So what's going on?
We have the review by Mary Pols, who is a film critic for TIME. Pols thrashes Breaking Dawn, Stephanie Meyer, and mocks director Bill Condon.
A woman responds in the comments section by calling Pols a Twilight hater then saying that she (Pols) should write an objective review like a professional.
This begets a large-scale comment war that even draws the attention of a Senior Editor of TIME.
Film reviewer that wrote a negative review that caused the battle: Mary Pols
Twilight fan who casts the first stone: Kathy Keefer
Opposing Kathy Keefer: So many people
Senior Editor: Gilbert Cruz
Defender of Kathy Keefer: Modigliani
The world’s most insipid young lovers, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), finally consummate their love in Breaking Dawn—Part 1, the fourth installment in the Twilight series. This is cause for celebration only because it means our death march through the movie adaptations of Stephenie Meyer’s twisted but steadily puritanical saga is finally nearing its end.
I wish I could report it was worth the wait, but the paparazzi pictures of Pattinson and Stewart nuzzling are sexier than this. After Edward and Bella mutter their vows to each other in the woodsy garden of the Cullen mansion, the duo departs for a honeymoon on a Brazilian island. There is an ongoing debate over exactly how they’ll fare in the all-white marital bed. Bella’s discarded swain, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) the gentle werewolf, voices his concerns about their having sex before Bella has been turned into a vampire. “You’ll kill her!” he says to Edward, as if a vampire penis were a 300-horse-powered drill. But Bella demurs; the conversion process from human to vamp is agonizing. “I don’t want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain.”
Ahem. She does end up bruised after giving up her maidenhood, and no wonder — Edward clutches the bedstead in pleasure and it crunches like Styrofoam (or a cheesy set) beneath his fingers. But everything we see is tame, firmly in the territory of artfully tangled sheets. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) delivers soap-opera-style sex — the kisses are dry, the caresses sweat-free, yet still, he cuts away discreetly like a blushing schoolgirl.
Bella is game for more. “I think we did amazing,” she says in the morning. Fussy Edward valiantly vows not to put out again until Bella has been turned. They play chess instead, moving red and white pieces around the board instead of enjoying a piece of each other. He resolutely ignores how cute she looks in lingerie. In one hilarious bit, he eyes her lacy rump, then pulls the covers over it. Young people of the world: Sex is nothing like this!
The die is cast, though; their unplanned demon child is already growing within her, gestating at a rate so speedy, it might make a cat jealous. There are many things about Meyer’s fantasy universe that drive me crazy, but her constant sidestepping of accepted vampire lore comes close to topping the list. The most flagrant violation of standard vampire behavior is the revelation that they can impregnate a human (in Joss Whedon’s television series Angel, one vampire gets another vampire pregnant, another stretch, but at least it was supernatural all the way around). See, this is what happens when you don’t practice safe sex; even the undead can knock you up.
This is Meyer’s worst offense — her disturbingly Victorian attitudes about sex and love, which this movie falls modestly in lockstep with, even though it concludes years of cinematic foreplay. Twilight came out in 2008, but it feels like we’ve been waiting a decade for these two to get past first base. I know it’s too late in the game to get all hot and bothered about the basic premise. But there are so many scenes of people standing around doing nothing and posing ridiculously, like models in a commercial for high-end jeans, that I had time to reflect on both the petty (like how peculiar Bella’s gown is, ill-fitting spandex in the bodice, Priscilla of Boston lace panels in the back) and the perverse. This is the stuff of gothic novels, the heroine swayed by the terrible, beastly maleness of her lover, a sexual act that hovers on rape in its sense of terror. Bella relinquishes control, sexual pupil to Edward’s century-old rake, while he wakes up in the morning full of mopey self-loathing (“How badly are you hurt?”). Maybe Meyer never got over her own teenage Georgette Heyer phase.
