Part 5 of the Geek Actually multi part opinion piece about the films of “The Twilight Saga”
Ah, there you are, Gentle Reader- I can’t believe it. It is finally here, the Twilight Carnival is over and apparently I will love you til I die… (Oh wait, I’m already dead!) Hah! I feel a strange sense of glee and melancholy at the terminus of this journey, although I do wonder at my ability to remain uncontaminated by it. In fact Nietzsche made much of the whole ‘He who fights with monsters, should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.’ And Abyss takes on a whole new meaning in this flick, let me tell you.
I’ll try not to write a recap this time- but Derren Brown says that ‘trying’ is predictive of failure (“Do or do not… there is no try – Yoda)”. Who am I trying to kid?
From the beginning, 4.2 delivers all the features we have come to know and love (?) about the franchise. The scenery, the music, the fashions, the clichés, and product placement- the list goes on. And in fact, delivers so much more than its predecessors. Many riddles are solved, including why Vampires need a Volvo.
I am forced to return to my ‘roots’ as it were. Initially I used the analogy of the polished ‘Poo-dora” bead. If I remain with that symbolism, there are indeed many glittering jewels on this cinematic necklace now; however the thread of plot that holds it all together is the faeces smearing this particular jewellery box. It is almost like the Über sparkly bits have made the whole less than the sum of its parts!
In the first film I made much mockery of how that Triple Treat of vampire films -The Sex, Blood and Whimsy, were notably absent. Well, they have certainly inserted these features and thereby won my new, somewhat grudging respect (Really? Nah, not really).
What about the negatives? Let’s just say at the outset, the dialogue gets no better, the motivation and the storyline still don’t make sense and Bella remains a repellent character (alive or dead it would seem), although she does look fabulous, Darlings, what with her Vampire SKII makeover and all.
Much is made of her hunting and self control as a Newborn, all this done whilst wearing a lovely little rich blue cocktail frock. Yes the new BADASS Vampire Bella squishes Edward and bitch-slaps poor old Jacob around and doesn’t take kindly to the whole ‘Imprinting’ Renesmee thing, not to mention Jacob’s pet name of ‘Nessie’ (vast improvement if you ask me). Don’t blame her really, but then I still think she relinquished all parental rights when she named the baby Renesmee (you know, I really hated having to put Renesmee into my ‘save to dictionary’ as I type this).
They have really downplayed the ‘full suspect (the ‘P’ word to my mind) implication’ of the Imprinting thing, and stayed with the Jacob protector ‘security’ angle. I fully expected him to wear dark glasses and talk into his sleeve at any moment.
So people stand around, striking poses, being ‘Couples’. Every one comments on how great Bella ‘looks’ and how she and Edward ‘look’ so great together. It’s all about how people LOOK. I actually felt that I was browsing a fashion catalogue on numerous occasions during this film.
The CGI Renesmee baby looks like the cradle has well and truly rocked and fallen into the Uncanny Valley. Pretty but creepy. Or maybe just pretty creepy.
Bella and Edward’s new gorgeous Little Cottage in the Woods has been fully furnished and styled by Alice (again). Apparently Alice filled the wardrobe for the ungrateful Bella (again). I do like the chandelier in the walk-in wardrobe though. I find one needs a chandelier in one’s walk-in wardrobe, don’t you?
The sparkly Vampire Sex ensues and the blue cocktail frock that managed to survive an afternoon of hunting, rock-climbing, abseiling and afternoon tea (cougar flavoured) is finally buggered.
We return again to the grieving, isolated father, Charlie. Billy Burke. What a sterling actor you are! Sir, you never fail us. Haggard, harrowed and totally believable. Of course the Cullens were going to tell him that Bella was dead and then ponce off and come back in a few decades. Dibber Dobber Jacob – the only one who continues to display any kind of compassion or moral compass, sorts that conundrum in a creative and amusing manner. The fallout being that Edward accuses Jacob of ‘hurting Bella so much’ by letting out the ‘secret’. Garrhhgh! Apparently you can ‘murder’ someone’s child, but hey, don’t do anything to hurt Bella’s feelings. I mean you go to the Cullen’s house and they all hang about awkwardly like some weird Cult and that is supposed to be OK?
