Friday, March 2, 2012

Fiction Friday: Thoughts on the Film Adaptation of Breaking Dawn, Part One

(Spoilers Ahead! If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you might not want to read this. You’ve been warned.)

It was my full intention to wait until Part Two of Breaking Dawn was out on DVD before renting and viewing both parts. However, the other day when I came home, I found that my roommate had rented Part One from Redbox. Since I had nothing better to do (insert hollow laugh here), I went ahead and watched it.

I’m about to make a mistake that a lot of wanna-be authors make. I’m about to criticize a popular book (in fact, a popular book series) on my blog, which might just get me black-balled by some literary agents and publishers (but then again, Jodi Reamer, Stephenie Meyer’s agent, already rejected me—her assistant sent me the nicest rejection response I’ve ever received, though!). Maybe it would be wiser to live by the mantra, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” –Thumper, Disney’s Bambi

Too bad I’m a bigger fan of Thumper’s other famous quote, “Eating greens is a special treat. They give long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat.”

Moving along now….

It has been a while since I read the book, Breaking Dawn, and honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll ever take the time to read it again. I went through a brief but glorious “Twihard” phase a few years ago, right about the time the novel Breaking Dawn came out. I couldn’t get enough of the books during the first read. By the second read, I thought they were good, but they had some obvious problems. By the third read, I thought they were laughable. Don’t get me wrong. Stephenie Meyer is a really good writer. Her biggest problem is that she needs to learn to edit, and dare I say that someone out there in the publishing world should have caught on to that before publishing her hundreds of pages of “Bella-Babble.” The Twilight books are not the worst thing ever written, but they’re all sparkle (any vampire puns are unintentional, I assure you) and no shine. They’re fun books, and there is nothing wrong with reading just for fun—but I prefer reading books that can both be fun and have depth. I have enjoyed Twilight and will continue to enjoy Twilight (in small doses), but I don’t take it at all seriously. In fact, I find the movies comical—especially the first one. I’ve actually had a couple parties where all my friends came over and we MST3K’d the crap out of the film version of Twilight. Good times.

Well, the movies have gotten progressively better since the first cheesy film. As movies go, Breaking Dawn didn’t suck (was that another vampire pun?). As far as I can remember, it was pretty darn close to the book. I even remember some of the lines being word-for-word the same. They beefed up the action in a way that made for better visuals. Most of the love scenes were paced well. I also appreciated the way the filmmakers worked some of the musical themes (and at times, even the same songs) from the other three movies into scenes in Breaking Dawn. Even though the latest film in the series is so much better made than the first film, the use of music and imagery from the first film tied the series together in a really good way. I’m actually looking forward to seeing if they continue this trend in the second part.

I have to admit at this point that Breaking Dawn: Part One actually made me cry.

Hold your horses. Don’t get carried away. Let me ‘splain.

I’m a writer. I’ve written novels. I’ve written novels, (and edited them a lot) and I hope to get them published. I would love to have some of them made into movies. My favorite part of watching the credits of ANY film adaptation of a novel is seeing that “Based on a novel by…” credit. It’s my favorite part because I dream of the day when I’ll see a film credit that says, “Based on a novel by A. R. Campbell.” I have a feeling that if that ever happens, when I first see it, I’ll be laughing and crying at the same time.

Well, during the wedding scene in Breaking Dawn Part One, as Bella was walking down the aisle, the camera drifted across the faces of all the people who had been important in Bella’s life. There was her family, her friends from school, …and this lady. The camera froze for a full second or two on this lady. I looked at the lady and understood that she was important, but I couldn’t remember why. I’m glad I was watching at home, because I skipped back and watched the scene again so I could figure out who the lady was.