There is also something extraordinarily deflating about realizing that you are sitting among a throng of blissful fans content with such a static enterprise. If it weren’t for the gifted Anna Kendrick as Bella’s best human friend (“I just thought it would bigger,” she says of the cake) and Bella’s dad Charlie (Billy Burke), the movies would feature nothing but unintentional humor. As Bella’s belly grows, the Cullen clan gathers around, plying her with cashmere throws and cups full of O Negative (this fetus has no interest in ice cream or pickles). But they’re helpless. What’s in there? “It’s just a little baby,” one of the indistinguishable girl Cullens says. “Possibly,” hisses one of the boy Cullens. Even doctor “dad” Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) doesn’t know what to do. The superhuman baby is sucking his mother dry — the already skinny Stewart looks like death’s head here. Let’s hope her skeletal frame owes something to CGI. Edward is in favor of a late-term abortion in order to save his lady love, but as usual she’s stubborn. No matter that a war is brewing between the Quileute “dogs” and the vamps over the undead unborn. She loves the baby. And as the birth approaches, in a bit of remarkable vampire technology, Edward is able to communicate with the fetus Cullen and learn this wonderful tidbit: “He loves you, Bella.”
There has been much speculation over how the birth sequence would be handled. Even die-hard Meyer fans admit to being freaked out by how bloody and weird it is on the page, with fangs replacing surgical instruments. On the screen, it is a rapidly cut sequence of ketchup and interior views of veins, less horrifying than bizarre, and like the sex, oddly anticlimactic. In the final installment, due next November, Bella will be a mother and a vampire, but since the Twilight movies are the most remote tale of love, sex and reproduction ever put to film, the chances that Breaking Dawn—Part 2 will be anything worth sinking your teeth into are as slim as Bella Swan.
The Comments: (all screenshots are of the TIME website
My Comment (in response to Gilbert Cruz's comment):
(note: this is in the comment section on the site, but is so long I couldn't screen capture it.)
Yes, but like political coverage, reviews can slant. I review films. I'm not a Twilight fan. Where I disagree with Pols is in how she frames information.
Pols says: "...there are so many scenes of people standing around doing nothing and posing ridiculously, like models in a commercial for high-end jeans, that I had time to reflect on both the petty (like how peculiar Bella’s gown is, ill-fitting spandex in the bodice, Priscilla of Boston lace panels in the back) and the perverse."
To re-state that sentence: Pols feels time is being wasted; nothing is happening.
The other way to look at this is: the books are character driven. People didn't love the acting of the books or the shot selection of the books or the major action sequences of the books. They loved the characters and their dynamics. By lingering, by spending two minutes on a scene instead of thirty seconds, Condon is giving the audience what they want: time with the characters. Will people find this boring? Yes. Will some people be absolutely disgusted by this? Obviously Mary was. But will this cater to fans? Definitely.
I think most of Pols points are debatable. "This is the stuff of gothic novels..." except it's not. The Twilight series is Romance with Gothic hurdles. It's plot is no where near as brutal or deviant as what makes up Canonical gothic lit: "The Castle of Otranto", "The Monk", "The Italian", "Christabel", "Frankenstein", "Dracula", or even "Interview with the Vampire". So it makes sense that Edward is not a beast, but kind and chivalrous, regretful. Pols is knocking the film for not falling into a genre cliche. What would she have it do? Basically, rather than analyzing the mechanics of what's going on, Pols is complaining: I think it should act this way, but it's not, so I'm unhappy.
This is obvious by how she expressed her displeasure in how Meyer breaks from traditional vampire lore.
"There are many things about Meyer’s fantasy universe that drive me crazy, but her constant sidestepping of accepted vampire lore comes close to topping the list. The most flagrant violation of standard vampire behavior is the revelation that they can impregnate a human (in Joss Whedon’s television series Angel, one vampire gets another vampire pregnant, another stretch, but at least it was supernatural all the way around). See, this is what happens when you don’t practice safe sex; even the undead can knock you up."
