Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ecological Wastefulness of the Supernatural: mostly a review of "Breaking Dawn - part 1"

The century-old-vampire hero and still-human heroine of this film franchise are accused of being badly enacted. Robert Pattinson’s Edward and Kristen Stewart’s Bella are said to have very tiny spectrums of body language. Actually, what they mostly have are micro expressions. They also manage the occasional trembling of voice and shouting, leaking of tears and shrieking. But their uniqueness as a couple, meant particularly for fans of the source novels, lies in boring subtleties of thoughts expressed. These enactments are spot on even during altered and added dialogue, but the personalities involved and magic possible [vampiric; superhuman] are not re-established as cinematically unique by each sequel. Non-fans do need a reminder that the hero can read all minds and the heroine can defy all vampiric mental powers i.e. he can’t sense her unexpressed, purely inner thought processes. Consistently demonstrating each special ability would’ve made impossible his losing a fight against brawnier vampire Felix in 2nd film New Moon and struggling through his fight against two other vampires in 3rd film Eclipse. Come to think of it, even the only fight during 1st film Twilight would have ended before it could begin, thus replicating what its novel implied/s.

The Twilight Saga could’ve been great cinema if the characters and plot were added to, remixed and subtracted from until they became unrecognizable as adaptations. The cast could then be possessing habits, smothering impulses, effecting resolutions and experiencing circumstances completely unlike those in the adapted series. They could be old beverages as new mocktails, served in mosaic pitchers. The overall stories could also be re-titled. Didn’t happen, so we have now got 4th film Breaking Dawn Part I on our DVD trays.

Well, it is as much a cinematically musical patchwork as each previous installment. I mean some songs selected and cues composed for this movie support their respective sequences very well. The resolve to alternate between lyric-containers and wordless performances has been evident since this film franchise started, seemingly ensured by their novelist taking inspiration from rock and other music. After all, their novelist’s favourite band Muse contributed a song each to the 3 preceding movies. It’s a different matter that only the first song made its sequence unique: the coolness of vampire baseball can be conveyed by just such a collaboration of instrumentals and vocals. As for Breaking Dawn Part I, this first part of the finale starts with ‘song’ Love Death Birth, a fresh orchestral start by score composer Carter Burwell. Makes a little use of his two signature tunes for franchise-initiator Twilight, substantiating finale director Bill Condon’s saying “there are stylistic nods to that film”, yet its three stretches enhance their respective sequences in different ways: A grabs attention; B descends into silliness; C –the longest– sweeps through majestically. The middle stretch, B, does redeem itself as cue Cold Feet by concluding scarily. This scariness transcends the apparent homage to classic horror film Bride Of Frankenstein, thus additionally seeming a jibe at that old-style Hollywood movie: some typical 1935 American audience getting shocked by a motionless screamer is an outdated phenomenon for us today.

This scariness is then taken up by cue What You See In The Mirror. But more negatively energizing is Breaking Dawn Part 1’s other signature tune, available as cues Pregnant and Don’t Choose That, facilitating our masochist-sadist enjoyment of the relevant sequences: many fan girls enjoy being scared by vampire hero Edward “ghosting” around and are entertained by supernaturally pregnant, still-human heroine Bella quietly bearing pain. More memorably scary is Aqualung and Lucy Schwartz’s Cold. Its lyrics, symbolizing one plot strand, are sung gloomily with only a gloomily played piano for company…during a horror montage of internet information about “immortal children” and vampire-human hybrids, as Bella sleeps uncomfortably, and then when Bella discovers before a bath exactly how much she has wasted away. The web-stored illustrations discovered by Edward also acknowledge Twilight’s sequence of Bella searching for facts about vampires, despite zero overlap. That earlier sequence had left me with one image [drops of blood suspended above goblets], which got modified in my memory from containers bound by rounded edges to precisely triangular representations of inverted cones. Hearing the cue set to that sequence again might spoil the beans for me, if like any signature tune present in the latest-released-sequel.

Another cue –A Nova Vida– begins when Edward drives Bella away from the Cullen house near Forks, after their wedding. Having read the novels, I was expecting a heartbroken wolf howl any moment. But a solo, wordless vocal begins (instead) after the midpoint. This is then intersected by a wolf cry, thus thrilling me. Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography of the howl-containing shot –which concludes this first Forks act– boringly jumped out at me: camera beneath the whizzing gallery reflection of trees on Bella’s window. The wordless singing and instrumentals continue, smoothly supporting the geographically emotional transition from Forks to Rio. Unfortunately, this romanticizes Rio as a tourist spot. Why the hell do we need to be shown Rio’s Jesus Christ statue? Because he, like good vampires, is stone offering everyone an embrace?

