If there's a cinematic alchemy award to be given this year director Bill Condon deserves to take it home after magically turning the tedious Twilight franchise into entertainment gold. 2011's Part 1 was a horror camp romp that turned the supernatural love triangle — the naval gazing trio of Bella Edward and Jacob — on its head. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 continues the madcap exploration of a world populated by vampires and werewolves mining even more comedy thrills and genuine character moments out of conceit than ever before. The film occasionally sidesteps back into Edward and Bella's meandering romance (an evident hurdle of author Stephenie Meyer's source material) but the duller moments are overshadowed by the movie's nimble pace and playful attitude. Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will elicit laughs aplenty — but thankfully they're all on purpose.
Part 2 picks up immediately following the events of the first film Bella (Kristen Stewart) having been turned into a vampire by Edward (Robert Pattinson) to save her life after the torturous delivery of her half-human half-vampire child Renesmee. She awakes to discover super senses heightened agility increased strength… and a thirst for blood. One dead cougar later Bella and the gang are able to focus on the real troubles ahead: Renesmee is rapidly growing (think Jack) and vampiric overlords The Volturi perceive her a threat to vampiric secrecy. Knowing the Volturi will travel to Forks WA to kill the young girl (a 10-year-old just a month after being born) The Cullens amass an army of bloodsucking friends to end the oppression once and for all.
Packed with an absurd amount of backstory and mythology-twisting plot points (some vampires can shoot lightning now?) Condon and series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg mine revel in the beefed up ensemble of Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and thanks to a wildly funny cast it never feels like pointless deviation. Along with the usual suspects Lee Pace adds swagger to the series as a grungy alt-rock vampire Noel Fisher appears as a hilarious over-the-top battle-ready Russian coven member and Michael Sheen returns has Volturi head honcho Aro and steels the show. Flamboyant diabolical and a steady stream of maniacal laughter Sheen owns Condon's high camp vision for Twilight and he lights up the screen. There are a few throw away nations of vampires — the oddly stereotypical Egyptian and Amazonians sects are there mostly there to off-set the extreme whiteness — but the actors involved bring liveliness to a franchise known for being soulless. Even Stewart Pattinson and Taylor Lautner give personal bests in this installment — a scene between Bella and her dad Charlie (Billy Burke) is genuinely heartfelt while Jacob's overprotective hero schtick finally lands.
Whereas Breaking Dawn - Part 1 stuck mostly to the personal story relying on the intimate moments as Bella and Edward took the big plunge into marriage and sex Part 2 paints with broader strokes and Condon has a ball. Delving into the history of the vampires and the vampire world outside Forks is Pandora's Box for the director. One scene where we learn why kids scare the heck of the Volturi captures a scope of medieval epics — along with the bloodshed. Twilight might be known for its sexual moments but Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will go down for its abundance of decapitations. The big set piece in the finale is something to behold both in the craftsmanship of the spectacle and in its bizarre nature.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 had the audience hooting hollering and even gasping as it twisted and turned to the final moments. There's little doubt that even the biggest naysayer of the franchise would do the same. No irony here: the conclusion of Twilight is a blast.
S2E7: Once again, we get a slow burn on The Walking Dead, but it’s appropriate after the loss we experienced last episode. Plus, there’s something to be said for incredible tension and suspense – two things this episode had no shortage of. Rick continues his natural progression into darker territory, and while watching the perfectly moral persona wash away while the more practical – and at times almost blood-thirsty – Rick takes over is deeply troubling, it makes for some great television.
This week, we pick up right where we left off – and I mean exactly where we left off with Rick holding a smoking gun over Sophia. Beth runs over to one of the fallen walkers and tries to turn her over, but the walker is still alive and tries to attack her, causing Rick and Co. to take it down right in front of her. This incident is the turning point for the Greene family – their friends and family were dead long ago and these walkers truly are monsters. And with that, we settle firmly on loss as the theme of the episode – loss of loved ones and loss of certain parts of one’s humanity. All you zombie-kill lovers may have been disappointed at the lack of undead-slashing, but as I’ve said time and again: the walkers are the condition, the resulting drama and conflict is the heart of the series.
“People counted on me and I had ‘em chasing a ghost in the forest.” –Rick
Shane is positive that Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn, but he can’t be thinking clearly because Hershel wanted them gone and the Sophia search was their anchor. After refuting Shane’s accusation, Hershel once again orders everyone off his land. This incident leads directly into Shane and Rick fighting, yet again, about Rick’s leadership abilities. Shane says Rick is just as delusional as Hershel – something which, along with his overwhelming guilt over Sophia’s death, will take a toll on Rick’s choices as the episode continues.
