and constructs and ‘just try to go with it.’ Does this mean that I am losing my critical and moral compass? Hopefully I will escape unscathed. But, as Shakespeare’s PROSPERO said; No harm. I have done nothing but in care of thee, Of thee, my dear one – Gentle Reader, yes it’s all for you, I’m protecting you. (Does this sound sufficiently disturbing? It should because that is how much the whole Edward ‘protecting Bella’ thing is creeping me out.) Yeah, yeah, spoilers (whatevs).
A few caveats to start. I am officially ‘off the map’ now as far as the books are concerned and as I never got as far as ‘Eclipse’, I am only able to comment on the film. I also wish to reaffirm that, to my mind, the ethics of the whole Twilight franchise remain repugnant and the dialogue, risible. However, now that I am attempting to be unbound by the constraints of fretting about the woeful plot, politics and philosophy (and neither are the producers or anyone else for that matter) I feel somewhat liberated to burble on about the good bits. Plus I got bored with being negative and God knows I weary of such things easily.
So again we open with a voice-over from Bella, reciting yet another poem (Fire and Ice by Robert Frost*) extolling the virtues of a noble Apocalypse in her bored monotone. Bella likes to start each film with a little prose or poem and I decided to as well. Did it work? I think my poem, though not as frilly, perhaps more clearly illustrates the overarching theme of this film.
I must say, I really quite like the use of the Robert Frost poem and indeed the poem itself for that matter (see it reproduced at the end of this piece); and we are not in the middle of the action climax so we are making significant progress on multiple fronts. We find Edward and Bella in present time, back in the Magic Meadow and the El Nino event seems to have come to an end because both Meadow and Edward are all shimmery and sparkly once more. Bella has developed a little more charm (although she is getting her own way, which tends to make people more jolly) and she doesn’t look quite as insipid and/or vapid.
The characters and actors have snuggled into their roles and aside from the whole appalling plot line of Bella wanting to die (sorry, sorry) everyone does a great job. The make-up looks great too. The school friends look good (maybe puberty is backing away now) and the Cullens aren’t quite as ghastly/ghostly looking.
I note though, that Edward is continuing to have trouble with his accent and I am postulating that maybe RobPat mumbles so, because of this difficulty. To my ear it is almost like a ‘cultured Bronx’. And I still hate the whole controlling thing about not letting Bella see Jacob (even to the point of immobilising her car) and keeping other salient information from her (such as Victoria’s bitter vendetta- (or is it Victoria Bitter?? – a little Aussie beer humour there, for you, Gentle International Reader).
I also wish to emphasise just how breathtaking the scenery and cinematography are in this film. Quite a few moments, such as the Florida scenery and the Forests of Battle, are sublime.
And speaking of Florida, I also wish to suggest yet another needful category for an Academy Award – ‘Believable-Delivery-of-Embarrassing-Dialogue’, to be awarded to Sarah Clark (Bella’s mother, Renée Dwyer) for delivering the following lines with poise and conviction, “The way he watches you, like he’s willing to take a bullet for you or something. It’s an intense thing! You’re different with him. He moves, you move. You’re like magnets or something”. yyerrghhh!
We then cut to the Album Cover Shot/Power Rangers Stance of the Cullens awaiting Victoria’s entrance. This is a cool action/SPFX sequence which introduces the territory conflict with the Wolves. I loved they way they all rinny-runny-ran along the trees and rocks. Wolves look good, Victoria, nimble little minx that she is, evades capture, but why, oh why did they employ Dallas Bryce Howard??? Good looking girl, great hair, yes, but her acting is atrocious. Just when everyone else is snugly warm and settled in character, she just jars it.
I also note that the filmmakers have been listening to my previous whinging about the lack of consequences for actions and how Edward, Rosalie and Jacob’s concerns for Bella’s being ‘changed’ are actually being addressed. That, and the fact that Bella just won’t stay in the car. Edward even makes a ‘joke-ette’ about it (there’s that vampire whimsy just aching to break free, for yah.)
Jacob finally makes his entrance, looks ‘dark’ and once again Edward creeps us out with the controlling/isolating fixation and, but (quelle suprise!) Bella grows a pair and we end up at Exposition Reservation (see, I told you that even inanimate objects get to be exposition tools in this film). What about some subtle hints and allegations? Would someone smack the screenplay writer… again… please??
As ever the exposition in this film is thicker and clumsier than Bella. And speaking of which, I need to address a totally pointless sub-plot that is inserted into this film with all the deftness and precision of the surgical skills of Dr. Frankenstein – a little spin-off/tie-in story, entitled ‘The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner’ penned by Ms. Myers that was obviously the ‘complimentary fries’ that accompanied the main course of this film. Significant assumed knowledge was required for this person and plot line and although probably required to appease the fan base did nothing to facilitate story momentum – except underscore the ‘Power of the Volturi’. Well, I suppose we knew they were painful, but this really wasn’t necessary.
On the positive side, I want to mention the three origin tales in this film that relate to the Quileute tribe, Jasper and Rosalie. I found that these little stories quite engaged my interest, progressed the plot and for their duration, saved me having to look at ‘Bella the Strange’ for a little while. And guess what! They almost contained minimal exposition and some reasonable groundwork for later action and story development.
