Part of the reason why I'm known as The Pop Culture ProfessorTM, is because of Twilight & Philosophy, a book I co-edited with J. Jeremy Wisnewski, now published in seven languages and sold in about 20 countries world-wide. The e-book and audiobook are both available on iTunes. And in that book, we discuss basic philosophical tenets found in the Twilight series as a whole, including elements from the film franchise. So I know Twilight. Backwards, forwards, you name it. And when I saw the fourth film in the franchise in November, one of two parts adapted from the original Breaking Dawn novel, I found articulating my thoughts and feelings on the subject...difficult.
Kristen Stewart plays an extraordinarily gaunt Bella. While there was certainly good usage of CGI in the film, both with Bella's physique and the later birthing scene, it was clear that the actress--already too thin to be healthy--had lost some weight for the role. So not only is the basic message of Twilight that feminine fulfillment can only be found by changing yourself for a manm now, the visuals of this particular adaptation are cueing the female-audience about body image, perpetuating a negative stereotype that comes directly out of patriarchal discourse.
Fans will love the heterosexual matrix, or love triangle, between Bella, Edward and Jacob. It still exists, and in full force. Make-up on the set continues to evolve, trying to take the white pancake from the vampire faces this time around, and doing a good job there--kudos! But Rob Pattinson is clearly frustrated with the stiff role, wanting, desperately, to flesh out an otherwise flat character. Taylor Lautner's Jacob is always very "real," and pulls on the audience's emotional heartstrings. If Aristotle were here today, he might congratulate writer Melissa Rosenberg for her good use of pathos in persuading the audience to the under-wolf's favor.
The cinematography was excellent this time around. I am a HUGE fan of Guillermo Navarro's work in film like I AM NUMBER FOUR, HELLBOY, and of course, PAN'S LABYRINTH. The wedding scene was gorgeous, lush, and had an etheral quality only possible through the magic of cinema. The wardrobe had equal aesthetic appeal, with Bella's gown designed by Carolina Herrara, one of the most graceful designers of the century.
The direction by Bill Condon, whose last film was 2006's DREAMGIRLS, was quite good. Though Meyer's basic storyline may be lacking, the film adaptation added dimension and visual conplexity where there was none. Condon has also recently directed two episodes of Showtime's The Big C with Laura Linney. The 56-year old director has heart. And it shows in BREAKING DAWN I.Condon is directing BREAKING DAWN II, being released in fall 2012. Expect good things!
The music in the film was by Carter Burwell; Burwell, who has worked with the Coen brothers, has done the music for some really terrific films like No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading. The Harvard-educated Burwell's musical ingenue was no more apparent than in A Knight's Tale, where he combine musical elements like David Bowie's "Golden Years" with the medieval setting. He also directs the music for HBO's newest edgy series, Enlightened, starring the indomitable, Laura Dern. Burwell was in charge of the muic for the first TWILIGHT film. Glad you're back, Carter!
Melissa Rosenberg had written a piece that appeared in Entertainment Weekly before the 2011 film premiered, asking fans to forgive her for various omissions or changes necessary for adaptation. What most people don't understand is that a typical film script for a two-hour movie is about 90 or so pages. The original novel was some 700 pages. It is IMPOSSIBLE to create film from a book and include EVERYTHING. As a writer, I disagreed with Rosenberg's PR tactic; why try to appease? I've NEVER seen any male writer do anything like that. Women's brains produce neurotransmitters that result in apologetic behavior in efforts to maintain vital social connections. It's basic machinery of the human brain. With more than half of Rosenberg's family being therapists, you'd think someone might have advised her otherwise. Because she had NOTHING to apologize for. Her script was good; it allowed for some rather awkward moments, like the vampire birth and the imprinting between 17-year old Jacob and the infant, Renesmee, to look almost normal. Not an easy feat, I assure you.
Overall, the film itself earned a healthy 8.5/10 on the Housel-scale. Everyone involved in the project put A+ efforts into turning a book with simplistic dialogue, settings, and characters into full-blown entertainment in living color and sound. But you don't need me to tell you that--the film has grossed close to $300-million world-wide.