Friday, 23 November 2012

Breaking Down Breaking Dawn Part 2

Was it seriously a year ago that I posted my review of Breaking Dawn Part 1? I can't believe how quickly this time has gone, it felt like a year was unbearably far away when we left off. And here it is, the final installment of a franchise that, like it or not, has changed the face of cinema. And hell, does it bow out well.

These are the most decent posters out there. I always hate how much they photoshop them, there's nothing wrong with the way any of them look normally!

For the record, I'm going to try my utmost to make this spoiler-free - or as spoiler-free as an adaptation can be - because I'm so happy I didn't know what they had changed. I'd advise anyone who doesn't already know the big twist to really try to not find out before they see it, because the impact will be so much more massive.

For those of you who don't know (i.e. non-fans or those who have been living in a cave), Breaking Dawn Part 2 begins immediately after Part 1 leaves off: Bella has awakened as a vampire and is living happily with her new husband, hybrid baby and the baby's boyfriend, until a big misunderstanding puts the whole family in danger of elimination from the vampire head honchos, the Volturi. They therefore need to gather as many "witnesses" (a slew of new, previously unmentioned vampire characters) to come and fight with them. Then shit goes down, and surprisingly, it's brilliant.

Having seen it now four times, with a further two cinema trips planned, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this film is the best of the series, and it is my favourite. What is absolutely astonishing is that they were able to make an utter turd of a book into a very enjoyable, engaging and emotional film. Every part of  the film is at the peak of its brilliance, whether it be the acting (impeccable), the effects, the music, and actually, the story. This is one of those very rare occasions where the film is better than the book. Seriously.

We'll start with the acting. The central cast have had five films now with their characters, and the polished performances really shine through. Everyone seems a lot more relaxed, and that's probably because of the more light-hearted nature this film takes. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart again showcase their chemistry and give their best performances of the series, probably because they're actually allowed a whole range of emotions (happiness, for example). Even Jacob gets to calm down and, excluding the weird paedophilia (try and explain it all you want, it's still not okay), he's actually quite amusing. I can't imagine Team Jacob will be too impressed with his comparitively limited screen time (Jacob's a wolf for a lot of the film), but to be honest, I didn't really care, I'm not a huge fan of his anyway, as you well know. Also, Michael Sheen is back! Yay! And he's even more mental than he was in New Moon. I'm a big fan of his anyway, he always puts so much into his work. He's ridiculously camp and creepy and wonderful, and deserves awards. And that laugh! You thought the one in New Moon was creepy... just wait. All the supporting cast are good too, but no-one really stands out, save for maybe Peter Facinelli (Carlisle). But you can tell everyone is giving their all and making the most out of their small roles. Finally though, I have to give a special mention to Billy Burke, who has played Bella's father, Charlie, so well for five films. He always makes me laugh so much and he can also make me cry, and he's just so lovely in this. I'm just sad we don't get to see more of him.

Without trying to sound pervy, I'd have liked to have seen more sex. It's mentioned a lot in the book, and I just don't understand how anyone can think that one scene would suffice, when they're meant to be at it like rabbits constantly. One scene fifteen minutes in and then tantalising teases throughout disappoints me slightly. And whilst I'm at it, another thing that annoyed me was the complete dismissal of the love triangle that's been going on for four films. I get that Jacob now has something new to obsess over (it's a baby! It's still creepy!) but seriously, there's only one very subtle reference about the fact that not two days ago (in the time of the plot) he was completely in love with his new love-interest's mother! I'm not saying that they had to keep bringing it up, but really, they needed to mention it in some way.

One of the things I was most nervous about before I saw this was how they were going to introduce the abundance of new characters in this film. I've never liked that aspect of the book, and seeing all the promotional posters for each individual new character (there are lots) made me wonder how on earth it was going to work. But actually, I was mildly surprised, in a good way. I thought they were all going to be badly underwritten and underdeveloped spare parts, which most of them are, to be fair. But they have some stand-out additions who I'm sad we won't actually get to see more of. In particular Garrett, played by the lovely Lee Pace (can he be in more stuff, thanks), who brought some nice humour and became one of the very (very) few new vampires we actually care about. I see potential for a spin-off with him if Lionsgate decide to actually go ahead and make more Twilight films (please God don't do that). But overall, not a bad job. Yes there are blatant racial stereotypes (the Irish are ginger and wear green, one of the Romanians looks and sounds like the Count from  Sesame Street and the Amazonians are accompanied by tribal music). And no, you won't even remember 90% of their names but actually it doesn't really matter; they're no more than glorified extras. It's just a little frustrating that these people take up screen time that could be spent on others (read: Edward and Bella).

