18 November, 2011

Breaking Dawn Part 1: Reactions

First reaction: Fans will be happy, filmmakers will be happy (hello box office intakes!), and color-me-wrong, I thought this film would be ridiculous, awkward for the wrong reasons, rough, and a bit painful to sit through-- it was not! I rather enjoyed it from beginning to end! Definitely some cheese-moments, a lot of eye-rolling worthy lines, but I've come to enjoy and embrace those fabulously cheesetastic moments! It's not going to win any Oscars, and I probably don't need to see it more than maybe once or twice for analysis reasons, but I was entertained.

If you're a not a fan of the books, I think you can skip over this film; it's not gonna make cinematic history except maybe with regard to box office earnings. If you are a Twilight fan, however, I think you'll be very satisfied with this film.

Explanation: Breaking Dawn is the film that I was most skeptical about. Even Meyer wasn't sure it was going to be four books, she thought it would be over at three, so the fourth, while it tied up a lot of loose ends (except for Leah, of course), it felt a bit gratuitous, and splitting it into two-- well, a bit fluffy and indulgent. Don't get me wrong, I loved it! I love any excuse to spend more time reading in a corner about the characters I've grown to love (hence the initial obsession with Pottermore-- although that's waning... hrm, that's for another post), but it never felt like a very strong story. The first half really just consisted of marriage, honeymoon, pregnancy, and could be done in about 12 minutes of film, so I was wary and concerned for how they would stretch this into two films, as there's not a lot of conflict going on in that first bit (yes, the wolves, yes Bella and Edward fighting... but I never had the feeling that a ton was on the line; it was fairly static). The second half gets more complicated with tons of randomly introduced characters, a building and epic battle, with no battle...  but all of that being said, I still ate up every word, read it multiple  times etc. etc. It was fun, but it wasn't the strongest in terms of story and construction. It was just fun and indulgent. We're all allowed a little non-brain-heavy fun.

Blissed-out Teenage Love
However, it's a crazy different tone of book. All of a sudden we are asked to believe a lot of strange and convenient things (Vampires can be dads? Ok! Wolves can imprint at any age? Ok! Jacob was attracted to a fetus? OK!), so perhaps (aside from box office returns) the thought for two films was that it was going to take us, the audience, a little bit of time to get from seeing this blissed-out, teenage couple, to seeing them as a married couple, and then as married future parents. That's what I took from it anyway, because I enjoyed the film; I didn't find it dragging (except the speeches at the wedding... horrible! Not even funny, just bad. Cutting room floor); it was well-paced, and gave ample time for us to understand and come to terms with all of their fluctuating reactions from bliss (wedding/honeymoon) to acceptance (Bella at first nudge, Edward at first thought-reading).

I was rather impressed for how they accomplished all that they had to with this film. Fans will be happy with this film, I think, because it's so bloody true (pardon the pun) to the book. And why on earth, at this point in the Twilight Saga's lifespan should the filmmakers look to satisfy anyone but the fans? Give the people what they want! Plot points! Gorgeous Wedding! Cute boys in tuxes and topless! Precision with details! Hot sex and smashed headboards!

We're not looking for best screenplay here, we're looking for satisfaction for the series that so many have grown to love, and hate, and perhaps love again (have you noticed how it's pretty cool to hate Twilight right now? And yet it's projected that Breaking Dawn: 1 will break box office records? Funny... haters still gotta see it, eh? :), but even though it might not win an academy Award, that does not mean that it was a bad film. I think this executed a popular text really well, and did so logically and thematically, with ample moments of emotion and beauty (yes, I shed a tear at the wedding-- the look on Charlie's face as he gives her away-- it kills me!). 

Anywho, so overall I was well pleased. It was well shot, great use of color, fab special effects (the change), the wolves have improved although are still clearly CG, and the cast seems really comfortable with each other and in their roles (particularly the Bella-Edward, Bella-Charlie, and Bella-Jacob). 

Right, I'm calling the next section "reactions" instead of "analysis" because that will come in time. When I try to do all of it in one blog post, my head explodes, and I'm guessing not a single person gets the whole way through it.... so, this bit is reactions, and I'll do some analysis of specific scenes as requested (if there's a scene in particular you want me to look at, let me know! Right now I'm thinking about the kiss at the wedding... we'll see what else springs to mind).