Yet it is worth noting that Breaking Dawn Part I has this franchise’s only inter-credits sequence, which The Belle Brigade’s I Didn’t Mean It assists as cool rock. Labeled so to argue for the view that some Volturi human mistakenly spelt a name wrong, it builds up during the first credit round and continues throughout two sets which may really be temporarily renovated locations. These interior scenes are huge and empty, emphasizing contrast between the majestically regal Volturi leaders and noisy rockers. The leaders are typically maintaining their authority even in the token sense by sitting while all other Volturi vampires stand, though neither get tired of any posture or activity. Then the foremost leader contends that “Carlisle” is Kaar-lyl misspelled, whereas I used to read it out Kaar-li-sal. Aforementioned human, the Volturi’s receptionist, is promptly dragged out of the wider interior to be killed for noting down the fax wrong. Is this in good self-referential taste or a joke trapped in morbidity to exemplify how evil most Volturi vampires are? The waste of architectural spaciousness suggests otherwise.   

Set design for The Twilight Saga has most uniquely been showcased during the starting shot of Breaking Dawn Part I: dried cowpats pinning down a tarpaulin onto a sloping roof. Using cattle dung for this rather than sustaining fires might have occurred to a native North American without assistance from white modernists. Faced with the prospect of leaky modern European roofs, he or (less possibly) she might have devised the rainfall-defying combo that is a roof-covering tarp held steady by crap-discs. The cozy feeling conveyed by these and other miscellaneous details constituting the aforementioned sloping roof is obvious because we see them after an equally cozy title presentation, the Sun piercing through red clouds while “breaking dawn –part 1–“ appears and embarrassingly labeled cue The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies begins blissfully. This cue is, not to mention, stretch A of more intelligently labeled ‘song’ Love Death Birth.

Another set dressing added to The Twilight Saga, i.e. absent from the novels, is the panel of “graduation caps” in Edward’s current foster home. His only relatives now are his foster family, most having graduated many times because they can then seem teenage humans. Hence they carry their collection of graduation caps to wherever they’re settling down. Unfortunately, this is explained only once. Could’ve been impressed on our minds by a completely reworked plot, via witty cinematic events present in the screenplays but not novels. Instead, fans are reminded of it as a tasteful inside joke through statements uttered by Bella’s biological parents. Roger Ebert is not a fan and hasn’t even read the novels, so he didn’t mention it as funny. It does happen to be another substantiation of Breaking Dawn Part I as a “companion piece” to Twilight, though.
Taylor Lautner’s Jacob has been emoted best until now in this film being reviewed. Early on, he quietly enunciates disgust in two slightly different ways: “That’s a sick joke” comes out from an emotionally hardened face; and “You’re joking” begins his aggressive plea. His usual varieties of well-meaning harshness follow. But he also manages to shake out (tearless) sobs.

I, having read the novels, also appreciate instances of enunciation showcased by other actors and actresses in this film. Kristen Stewart’s Bella sheepishly pushes out the words “…sacrifice and love”, then manages one sheepish pose while declaiming “I’ll be the one in white”. Embarrasses me as much as herself. Julia Jones’s Leah goofily prolonging all (invariably nasal) utterances, just like reel brother Booboo Stewart’s Seth, is a nice acting symmetry courtesy not being hyped during the movie. Robert Pattinson’s Edward making his voice shiver at a fiercely low amplitude as he exclaims “That’s what you’re worried about? That I didn’t enjoy myself?” Stands out from among all his, mostly repetitive, expressions of tortured heroism.

The Twilight Saga is failed cinema stories because of literal concepts at most times and boring symbolism at many other times. New Moon’s title presentation showcases restrained eeriness in its synchronized visual and music, but the symbolic full moon getting wiped out within this static shot is an unimaginatively literal conceptualization of its source title. Eclipse avoids this fate in another context: instead of spelling apart Quileute and Cullen land as two odourscapes, which could be presented by Quileute wolves inhaling then coughing out pink air, a bad vamp fleeing from both groups is shown repeatedly jumping across the deep and wide ravine indicating their border. So they continue running after her on their respective cliffways, but her strategy enables eventual escape.

On the one hand, Breaking Dawn Part I imposes its message that Bella as a vampire just must have a big bust and her lips will obviously part sexily as vampirification concludes. 