Now, Renesmee. This was going to be tricky however they decided to do it. Stephenie Meyer famously delayed signing over the film rights to the final book because she didn't believe that special effects in films were developed enough to portray the baby realistically. Well, they still aren't. The baby/toddler just didn't look real, and therefore just looked bloody creepy. It's only when Mackenzie Foy actually gets to play her real age that Renesmee doesn't look like a doll or something even I could have whacked out with Photoshop. But on the plus side, she did a good job having to play so many different ages and be somewhat realistic, so kudos to her. And, if you look at Mackenzie, Rob and Kristen all in a row, it's really scary how much she looks like she could actually be their child; they look so similar! And also, Rob and Kristen are super-cute as parents.

I have to talk about the twist, without talking about the twist so as not to give anything away for those of you who still haven't seen it and haven't found out yet (how either of those things is possible is beyond me). It's really very clever how they manage to make a big event out of the notorious non-finale, and yet they still stay faithful to the book. It's the sort of effect I can only imagine working on screen, in text it just wouldn't have been the same. If you've seen the film, you know what I mean. I bet Stephenie Meyer was over the moon when she found out what they were planning to do since she obviously got bored with the story herself when writing it. But it's very shocking - I sat there the first time I saw it with my mouth agape in shock for about ten minutes, and my friend nearly broke my wrist clutching it so hard. Even second time round, when I knew it was coming, it still managed to shock me again. I'll say no more, but you won't see it coming if you don't already know about it. It's a bold move, and it pays off.

Not really important, but I wanted to mention the opening and ending credits, which I thought were very stylish and emotional respectively. The production team have never done opening credits before, but the little montage of freezing nature ws very beautiful and ramped up the anxiety for just a couple more minutes. And the ending credits were very special, letting everyone who has appeared in the films have their little shining moment to take a bow. And leaving the big three until the end and doing something even more extra-special for them was pretty much the twisting knife that lets you know it's really over. Sob.

As ever, I talk about the music. I've always championed the soundtracks and I think that people who don't even watch the films should listen to them because they're brilliant, and I think this one is my favourite. There isn't one song I dislike on it, even the one by Nikki Reed and her husband, who I was livid got on there in the first place. I can actually listen to the soundtrack and picture the scenes and cry because I get so emotional about them ("Ghosts" by James Vincent McMorrow and "Speak Up" by POP ETC are the two that get me every time). And of course, the score. I love it. I'm so happy Carter Burwell, composer of the first film, came back, and he did such a smashing job with it, and also incorporated the New Moon and Eclipse scores in there too even though he wasn't involved in them. I'm just annoyed that the Higher Powers (darn you, Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate!) have delayed releasing it so I can't have it on a loop as I go about my life.

Last time round, I think I said they did the best with what they had. This time, they took what they had and made it so much better than it is on the page. It may be the best film, but it won't convert any non-fans. But then it doesn't need to. It's just had the eighth biggest US opening ever and the biggest UK opening of an American film ever. It's going to be successful and, as the other films have proved, it doesn't need the approval of petulant, arrogant critics and isn't affected by the petty sniping of haters.

I debated a lot about what rating I was going to give this film, and in the end I couldn't decide. My head is telling me four stars, my heart is telling me five. So I'm going to compromise, and for the first time in the history of this blog, I'm giving it four and a half stars. Or nine out of ten, whichever works for you.


P.S. If you're a fan, bring tissues. The end is super emotional.

Also, for those interested, here are two interesting articles.
This one explores the aforementioned impact Twilight has had on cinema.
And this one, by the wonderful Mark Kermode (who I met at the premiere!), tries to defend Twilight from all you haters out there, and he makes some very interesting points.

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