Yes, Pols is entitled to her opinion. She can state her opinion. But I think what Kathy is asking for is someone who isn't just orientated Left or Right (to borrow the political terms) but has walked the gamut, and, despite his or her beliefs, delineates each perspective. Pols personal problem with Meyer's "flagrant violation of standard vampire behavior" is, to me, quite narrow-minded. Yes, on the one hand, there is an established idea of what constitutes a vampire. And people expect something resembling this. But, my Anne Rice, what would the world be like if no one ever innovated?
If we are going to use Gothic literature as a reference, the genre began by setting its stories in a distant time and in distant places. "Otranto" was released in England, in 1764. The story takes place in Italy, during the Crusades (500-700 years earlier than the print date). As we progress through the Gothic Canon, time and setting become less distant. With "Frankenstein" happening in modern times (early 19th century), but in a castle outside of town. "Dracula" was also modern times (late 19th century), also in a castle outside of town (town being "England" and outside being "Transylvania"), but the vamp came in to town to prey. "Interview with the Vampire" demonstrated vampires were part of human history, that they lived, not in distant castles, but in our apartment buildings, in our neighborhoods. That they didn't just prey on humans but attended our dinner parties, the same movie theaters, owned playhouses, they traveled (could be an aisle ahead of you on your red eye flight). Meyer has taken us one step closer. Not only is the time period the present, not only do vampires attend high school, they are so socially a part of the human world that the two types, human and vampire, can procreate. Sure, the writing may be shit, the movies, to certain parties, agonizing, but Meyer's climaxes what has been an inexorable progression: the integration of the Gothic with Modern Human Life.
So to bemoan the fact that Meyer abuses accepted vampire lore is a tad bit ignorant of the Gothic tradition the vampire was born from. But, really, with everything that's going on in the world, why care so much about accepted vampire lore in the first place?
(Update 4/9/12: I would change the first sentence. I'd make the same point, but wouldn't use the phrase "is a tad bit ignorant". Maybe something like "ignores the progressive Gothic canon the vampire was born from.")
And we can talk about little things. Pols says that Condon, in shooting what is a quite harmless sex scene (no sweat, dry kisses), "...cuts away discreetly like a blushing school girl." Pols fails to mention the shots where Edward is obviously in Bella. Both panting. Gyrating. What more do you want? Wet kisses? Felatio? The sheets to have absorbed so much perspiration they need wrung out? Pols sort of insults Condon. Or is challenging him. She has framed him cutting away as wimpy. But we can argue the sex scene is tasteful, quite Victorian (which suits Pols's earlier declaration of Meyer's Victorian tendencies), and SUITED FOR THE TEENAGE AUDIENCE THE MOVIE IS TARGETING.
Pols is smart, well-informed, and does good work (I read TIME reviews every week), but sometimes I don't feel she provides as much information as she should. Maybe she doesn't know the history of Gothic literature like I do (if so, research it before you talk about it). Maybe she chose to ignore the film is a Romance before it is a Gothic tale (if so, why?). Maybe she forgot the movie wasn't geared for her sexual appetites but those of a still dreaming-of-what-it's-like teenage girl (if so, why isn't an editor reminding her about the context this film was created in and saying "you might come off as sounding 'oblivious'?")
So, no. An objective review isn't necessary. Opinionated reviews are fine. But EDUCATED reviews, I think, are the best.
Greg Seidner's Response To Me:
My Response to Greg:
Before we get to the finer points of my error, I'd like to discuss the larger implications of your message.
You recommend I should "leave things up to the professionals and just use the review like everyone else in the world does: a gauge for how one individual (who you may or may not agree with) perceives the movie." You conclude the thought with: "When we care what you think, we'll pay you."
In other words you're saying: "be passive. If you disagree, don't say anything. People who are being paid are professionals and that means they are always right." If I knew anything about literature, I would compare that way of thought to "Animal Farm" or "1984". (Sorry, I"m dropping book titles again) (like a boss).
But you didn't heed your own advice? You read my response to Pols and you felt the compulsion to respond. To not just respond, but to point out my error, question my credentials, call me an amateur, and conclude in such as a way as to hammer at my esteem in the hopes I would totally STFU until someone offered me money to speak.