We have a montage/SPFX/voiceover from Bella about her Newborn vampiric fabulousness and ‘Yo, ho, ho, it’s a Vampire’s Life for me’, which takes us to the second act.
I notice that these Vampires seem to spend their Eternities in such cultivated and ethereal pursuits as art collecting, standing about looking glamorous (in pairs), reading intellectual books (note the titles in the libraries in both houses) tinkling on the piano forte and lots of The Sex (although we don’t get to see this much). I began to suspect a little influence from the ‘The Hunger’ . I was wrong.
Even though these Vampires reside in the 21st Century, they don’t seem to have a lot of communication technology – nary an iPad or Xbox to be seen… Or maybe I’m being old fashioned. Maybe because they have Alice and her future scrying ability. Maybe I over-think these things.
Anyway, tedium is broken and stakes are raised by the threat of the Volturi coming to town because the Renesmee (who is growing at an exponential rate) baby/toddler/child/’tween has been mistaken for an ‘Immortal Child’ – an abomination and therefore a security risk blah blah blah. I don’t understand how they can justify chowing down on people and yet…..?? Sorry, you caught me thinking again.
The Clarion call goes out for the various Vampire relatives and friends to come and Witness (?!?!) how, although Renesmee may be an anomaly, she is no abomination. Ah, now that word – Witness. Much has been made of the religious background of sweet Stephenie Myers and the moral melee that is this book. But we will come back to that later (Do we have to? Yes, Gentle Reader, we must.)
The various members of the Cullen Clan pootle off in their Volvos etc to snowy climes (and that is why they need the Swedish safety mobiles, you see) to entreat such amazing Vampire stereotypes to come, bare ‘Witness’, stay and potentially die for this child, who is stunningly beautiful at any age, now that we have flicked the Uncanny Valley baby. Praise the Lord! (Oops, not appropriate for a Vampire flick?).
Meanwhile Alice and Jasper have buggered off out of cowardice. Or is it a secret mission? But whatever happens, whatever they do, we can’t mention it because it is a secret, shhhh, OK?
My Learned Colleague who accompanied me to the last movie observed quite pithily, that at last the Vampires themselves have become a little more character-developed and interesting. They have a back-story as well as some naff accents. Some of them have been around the block a few millennia and have a tale or two to tell! There is even a campfire to tell them by.
So we have a Rock Star, the Irish IRA types, Amazons (I kid you not), the Rebel and a couple of blokes who are just a little camp and Béla Lugosi-esque. I really, really liked them. They were very cross because the Volturi burned their castles back in the Old Country. I am starting to wonder if young Stephenie the Producer let the ’tiller slip from her hand’ here and allowed the Director to actually ‘direct’ and show ‘initiative’ and ‘creativity’. Maybe she was just too naïve and didn’t ‘get’ the implications. I have mentioned previously how everyone has been lined up in such heterosexual pairings. Then this pair seemed to have slipped through the net. Actually upon reflection, I have my doubts about the Amazon chicks too. I don’t really care about such things, but based on the previous Fundamentalist leanings of this Franchise it struck me as being a little ‘daring’ for old Stephenie.
Another thing that struck me was the Vampires that had SUCH HUGE AMOUNTS OF PLASTIC SURGERY! The over-inflated lips, startled brows, Botox aplenty. I bet that wasn’t in the Vampire make-over brochure! However I digress.
So everyone’s ‘Special Gift’ is identified. Zappy electrical powers, power over the elements. I found this jolly quote about Inscrutable Bella’s gift. “Her mind is impenetrable; no one can read her thoughts unless she allows it. She can shield herself from all types of psychic attacks and learns to shield those around her.” Uh huh.
The conference of the various Vampire visitors was another fashion shoot opportunity. The clothes were, “Wow! Fantastic, baby”. There were attempts at conflict, mounting tension and some sort of plot thingy, but if truth be told, I lost focus that at this point. Looked great though.
Bella’s special Emanating Wafty Vibe-Dampening Fu is mighty- and all a bit Zen really.
And in case you were worried, Bella has the obligatory muttered poem. She is reading this gem to young (but getting older really fast) Renesmee as a bed time story:
“The Lotus-Eaters” by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“COURAGE!” he said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
Sleep well, my darling baby. Yeah, right, as if. Whatever happened to ‘Guess how much I love you, little Nut Brown Hare.’ Or ‘Possum Magic’.