Glenn asks Maggie if she knew Sophia was in the barn. She doesn’t dignify his question with an answer and Glenn continues to stick his foot in his mouth by saying that now that Sophia’s gone, they’ll move on. It’s clear that Maggie doesn’t want him to leave, but Glenn doesn’t exactly know if he can stay. considering the circumstances.
Outside, the rest of the group processes the massacre by planning the subsequent burials. There are too many bodies, so they only bury their loved ones and decide to burn the rest. It’s obvious that Hershel’s people have been changed by the incident because Rick’s group doesn’t encounter much opposition with this plan.
“Sophia died a long time ago.” –Carol
Carol, still speechless after her crippling loss, won’t go to the burial for Sophia. She says that thing isn’t her daughter – her daughter was killed that first day in the woods. She’s almost beating herself up for ever having hope that a little girl could protect herself or survive alone. And immediately after we get this speech from Carol, we move over to Hershel mourning his loss in his bedroom. This juxtaposition signals Hershel’s new realization that he was wrong about the walkers being curable – an element which will come into play later in the episode.
Later, Carol wanders into the forest after destroying a Cherokee Rose, the flower Daryl had offered her a sign of hope. Shane finds her, covered in blood and dirt and in his first act of humanity in a long while, he washes her hands and apologizes for the barn incident, saying he didn’t know Sophia was in there. It’s just enough to tell us that he’s not turned his emotional switch off completely, though it does seem to be on the fritz. Although, we can’t help but be concerned by what Dale says about him when he figures out Shane killed Otis and he fears that Shane will kill again. It will take more than a tender moment with Carol to keep us from worrying about the former deputy - and considering how he's been fighting with Rick, I can't be the only concerned that Dale's comment foreshadows Shane striking out at his former best friend like he did when Rick first came back from the "dead."
“We need Hershel for the baby.” –Rick
Beth faints, but Hershel is missing and they need his help to heal her. They find a flask in his room and decide he may have gone to the bar in town. Maggie doesn’t want Glenn to go, but Rick promises to bring him back. Lori also stops Rick because Carl said he would have shot Sophia too – he’s losing his innocence and heart and she needs Rick to be around to remind him to stay human. Lori is worried that Carl is too much like his interim papa, Shane? Now there’s some intrigue. Still, Rick makes the point that Lori can’t have the baby in the woods – they need to stay on the farm at all costs.
After he leaves, Lori is impatient and worries that Rick won’t come back. That seems to be the only explanation for why she would ask a mourning Daryl to go after them, because they haven’t been gone long enough to cause legitimate worry. When he explodes at her with the full force of his despair over Sophia, she decides to go on her own. Of course, she doesn’t get there safely. She hits a walker like so many travelers hit deer on mountain roads and flips her car. We get no answers about whether or not she survived the accident, but there are walkers about so even if she did, she’s not in good shape.
“Maggie says she loves me…She doesn’t mean it, she can’t” –Glenn
“I think she’s smart enough to know what she’s feeling.” –Rick
I want to take a moment – like Rick says – to cherish this time between him and Glenn in the car. They’re the duo we started this whole journey with, so it’s fitting that they would share a few minutes to discuss something as seemingly trivial as Maggie saying she loves Glenn and Glenn not knowing how to say it back. In most disaster or horror movies and series, if two people are in love, then they’re in love. It’s simple. But Glenn, who’s never seen this situation in his pre-walker days, can’t bring himself to believe it. Plus, he addresses the notion that these trying times create love out of pure necessity instead of truth. Luckily, Rick makes the point that the possibility it’s not real doesn’t matter; they need every bit of happiness they can find. And he doesn’t say that a moment too soon, because Rick is about to lose all his gentleness and humanity in Glenn’s eyes.
“And when that little girl came out of the barn, that look on your face, I knew you knew it too. There is no hope.” –Hershel
Rick and Glenn find Hershel, but now that he knows he’s been a fool, he wants nothing to do with this life. He’s content to drink himself to death because not only does he think he’s done his family wrong, but he’s convinced that all hope is gone. Hershel says Rick and his friends made the world worse, and insults his leadership – which clearly bares some feelings Hershel harbors, but is clouded by his drunkenness. Rick insist that the new realization hasn’t changed anything: “Death is death. It’s always been there.” Cancer, walkers: same thing. It’s a bit of hyperbole in the name of inspiration, but we stand behind it because this ravaged world needs a hero.