You felt you had the right to challenge my response to Pols. I felt I had the right to challenge Pols's response to "Breaking Dawn". Where would we be in the world if everyone listened to your advice and said: "I disagree, but I won't say anything."
If I were a paid film reviewer, would you have not responded to me? If I were Dave Denby, would you think, "Oh, that's Dave Denby, he knows more than me, I won't say anything." Or would you say, "Hey, Dave, you said 'Frankenstein' takes place in a castle and it doesn't."
You obviously aren't passive. If you were, you wouldn't have said anything to me. So why would you expect me or anyone else to live a less than active life? To think that our role in life is should be a silent one, the Acceptor-of-Things? To think that we need someone to validate us with money before we have the proper credentials to air our thoughts?
Now. On to the other points of your response.
1. I spoke errantly when I generalized that "Frankenstein" (Yes, by Mary) and "Dracula" (Yes, by Stoker) both take place in a castle outside of town. I tried to amend my comment several times, but none of my edits would ever take. I wanted to clarify that for "Frankenstein" that by "Castle" I meant the university at Inglostadt, and by "outside of town" I meant Geneva. Even then, though, I should have gone into more detail that the monster remains, for the most part, on the outskirts. He isn't integrated into society, despite his mental prowess. The monster has contact with Victor, with the cottage-folk, and with the people he murders, but he exists, as I said, on the outskirts.
To "Dracula" I wanted to add that by "Castle" I meant Transylvania, and by "outside of town" I meant England. Which makes the phrase "Castle outside of town" metaphoric. But how I wrote it in the first place is not metaphoric, which I realized and wanted to edit, but could not. Thus, I must accept your response. And I'll continue: "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" move the creatures closer to mainstream society (The monster will attack and depart; Dracula comes to England from his castle and strikes and heads back home), but neither go so far as "Interview With the Vampire".
2. English romanticism isn't the same thing as "Romance". Romanticism was steeped in setting, nature, the sublime, and strong emotions (often terror, dread, remorse). Beethoven is a Romantic composer, in the sense that he falls under the Romanticism artistic movement. It does, in no way, imply romantic love. So when I said that "Twilight" is "Romance with gothic hurdles" I mean it is Romantic love that must deal with gothic problems. So, yes, you're right, Gothic literature comes from Romanticism, it even had some romantic (love) elements as components in its story, but no canonical Gothic lit text is a Romantic Love story the way Twilight is. There's the modern sub-genre of Romance Goth Lit. Which is what Pols is, I believe, referring to.
3. And you take my mentioning of Gothic literature out of context. Pols is saying that the generic concept of Bella and Edward having sex is the "stuff of gothic novels" and she's succumbing to a near-rape experience full of terror. Except that in "Breaking Dawn" Edward is mopey afterward. The suggestion is that "Breaking Dawn" is wimpy. That it's not staying true to the gothic novels it evinces. And what I'm arguing is that "Twilight" is not a gothic novel but a Romance, so Edward being nervous after harming Bella is appropriate. Or, that if we are going to consider "Twilight" part of Gothic literature, it's following in the tradition of the canon and integrating the monsters into human society. So maybe vampires used to mesmerize and basically sexually assault women, but now they are fully integrated into the culture and don't do that, they care about the woman, and they feel concern. It's the full humanization of what was once only a carnal monster.
4. "The fact that Ms. Pols suggests Twilight is a good example of gothic literature is implying that is necessarily based in traditional romance as well." Okay, well, yes. If you mean traditional romance in the sense that "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is traditional romance. But when I use the term "Romance" I mean in the vein of Jane Austen, or the paperbacks with the shirtless men on the cover. That's what I compare "Twilight" to. So maybe I should have said it's "Modern Romance with gothic hurdles."