On the other hand, Breaking Dawn Part I manages to intertwine literalism with a dichotomous symbol: Edward plays chess with blood red pieces against his wife Bella’s marble white pieces, and they may be switching in later matches. He can enjoy possessing so much of his favourite substance’s representation while she can gleefully salivate at proprietorship over so much of her favourite cold hard body’s representation. Worth noting as an aside that a Cold Feet-cued shot [wind stirred by Edward’s entry ruffling Bella’s hair] is staying lodged in my memory as indicative of Edward’s supernaturally low body temperature. Bella also gets the opportunity to flaunt blood red chess pieces in matches against his marble white representatives, and vice versa. All this is the first witty adaptation of nearly abstract cover art in my experience. For this film’s novel has a blood red pawn morphing into a marble white queen on its cover.        

The caesarian delivery scene climaxing this film could have been censored by an even ghastlier interruption: horses flailing mid-air while their riders fumble to catch huge egg Humpty Dumpty, who consequently fractures mid-fall and spews blood over them. This could be positioned as a filmic image occurring to Jacob. After all, he did narrate in the final novel “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…We couldn’t put Bella back together again.” All that need be shown then would be horrified faces and frantically pumping hands, vampire-human baby Renesmee being carried away in the background. I mean to say Breaking Dawn Part I suggests birthing details too much and whatever it does depict is too mundane. Edward trying to resuscitate Bella packs a better punch: as his viscous venom is squeezed from a syringe into her torso, that fluid stacks up as ‘floors’ that are immediately descending one after the other through this injector; the gory sounds indicating whenever she is, subsequently, bitten by him are almost as good.

Merely eerie, on the other hand, is the interrupted and then concluded shot of a rubbish bin filled with empty blood sachets. This bin’s lid jerks open during the first stretch to reveal nothing but these inwardly bloody packets, and then shuts slowly during the second stretch. Thus maximal eeriness is milked out, if I may be allowed to muddle contexts.

Rewinding till moments before Bella is wedded to Edward, two facets are worth noting. Sleeping At Last’s purely instrumental Turning Page hint at lyrics that shall be sung while the couple make love for the first time, and Billy Burke’s Charlie holding back tears on being about to reach the aisle seems a struggle to maintain dignity. The instrumentals before he gets weepy support some consumerist romanticism: beautifully littered grassiness evoking paradise in its barbless and shardless glory; followed by our closest glance at the intricately skimpy back of Bella’s wedding dress. Anyways, Charlie’s tremulous face is eminently likeable because his daughter is about to be married in front of a huge crowd. And after he has handed her over to Edward at their altar, the editing cut as soon as he begins removing his hand from Bella’s lower arm emphasizes the potent acting.

Four songs are played during Edward and Bella’s honeymoon. The above nuptials paragraph alludes to the third –Sleeping At Last’s Turning Page, which conveys this couple’s mutual bliss (and is continued when the wife remembers their caresses). The second song serves as a good jumping point for it by failing to stand out.  The first and fourth are humorous, but only the latter accompanies sensible turmoil: Noisettes’s Sister Rosetta (2011 Version) maintains pacing of a sequence with the message that even so unconventional heroine Bella should resolve to shave her legs; whereas The Features’s From Now On is punctuated by the husband rebuffing under-confident seduction. This entire honeymoon, noteworthily, happens on a spectacular island off the Brazilian coast and privately owned by the wife’s mother-in-law. Many non-fans will probably think this location-devising authorial tactic is selling the notion of wealthy vampirism channelized into drinking only animal blood.

Shape-shifters in wolf form, similarly, can consume raw meat (since they manage to kill most big land animals with one snap of the jaw). So shape-shifters and good vampires should be depicted in fifth aka last film adaptation Breaking Dawn Part II as dealing with the problem that is decreasing wild animal populations. As many satisfactorily large-bodied blood sources are becoming extinct and endangered, Cullens might have to break their treaty with shape-shifting aka superhuman Quileutes (who can live without eating sparse wild animals). Seems an amoral thing to do for these supernatural non-humans, until natural non-humans fill the Earth once more. After all, human populations are constantly increasing. Could still mean a lethal battle with superhuman Quileutes “phased” into wolves.

But this fictional world has also encouraged a truly real addiction. Fashion. What we prefer to wear, live in and drive must be fashionable. We must strive to acquire these possessions and then use them as exuberantly as possible. How ironic that all the extraordinary sensory abilities and intellectual caliber of vampires haven’t led them to infer ways of saving any ecologies. The Twilight Saga, hence, is flawed escapism.

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