Just then, two men walk into the bar and we’re shoved into one of those civilized meetings of potential rivals. It’s a ruthless world – what’s to keep them from killing Rick, Glenn, and Hershel and taking all they’ve got? In a quick couple of minutes, one of the men, Dave, eliminates hope for the group traveling to Fort Benning. He says it’s overrun with walkers – could they really be departing that greatly from the comics? And if so, how will die-hard fans cope with the change? – instead, Dave says Nebraska is the promised land, but really it’s just a symbol for the pipe dream of finding a safe place.
But then comes the crux of it all: they ask where Rick and his friends are staying, and Rick lies to keep the men from following them back to the farm. Dave doesn’t believe them and figures out through their expressions and lack of reactions that they’ve got a farm. Naturally, he wants in on the haven, but Rick won’t budge. Suddenly, he’s become what Hershel was a few episodes ago in order to protect his family. It’s not the “right” thing to do, but there isn’t really “right” in this world – there is only “safe.” Dave appeals to Rick’s emotions, but the sheriff doesn’t waver. The tension is about as thick as it can be as Rick and Glenn fear Dave will shoot the longer they deny him entry to the farm. As the stoic standoff continues, we think for a split second this guy is really not going to try and kill Rick but in a matter of milliseconds, Dave reaches for gun, and Rick shoots him and his friend – even giving his friend the double-tap. And with that bloody finale, Nice Guy Rick is officially dead.
Was that enough tension for you? Or are some of you still bored with Season Two? Do you think they’ll really not go to Fort Benning? And if you’re a comic-reader, what do you think that will do to the story? Let me know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
It's easy to hate on the Twilight movies. They're the epitome of indulgent fan-servicing filmmaking alienating anyone on the outside of their cultish fanbase. With consistent navel-gazing screenplays by series screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (adapted from the equally shallow source material from author Stephanie Meyers) there's little reason to think future installments could ever transcend their predecessors.
But whereas Twilight New Moon and Eclipse contently burrowed themselves under the forlorn faces and over-dramatic moping of stars Kristen Stewart Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls Kinsey Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh) unearths a saving grace in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1: pure insanity from which blossoms color comedy and scares. The movie is one giant wink to the camera—and it serves the melodrama of Twilight tremendously.
The first half of the not-quite-epic Twilight conclusion kicks off with the wedding of Bella (Stewart) and Edward (Pattinson) a long-awaited event Condon manages to spin into an authentically nerve-wracking and touching sequence. Finally a Twilight movie with an obvious purpose—Bella and Edward have been waiting since Movie One to consummate their relationship (waiting until marriage) but lingering at the end of every daydream every loving gaze every sweet nothing is the gut-wrenching fact that Bella will give up her humanity. Breaking Dawn - Part 1 confronts this dead on with an overtness absent from the previous movies.
While the script is still committed to visualizing Bella Edward and Jacob's uncinematic inner monologues Condon peppers every scene with the zest of ridiculousness saving Breaking Dawn from ever dragging. Edward cracking a bed in half during his first sexual experience is just the beginning—the movie features everything from demon-fearing Brazilian housekeepers to body horror straight out of a Cronenberg film to corny CSI-esque shots of vampire venom jetting through bloodstreams. In one scene Jacob (Lautner) morphs into canine form to telepathically declare (in Lautner's brooding "tough guy" voice) that he is the true Alpha Male of the pack. The moment's hammy and trite but Condon shoots it with all the over-the-top machismo exuding from the wolfpack. Subtle no. Fun yes.
Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is far and away the best of the Twilight series. Sexy silly scary and stupid the movie's tonal balancing act amounts to an Evil Dead for tween romantics. There's gravity to the events we're witnessing on screen (Pattinson and Stewart even have a tense argument that results in an explosion of their previously-presumed non-existent emotions) but a self-reflexive lens keeps the normally-idiotic confessions of love and hushed prophetic warnings of the Cullen family in check. The operatic tale crescendos with buckets of blood and "tragedy" straight out of a high school Shakespeare production—completely in tune with the outlandish plot and a satisfying cliffhanger for Part 2. The movie is weighed down by the baggage that comes with a Twilight movie but the formula is shaken up just enough to inject the undead franchise with a little life.