5. You said I derided Pols's review "by reviewing the review with your own review of the movie????? Who does that?" I believe it's part of making a logical argument. I'm not going to discuss another movie. And by providing my views of the movie in contrast of her views of the movie, I'm showing that her views of the movie may not be as valid as she made them out to be. That there are other ways to see what she saw. And I gave examples to explain my views. It's not, as you called it, "tooting my own horn", it's called, in the scientific realm, evidence. In the scholarly world, we call it "citing sources".
Look. I appreciate you defending Mary. I wish I could have edited my comment and changed the line that said "Maybe she doesn't know the history of Gothic Literature like I do..." to something that sounds less pretentious. I didn't mean that in a snobbish way. I just meant that she may not have the same specialized background. I may not know as much about Japanese literature as her. Or about movies! And by saying an educated review, I didn't mean to imply that Mary isn't educated. She writes for TIME. That's awesome. And I like her reviews. But I disagreed with this one, especially with how it was presented. I think the review itself was more opinionated than educated. Which happens. If I sounded like I was attacking Mary, as a person, I'm sorry. That's not what I was trying to do nor would I want to attack her on a personal level. And I can see that how I spoke offended and incited you. But, understand, that, as a writer, that's how I felt about Mary's review. You called out to me. I called out to her.
I don't know what more there is to say.
Did I Like It:
I was entertained, mostly because I was amused by parts that weren't intentionally funny (like Jacob's angry run through the woods. It's like the Footloose angry dance, but, instead of an abandoned warehouse, you're in the forest, and, instead of dancing, Jacob is a wolf running at full speed).
I was interested in how slow the movie was. I haven't seen Part II yet, obviously, but I'm convinced that they could have made Part I an hour and Part II an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes and gotten away with one movie (Part 1 could be streamlined that much by boiling it down to just its plot points and essential character development). But then the studio makes less money. So the studio made two movies. A lot of non-fans are complaining about how slow the movie is. Compared to your average 21st century film, the pace is turtle-like. But I'm in favor of this longer version because the studio has given fans what fans want: time with the characters. The honeymoon sequence could be shorter, but fans want to see Edward and Bella together. They like seeing Edward and Bella together. So we get to see the couple happy for more than two minutes before the drama kicks in.
And look, before you start saying that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows had two parts and was amazing, let me say: I hate three of the last four Harry Potter movies. I think they are too streamlined. Check out the running times.
1. 152 minutes
2. 161 minutes
3. 142 minutes
4. 157 minutes
5. 138 minutes
6. 153 minutes
7. 146 minutes
8. 130 minutes
I think HP 5, 7, and 8 abandon character for an onrush of plot points. Where as Breaking Dawn Part 1 luxuriates in character by elongating the time between plot points. (HP 3 has a less expansive plot than the other HP films, so succeeds with its relatively slim run-time) (I think HP 8 should have been 10-30 minutes longer).
It's common in film for conversations tend to be shot with the over-the-shoulder camera angle. You go from one character to the other. This puts the focus on the speaker, thus on what's being said, thus on the conversation. But how its done in Breaking Dawn was weird to me. The camera was SO close I felt I was invading personal space. With that said, there were enough instances of long shots that I was pleased when it came to shot selection. Not happy, mind you, because there are close-ups and medium shots aplenty. But I wasn't totally dissatisfied with the shot selection.
Overall, I don't think it's the worst movie I've ever watched. It's not even the worst movie I've watched in 2011 (click here). It's cheesy, it has some humor, it's melodramatic, but there are several shocking moments. I will say it's my favorite of the series.
What's It's Good For:
-lots of unintentional humor too, so if you go in ready to smile at everything you can you'll be rewarded
-the last half hour is entertaining enough
-if you enjoy watching movies and are easy to please
-if you dislike Twilight, it's still a Twilight movie
-If you get bored really, really, really easily, this could bore you real quick
-you must be able to suspend disbelief and accept vampires exist or that people can change into wolves
-if this is the first movie of the series that you're going to see, you will get zero backstory
% Character / % Actor's personality
Stewart: Adventureland; Into the Wild
Pattinson: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Vampires: Blade II; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; The Monster Squad; Cronos; Near Dark; Nosferatu; Last Action Hero