I must mention that the wolf SPFX are very well done now. Apparently there has been an increase in the werewolf population due to the influx of Vampires to the area. Poor Quileute children are minding their own business, playing like actual children in the woods and then suddenly, FOOFF! They phase into wolves, without warning, like poppadums in a microwave!
The puppies (sooo cute) tumble about after Jacob who is counselling them to be careful about the phasing as they don’t want to chew their mothers’ heads off when the said mothers are annoying them. I have thirteen year old twin boys. Having had my head removed metaphorically on numerous occasions recently, I actually think that would be a valid concern.
Now the Confrontation in the Snow. One is reminded of little action figures placed about on a white sheet. In pairs of course. Or little family clumps. It is sooooo drawn out. When the Volturi finally show up (in a chorus line in their black Darth Vader cloaks) they all walk slowly, menacingly and crunchingly through the snow (and yet at the end they all just zip right out of there). Hmmmmm.
The music suffers from an excess of the Carl Orff “Carmina Burana” syndrome; trying to convey majesty or something. Oh dear. We have The Posturing in the Snow. The Tableau in the snow. Times eleven. We have Meaningful Looks and Album Cover/Hero shots in the snow (from various angles). More posturing and tableau. In the snow. Dolly moved here. Move Dolly there. And there. Ooh put that dolly on the big puppy.
I won’t spoil the next bit. It really is the best part. There was stuff actually happening. Heck there was even stuff sort of blowing up. Insert Abyss here. I gasped audibly when certain events occurred. I even shed a tear (Carmina Burana and high stakes made me do it!- or maybe it was fatigue). I began asking myself ‘has this Stephenie actually bothered with the Joss Whedon Vampire canon?’ I was engaged. It was compelling!! For the FIRST TIME IN THIS WHOLE BLOODY SAGA I CARED, GODDAMMIT!!I haven’t read the books so I didn’t know what to expect. Suffice to say, the Tricky climax was very effective (for me anyway- I am but a simple soul). And no hair-dos were mussed during the filming of this sequence.
This film seemed to have numerous sequential endings. I liked Michael Sheen as Aro again. I felt that he just hammed it up as really there was no discernible motivation for the character. Dakota Fanning seemed to be having fun but whoever did her eye makeup needs a good smack. Kristin Stewart was just plain surly (meant to denote powerfulness or something) and Rob Pattinson’s Edward came off as smug and obsequious. Taylor Lautner gave it a good go, and everyone else didn’t really have a lot to do, but gosh they did look great.
The magnificent cinematography and scenery were everything we’d come to expect. Music, excellent. Soaring, swelling score and top little angsty teen love numbers. There was a nod via Alice’s peeping to the future Mrs Black, so we can safely(?) go back to the ‘dubious Imprinting’ aspect of the books intent- it was deftly handled enough. The opening and closing credits were art forms in themselves. Everyone from every previous film gets a mention in glorious black and white. And Magic Meadow was revisited for a corny closing stanza and turning the pages of the actual book for the last few frames with the most mawkish final sentence, EVER. And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever. Hah! It was great!
Stephenie should be most, best pleased.
I also need to warn you that there is nothing at the end of the final credits so you can leave, especially as your bladder may be ready to burst by then. The sacrifices I have made for you, Gentle Reader, you really have no idea.
It has occurred to me that the muddled images, romantic music, the specious motivation and storyline can be forgiven, because, God help me, I truly think this film in particular has captured the essence of the teenage girls romantic fantasy. There is no point or journey. Just disjointed yearnings and imaginings, where the central figure (insert teenaged self here) is the centre of attention in this world. And really, isn’t that what the fuss was supposed to be all about?
Thank you, Gentle Reader, for spending this time with me. And thank you, David for inviting me to participate on this journey. I must take my leave now… I think I hear my Abyss calling!!
– Robyn Smith
Robyn can now relax, this journey is over. If you enjoyed her columns and want to help us decide what assignment we give her next, make sure you leave a comment below. You can also hear Robyn on Film Actually episode 66 for our review of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” by clicking here and on “The End of Twilight Film Actually Special” by clicking here.
Read Part 1 – Polishing The Turd That Is The Twilight Saga Part 1
Read Part 2 – Twilight: New Moon – The Puppy People Strike Back