Titles: Straight in with the titles; I like that-- and effective "BAM! Here begins the story!" moment. I also love that they were a burgundy red, fading into an icy blue. It's the red of human life, fading into the icy blue of a vampire one (Get it? Get it?), especially with the rising sun, shedding light onto the 'new life.'

Voice Over: Intriguing how Bella focuses on childhood; she's about to step into her own marriage, thereby shedding the cover of childhood and stepping into adulthood, but the line "Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies," immediately refers to the vampire life, and made me think of Renesmee, and the questions of mortality that are still to come. Heavy stuff for 30 seconds into the film, eh?

The Trio: The relationship between them is shifting, and it was well handled. They finally look less awkward and stilted in their roles too, which helps.  It's understood the boys don't like each other, but what they have in common (Bella) is strong enough for them to get past their jealousy. I like that in the opening shot we have a sandwich of scenes of the trio: 1) Jacob opening the invitation and running for it, 2) Bella packing up her childhood in her room, and stroking the dreamcatcher that Jacob made for her, and then 3) Edward arriving, and filling her in on his darker past (p.s. They finally got the flashbacks right! It was well-shot, costuming appropriate, and it didn't make me cringe).

They have a good chemistry, all three of them, and as Bella calms Edward's fears about being a monster, it's a real conversation; it doesn't feel trite and cliche...instead it seems sincere and assuring; heavy on the cheese, but again, I've accepted that. Jacob and Bella really do appear best buds, and I like how they can call each other on their crap. Very real.

Oooo pretty. And look! Stephanie! And Wyck! And Melissa!
The Wedding: There may have been more hype about this dress than Kate Middleton's! I liked it, and a little bit more on the sexy side than I was picturing. You hear the description from the book-- 1918's, lace, satin, long sleeves, and you picture a dowdy, frumpy thing; or at least I did. This one was lovely; just a bit of lace at the sleeves, and those buttons going up the sheer almost back-less dress-- gorgeous! 

-The Aisle: I like the lack of dialogue; instead, there was a build up of strings, her relaxing after seeing Edward's smile, and the strong crescendo and break of the music as she approaches him. Brilliant pacing, building the tension and excitement, and infusing the scene with emotion.

-Cameo! I loved that Stephanie Meyer, Melissa Rosenberg (screenwriter) and Wyck Godfrey (producer) got to "attend" this scene, too. Fun little nod to them. 
Color scheme!

-The colors. the focus on spring, the emphasis on brown and green of the woods, with purple all around and a touch of gold from the Denali clan--- I couldn't help but notice these were the same colors as the meadow-- green, brown, with purple, white, and yellow flowers :) Intentional? I'm going to guess yes. Very little in a film is unintentional. Not when $127 million is being spent. I can also see this color scheme/wedding design inspiring weddings for years, and years, to come

-Charlie. Stop. Just stop. I got teary! I did not expect that! The look on his face when he gave her away, and his hesitancy to give her away at all; from the time he read the invitation, until he held her arm down the aisle-- lovely. Flippin' love Charlie and Billy Burke's portrayal of him.  I also like how they slipped Sue Clearwater into these scenes. Cleverly placing her into the scene, making her a normal fixture in his life, and someone that he fetches champagne for :) I also enjoyed Charlie's "that's just weird" comment about the graduation caps at the Cullen's house.

-The kiss. Great chemistry, and I love how Bella grabs onto the lapel of Edward's jacket. Cute. It was also very effective that the wedding guests 'disappear' during the kiss, so it seems as if it's just the two of them sharing this intimate moment. Also, how rockin' was it that 'Flightless Bird', the Iron and Wine song that played during the gazebo dance at the prom in Twilight (2008) comes back for this moment. Even the camera shots are the same. Spins around them, cuts back and forth to each face... it really brings the love from the first film through to the fourth; as if that love at first sight was the same; strong, true and consistent throughout; this wedding was just the formal realization of it.

-The speeches. They were horrid. CUT! I know they were meant to be awkward, but really... cut. But I loved that Carter Burwell brought the Bella's lullaby theme from Twilight (2008) back into the score, playing softly as Edward gave his speech about his bride. Again, tying that first film through to this one.

Volvo- Of course they drive away in a Volvo! Black this time :) It really does look like a shot directly from the 'Forks' game Volvo did a few years ago. Clever!

