by • November 17, 2012 • News, ReviewComments (0)202


Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Starring: Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Michael Sheen

Has there ever been a film series as commercially successful, yet critically derided as the TWILIGHT franchise? Across three books and now four films, the TWILIGHT franchise has stirred unmatched levels of devotion and loyalty from its primarily female fanbase, so-called “Twi-Hards.” From the outside looking in, the TWILIGHT franchise has been nothing else but a real-world, contemporary example of IDIOCRACY in action, of the dumbing down, not just of literature, but of the readers who embraced Stephenie Meyer’s fantasy-romance uncritically. Whatever your stance on Meyer’s series or the big-screen adaptations that made the central stars, Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner, household names, our long national nightmare is finally, mercifully over (until, of course, the inevitable remake or reboot in five or six years with an all-new cast).

When we last saw Bella Swan (Stewart), she had just received her greatest desire, to be reborn as a vampire so she could spend near-eternity with her 120-year-old vampire lover-turned-new-husband, Edward Cullen (Pattinson). Edward only turned Bella after the painful, bloody birth of their human-vampire hybrid, Renesmee (a cheap-looking CG creation at first before Mackenzie Foy takes the role). Renesmee essentially fed on her mother, draining her of her vital energies (and her blood too), leaving Bella weak and emaciated. For Bella, giving birth to Renesmee was a death sentence. Luckily for her, Edward was just a few feet away. Post-rebirth, a shower and make-up session later, Bella joins the melanin-challenged, sparkly Cullen clan to do whatever melanin-challenged, sparkly vampires do (mostly stand around the Cullen’s rural residence and chat amiably about nothing in particular).

Faced with a romantic triangle with an obvious solution (i.e., Edward in, Jacob out), Meyer couldn’t let Jacob exit THE TWILIGHT SAGA empty-handed. In a move that no one in their right mind would consider sensible or logical, Jacob, a shape-shifting Native American in case anyone forgot, “imprints” on Bella and Edward’s infant daughter. As Jacob’s quick to point out, it’s not what dirty-minded readers or moviegoers imagined. Imprinting is meant to be non-sexual, at least not until Renesmee hits adulthood, at which point all bets and legal objections are off. After a brief rough patch, Bella welcomes Jacob into the Cullen clan as Renesmee’s protector. It’s a good thing she does, of course, as THE TWILIGHT SAGA’s villains, the Volturi, medieval-minded, robe-fetishists, immediately see Renesmee as a threat to their very existence.

Anyone who’s read the Wikipedia entry knows is all just a simple misunderstanding, easily resolved by some face-time and a cup of blood-laced tea. The Volturi’s leader, Aro (Michael Sheen, in camp mode), refuses to accept anything except complete subservience and barring that, a war between the Cullen clan, their shape-shifting allies, and team Volturi, who seem to number in the dozens. Splitting Meyer’s novel in half leaves director Bill Condon with a dilemma of sorts: How to give TWILIGHT’s legions of non-discriminating fans a movie experience that doesn’t feel like a cheat running-time wise. He solves that dilemma by leaning heavily on repetitive, unnecessary scenes of the Cullens reaching out to potential allies, a plot element that could have been easily handled via a five- or ten-minute montage.

All of that tedium-inducing padding, of course, also functions as fan service. By lingering on the introduction of tertiary characters, Condon and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg are simply giving readers what they want: One last chance (for now, anyway), to immerse themselves in Meyers’ fantasy romance. Anyone else, however, will be on the outside looking in, eager for Condon to get the narrative and the presumably final confrontation between the Cullens and the Volturi back on track. Taking more than a page (more like the entire playbook), Condon stages the final battle superhero-style (X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR, to be exact). Readers will immediately recognize, probably with some concern and trepidation, it’s a scene new to TWILIGHT’s cinematic incarnation. Never fear, dear readers, Condon is nothing if not risk-averse, as is everyone involved with TWILIGHT and the four-film series. Readers will get exactly what they expected and nothing more and probably a lot less.

Everyone else won’t. Then again, if you’re not a fan of the TWILIGHT series in either medium, it’s more than likely that (a) you haven’t read this far and (b) you’ll find something else to occupy your time this weekend. TWILIGHT’s producers, however, will be more than happy with the commercial result, as will TWILIGHT’s legion of fans. For all of Meyer’s weaknesses as a writer (e.g., borderline literate writing style, laughable dialogue, poor, underdeveloped characters, and momentum-free narrative), she deserves a modicum of credit for tapping into the desires and fantasies of her potential readers. TWILIGHT’S cinematic incarnation suffers from the same appeal (for readers), lack of appeal (for non-readers), and consistently disappointing, sub-par visuals effects, of which Renesmee’s CG counterpart is just one risible example out of countless others.

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