I like ‘voice-of-common-sense’, cranky Rosalie. Rosalie is opposed to Bella’s being
murdered changed and actually says so – good for her, and us. But I think that what Bella really wants even more than Edward, is the vampire ‘Make-over’. Rosalie looks fakely pretty in that Cate Blanchette SK –II sort of way (mind you, I really like that look).
In fact, Rosalie makes me want to paraphrase Nathan Fillion singing ‘Better than Neil’, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog; the Commentary;
“My porcelain doll-ness
my just all-in-allness.”
Remaining in musical mode, we turn to the music. Once again the song list is exceptional and playing in the background of the scene involving Bella trying (and failing) to get Edward to ‘knock her off’ (yes, the names ARE in the correct order) is ‘My Love’ by Sia. The scene is cringe worthy – the song is excellent.
Moving right along to the action sequences. As previously stated the plot that drives the action sequences remains ludicrous but the training montage scenes, grumpy wolf scenes, the battle scenes etc. are extremely enjoyable.
Although the Newborn Army popping up out of the water like a team of malevolent otters is a direct steal from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, if you ask me.
The Riley’s Newborn Army recruitment plan is all ‘mwah ha ha’ and ‘moustache twirly’ and the Newborn Army ‘dot and drag’ about like something out of the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ dance sequence (without da rhythm in da house) but once again, the special effects of the smashing porcelain, chinkly tinkly sounds signifying vampire death is reasonably cool and somewhat satisfying. One could even say they have a ’smashing good time of it’!!! Hah!!… Sorry…
Charlie once again manages to inject warmth and life into “The Facts of Life” chat scene with Bella. Kristin Stewart engages us with actual humour and warmth and makes me think that perhaps she might have an acting career when this silly franchise is over after all.
I enjoyed the Jasper back-story; a little bit close to a True Blood ‘Vampiah Bill Compton’ knock-off (Confederate veteran from the Civil War – blah blah blah – Look out, Charlaine Harris! Stephenie Myers is looking at your work – she’s copying you… has anybody noticed??). But if Jasper was 19 and the youngest Major in the Confederate Army when he was made, then did all that Newborn Army training for Maria, why is he faffing about in high school?? Is this a form of penance for his sins?
But then we have incredible dual merchandising opportunities involving the bracelet from Jacob (wolf charm component) and Edward (cold crystal heart charm – I kid you not). The bracelet is the signal for Edward to turn his one-upmanship into brinkmanship, and the ‘Jacob must cuddle Bella on the mountaintop or she dies of hypothermia’ scene teeters toward homoerotic… I’m just saying… maybe Honni soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks) or just maybe the producers want to really expand that fan base.
Finally to poor old Jacob (as per my opening poem), the valiant knight trying to save dopy Bella from her own self-destruction. At least Bella has some compassion and emulates the advice from the WW2 song:
“Oh girls, don’t refuse to kiss a soldier
For you know that he is fightin’ for your peace’’**
Jacob’s somewhat clumsy declaration of love for her when he tells her that ‘you wouldn’t have to change for me or say goodbye to anybody’ if she chose him, to me is a truly poignant moment. A man that loves you for who you are and your life as it is, is a rare jewel and a find ‘priced far above rubies’. This franchise is preaching to impressionable young girls, that true romance and love is idealised as something where you must only feel pain, abandon who you are and requires you to be ‘cut away from the herd’ to be with that person. Well, as someone wiser than me once said ‘If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.’ I looked up a couple of sites on the web and found some definitions for ‘Love and Sex addiction’. Out of a possible 11 signs, Bella displays 8 of them. She is a drama addict and this is being portrayed as normal for ‘true lurve’.
The irony is that this film contains a significant life-affirming message, actually attempting to describe true love and even bright possibilities for the future. Emphasis on the strengths of love, whether parental (never stop looking for the missing child), Jacob’s devotion and the lengths he will go to, and even Jessica’s valedictorian speech, however, is all for nought. Edward is still vaguely trying to talk her out of it, and poor old cranky Rosalie telling her how ‘when you’re a vamp, you’re a vamp all the way’ and you are snap frozen like a packet of peas and ‘all possibilities are gone’. And somehow Bella just ignores it all because she’s just, well, Bella, I guess.
I apologise because I am having those seditious ‘Deep Thoughts’ again. Usually, there is some thread of classic story in all tales. And I have wracked my brain to figure out the genesis of the Twilight tale and the only one I can come up with is a sick reversal of the original “Little Mermaid”. Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale is about a young mermaid willing to give up her life in the sea and her identity to gain a human soul and the love of a prince. Suffice to say it didn’t end nearly as well as the Disney version would have you believe.
Sorry, sorry, I know I accidentally engaged my frontal lobes again and I promised I wouldn’t. But the Coda in the Magic Meadow has distressed me to the point that I must ‘break cover’. Bella wittering on about how ‘out of step and awkward’ she has always felt, which is apparent justification for death/vampire status. Oh for God’s sake Bella… Welcome to the human condition!
I think my husband said it best; “Bella needs to get a life, not a death”. Amen to that.
– Robyn Smith
Robyn is preparing to watch “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” at least she gets a little rest before it comes out. If you enjoyed her column make sure you leave her a comment below.
Here are some references for the article:
*Fire and Ice by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
**GIRLS, DON’T REFUSE TO KISS A SOLDIER (K. Davis)
Karl & Harty – 1943
Read Part 1 – Polishing The Turd That Is The Twilight Saga Part 1
Read Part 2 – Twilight: New Moon – The Puppy People Strike Back