Rio: I'm glad we had a little bit of time to watch the happy couple as a honeymooning couple together. It gives a firm grounding to the substantial crap that they have to deal with afterwards. But  right now, they're newlyweds, they're away from their family, away from being the center of attention, in a lively and exciting city with lots of people making out on the street and playing music, so how nice that they get to have a romantic, hot little dance, and then escape to their paradise-like bliss on Isle Esme. And what a beautiful shot of Rio in the moonlight as a single boat speeds away into the open ocean. 

The First Time: Surely this is the most anticipated scene in all of Twilight.  And tell me if you agree, but I think it was pretty damn bang-on to the book. What I remember when reading that section was the horrible awkwardness; the insecurity and the bravery needed to take that first step sans robe into the ocean, and I think this scene really hit that home. The awkwardness staring over the bed at each other, I like her 'human moment' being a total girl and shaving her legs, fixing her hair etc, freaking out at Alice for only packing ridiculous lingerie, and finally sucking it up, realizing the guy she loved was out there in the water, and just walking to him. 

Lotsa destruction
I like that they didn't show much in the actual scene. The headboard breaking, and Bella assuring him she's fine, and that's about it. What was really well done, however, was Bella remembering it the next morning. It was sensual, intimate, accurate (of course we all replay our first kiss/whatever over and over), filled with extreme close-up shots bringing the audience into the ooey-gooey mentality of "that was lovely" so when Edward comes in and is all depressed and angry with himself, we're mad too at his incredible ability to buzz-kill! 

Nice chess set!
Nice touches: The chess set (very clever), the humor moments as the housekeepers silently takes out the shattered bed... but where are the eggs she eats so much of?

Finding Out She's Preggers: Nice timing with Alice ringing the second that Bella realizes what has happened, and prior to this moment, Bella and Edward have hardly separated. Even when they're doing something apart- like sitting across from each other playing chess- they're still leaning towards eachother; touching at any opportunity, and all over eachother snuggling etc. As soon as the discovery of the pregnancy is clear, Edward removes himself from the picture. He distances himself, and even in the car they don't touch. Clearly he's freaked out, but filmicly, this is good depiction of him mentally and physically removing himself from the situation in order to "deal with it."

I'm not going to get into the abortion chat. We all know it's ridiculous that Edward and Carlisle start to plan it without even consulting her, and I like that Edward gets a bit mad at her for not even involving him in her decision, but isn't it interesting that he didn't really make any initial effort to involve her either! Right... not getting into that...

The Pack Communication: It's a good move to shift attention constantly onto Jacob and his movements since he plays such a large part in this film.  They show him on the beach talking about imprinting, showing Claire the two year old, re-introducing the "it's not creepy, I swear" mentality, and I thought the way they handled the pack's communication was pretty decent. The wolves themselves are still clearly CG-ed, and at times laughable, not brilliant, but not as bad as the first version, but I liked that the chatter within the pack was constantly going. It was loud, busy, every thought... just how I imagined it would be. It wasn't overly confusing, so that was well handled by the filmmakers, but it was accurate in showing the horrible power of the alpha order, and the 'voices in the head' commentary they always hear. You can understand why Leah and Seth might want to leave for moral and personal reasons; it's just be a lot quieter! And when Jacob took up the mantle of Alpha, it was epic; the whining of the dogs, with the bending to the will, then fighting back, rising up, and leaving. Hello drama!

More accuracy from the book: Seriously, they stuck so closely to the details, it was nice to see the extra effort in there, even switching the blood from a glass to the plastic cup with a straw when Bella starts drinking blood; showing her mouth completely full of blood though-- that was striking. It might be hiding the blood from Bella to make it 'easier to swallow,' but the audience had no such luxury; we could see exactly what she had to do for this baby.
    -I also liked this bit when Alice grabs Jasper and says 'Walk with me' to get him out of the room and away from the blood. Cute.

The Cullen color-scheme, Blues, silvers, whites and greys
Edward Aplogizes: Thank goodness he finally joined #TeamBella and apologized for leaving her alone in all of this, and we finally get a glimpse of the happy family that they could become as he hears the baby's thoughts for the first time.  Bella is often in blues and grays in these scenes, which is interesting since that was always the color scheme of the Cullens, particularly in the first film. It was advertised, illustrated and focused on, and here is Bella, gray in skintone now too as she looks just slightly better than dead, wearing blues, and steely grays, taking additional steps towards becoming a Cullen.

