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Jason Wallis Directing makes ‘Breaking Dawn’ the only reason to watch

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Jason Wallis

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011 4:52 pm

Right now, “The Muppets” and Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed family film/cinema ode “Hugo” are playing in theaters across the country. “The Descendants,” the triumphant return of director/screenwriter extraordinaire Alexander Payne (“Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways”), is expanding in limited release.

However, due to an early deadline imposed by the Thanksgiving holiday, I did not get to see any of these enticing films. Rather, I was subjected to the unfathomable horrors of “Breaking Dawn: Part 1,” the latest entry in the inexplicably popular “Twilight” series. I’ve mercilessly blasted these movies for so long that I figure it’s only fair I actually see one in order to lend credence to my criticisms, so here we go …

Let me start off with the positive: “Breaking Dawn: Part 1” is not as terrible as I assumed it would be. I’ve never seen a “Twilight” movie before (just as I’ve never punched myself in the throat, or intentionally smashed by hand with a hammer, mainly because I’ve an instinct for self-preservation), but the 15-minute snippets I’ve seen here and there on television have led me to the unmistakable conclusion that these films are, hyperbole aside, some of the worst movies ever made. Completely devoid of anything even remotely resembling competent acting, effective screenwriting or impressive production values, they are, in a word, worthless. Actually, “worthless” is too kind a word — “harmful” seems more appropriate.

I was anticipating more of the same from this latest entry, but was pleasantly surprised to find that, at the very least, “Breaking Dawn” actually looks like a polished Hollywood production instead of a weekend shoot cobbled together by a bunch of talent-starved emo freaks. The likely reason for this shift in quality — complete with an engaging montage sequence and some creative visual flourishes inspired by the early works of David Fincher and David O. Russell, believe it or not — was revealed to me only at the end credits, when I realized that the studio had brought on Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Kinsey”) as director. Obviously, even a filmmaker of Condon’s caliber could not save a story this fiendishly stupid, but it does go to show that a steady directorial hand can go a long way. Not long enough, it seems, but still ...

Plot-wise, I can only assume that this is the least involving of the series thus far (more reason to be thankful for Condon’s presence behind the camera). Save for the final 20 minutes, literally nothing of consequence occurs over the course of the entire film. I wish I could provide a traditional plot rundown for you, but there’s simply nothing there: Young human Bella (Kristin Stewart) and dashing vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) announce their engagement and take their vows; Bella has some arguments with her conflicted friend and would-be love interest, the brooding werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner); and Bella becomes pregnant with a psychic vampire baby that becomes the target of Jacob‘s werewolf clan for reasons that are never fully explained. This is a comprehensive description of all the events that transpire during the first 100 minutes of “Breaking Dawn,” and no, I’m not exaggerating.

So how to explain the popularity of this series, whose rabid fans fervently insist, against all reason, that these movies offer some degree of entertainment value? The series’ under-12 fans can be written off as naïve children whose brains have not fully developed, and the over-40s can be dismissed as creepy malcontents who escape their suburban prison by fantasizing about the young, nubile male forms of Pattinson and Lauter. I can’t condone their interest in these movies, but at least I understand it, in some small, sad way. But what do the rest of you have to say for yourselves? My question is not rhetorical, and it is certainly my intention to turn this into a confrontation — or, if you prefer, an intervention. I want — nay, need — somebody to explain to me the real appeal of these films.

It can’t be on account of the stars, because Stewart is indistinguishable from a 15-year-old boy with acid reflux, Pattinson has the strung-out appearance of a longtime heroin addict, and Lautner bears a startling resemblance to a brain-damaged llama. None of them can pull off a believable line-reading to save their lives, and they’re only one step above the rest of the cardboard cut-outs that comprise the supporting cast. It can’t be the plot, because as I’ve said, there is no real plot to speak of. It can’t be the filmmaking techniques, because Condon is the first real director to become involved with the franchise. So my question remains: Why? Explain it to me as you would a child, because clearly I’m missing something.

“The Twilight Saga — Breaking Dawn: Part 1” is rated PG-13 for mild violence, profanity and surprisingly explicit sexual situations.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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