As the camera froze on her again, I realized who she was. Stephenie Meyer. The author of the books. The look on her face was just amazing—she was looking at an interpretation of one of her characters, a character that was no doubt as important to her as a friend, perhaps even as important to her as a child. She was watching her character come to life, walking through an interpretation from a scene in her story. The combination of that joyous, wondrous look on Meyer’s face and the realization that she was an important person in Bella’s life, so important that they gave her that one brief scene in the movie—that’s what brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t really the movie, but the poignant moment where an author had the unique ability to be inside her own story—if only in a souped up Hollywood sense.

…moving on again…

There were, of course, things I didn’t like about the film. Most of these things had to do with the fact that I’m basically over Twilight. Watching Edward and Bella “be in love” really doesn’t make for good entertainment, at least not for me. I’m sure there are still several people out there who eat that stuff up, and well, I guess this film is better suited for them. Most things were done well, but it didn't personally entertain me.
The acting was not the best I’ve seen, and I have a feeling that it has little to do with the actual actors. I’ve seen most of the actors in other films, and they’ve done well. I recently watched Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants, and was pleasantly surprised by his believable performance. Twilight’s directors haven’t really thought much outside the box since that crazy director lady on crack Catherine Hardwicke set the standard for cardboard angst acting. There were some better performances than others. Taylor Lautner is perfect for the role of Jake (but then, he has something to work with). Billy Burke has always done a wonderful job (TEAM CHARLIE)! Other than that, I just think there are a lot of good actors who don’t get much of a chance to shine, as well as a handful of really crappy actors who take up far too much screen time for my taste (Jessica's wedding speech made me want those fifteen seconds or whatever of my life back).

I also have to say that the “Wolf Council” scene (if you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about) was probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in any movie. The Twilight films have never done a good job with canine CGI. The wolves looked fake. I can handle a fake CGI wolf, though. The thing that made the whole scene laughable was not the way the wolves looked; it was the way they sounded. Sam and Jake had this “show-down” that I’m sure was meant to be suspenseful and perhaps even scary. Me? I laughed through the entire scene. “I SNARL am the SNARL grandson of SNARL Ephraim Black SNARL blah SNARL blah blah SNARL.” It was so horribly done, but it made for some good comic relief between the "Edward and Bella love each other forever! WE GET IT!" scenes.

I do have to give kudos (not the candy granola bar, calm down) to the people who did Kristen Stewart’s makeup and special effects magic. I had absolutely no idea that she could look even more anorexic than she already does. I mean, seriously. The girl already looks like she could stand to eat a cheeseburger—or twelve. They managed to make her look even thinner. And you know, if you think about it, it probably sends a good message to teenage girls: if you’re too thin, you’ll make your vampire lover feel guilty. I kid! I kid! Seriously, I really do think the special effects were done well, and moreover, I feel that the filmmakers did a good job with the imagery. They clearly communicated that her thinness was unnatural, that she was deathly sick (or being starved by her unborn vampire halfling child—same same). …but for real, Stewart. Eat a cheeseburger.

Speaking of the unborn vampire halfling child, I also appreciated the Pro-Life message in the book and film. I mean, it was a really bizarre Pro-Life message, but it was Pro-Life nonetheless. I like that Bella sacrificially loved her unborn child, willing to give her life to keep the baby safe. I like that Rosalie was so protective of the child, getting angry when the others called it a “fetus.” I like that Edward was able to read the thoughts of the child, communicating that unborn vampire halflings are people, too.

And another good moral message from Breaking Dawn: Don't sleep with your vampire lover until you're married.  And by "sleep with," I mean "have sex."  But it's perfectly okay for your vampire lover to make out in bed with you, then later watch you while you sleep.  That's perfectly moral and not at all creepy.  Riiiight.

All in all, I did enjoy the film. I won’t be rushing out to purchase it or anything, but it wasn’t a waste of time at all. It’s just Twilight, and well, it is what it is. I enjoy it. I think it’s fun. But when it’s over, it’s over. I go back to my life and don’t think about it…

…except for when I start growling in my ridiculous fake wolf voice, because that is some funny stuff....

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