Jacob distracting the other pack: Very effective storytelling technique.  It shows clearly which side he is choosing, and gives us a quick view of what's going on whilst Bella is stuck in the house.

She has looked better...
The Birth: Holybloodygooeygory. We knew it would be bad, there's no way for it to be pretty and easy, but I wasn't entirely prepared for blood and guts all over Edward. It was well shot though. Tough, red, fuzzy, clear for when Bella sees Rennesmee, and then the turmoil as they desperately try to turn her.  That was one hell of a syringe going into her chest; the dense, silver venom, and Stewart can play a corpse well.  She looked horrific! I was convinced.  The actual process of turning was brilliantly shot; it'd be so easy for that to be super-cheesy, but I just found it really interesting to see a visualization of what that process might look like. Red, fleshy and bloody, turning black like lava with a burning underneath, and then switching to dimondy-iciness.  

The Fight Scene: How nice it was to see it since we didn't get that chance in the books. It was interesting to see Edward's understanding of the imprinting, and the immediate backing off of the other pack. Granted it was a "convenient moment" for one of the 'basic laws' to be no harming someone who a wolf imprinted upon, but hey, it worked! It was also very well-shot. It was so tightly packed, that you couldn't tell who was where, and it built the suspense and our concern for the characters. We didn't want any of them to get hurt, and the confusion and close-ness of that filming added to that.

Rennesmee: she's pretty damn cute.

The Change: Brilliant. She looked horrible. Literally a corpse; underfed, bad color, unhealthy... and then... we see the venom flow through, her hair get shinier, her dress fills out, the cuts on her arm heal, her spine snaps back into place, color into her lips, and the dark circles removed from her eyes. Such a neat visualization, and satisfying somehow to see the power of the venom and how it changed each of them.  

Final shot: I CALLED IT! I totally called it (yes, yes, Maggie, pat on the back, I promise to gloat no longer), I had guessed that the final shot would be Bella opening her eyes, and them being blood red. I'm sure I can come up with multiple witnesses if required. Whoop!


The flashback in this bit again really ties the first film through to the last. Similar to the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix --purely with regard to what it made me think about-- where Harry is possessed by Voldemort and flashes back to all of those scenes with his loved ones-- we got to relive the series. We got to remember the first time we saw those scenes, how they affected us originally and what they have contributed to: a huge saga of drama and emotion! It was nice to see the first meeting, the first dance, the departing in New Moon, the reunion etc. 

Extra scene: Who doesn't love the fact that the Volturi are spelling and grammar fiends? Love it. Plus it also reintroduces them into our minds; they see the Cullens as a threat, know that the coven has grown, and we now know that they are a threat-- which leads us gracefully into Breaking Dawn: Part 2.

RIGHT! Let me know if you have specific requests for scenes to analyze, and by the way, what did you think?!

Ahhh and I love, LOVE Marah Eakin for this article.  and the link inside the article for the piece last year from Genevieve Koski. Stop hatin' Twilighters, and don't judge or read too hard into anything... fans deserve some cred, folks!


Ashley Benning said...

My reaction to your reactions:
Aisle-walk: Good job, Kristen. I was genuinely terrified for her, thinking maybe she had made the wrong decision. Until she saw Edward, that is. I loved the line in the book where Bella said (paraphrasing) that as soon as she saw Edward she had to hold herself back from running down the aisle toward him.

Speeches: I LOVED them. I thought they were hilarious.

First time-- Level of awkward was bang-on.

Chess set: I, too, thought that was ingenious.

Bella fearing for Nudger's life: I hated Edward too. Not cool, Edward.

Pack communicating: I HATED THIS. Loathed it. Cringed at it. There's got to be a less cheesy way to do that.

Bella looking hideous: AMAZING. I couldn't even imagine that kind of detail when I read the books.

The ending: You win. I had said it should cut when she reached for the dropped sippy cup. I bow to your awesomeness.

christina said...

I eas confused when after she gave birth and then is given the venom and bit. Why do they show her freaking out try to scratch her face, but then show her laying their still like she was dead. what were they trying to say or show by that scene?