By Mike Smith
It would be easy to dismiss the “Twilight” film series as nothing more than a series of chick-flicks with a few monsters thrown in for the guys. But that would do the films a great injustice. Yes, they ARE a series of chick-flicks with a few monsters thrown in, but when you get past the romance you have a pretty interesting story.
As the opening credits end, we are met by Jacob (Lautner), angrily running off. Seems the mailman has brought him an invite to the wedding of the season in rustic Forks, Washington. Jacob’s best friend, Bella (Stewart) is to be wed to tan-deprived Edward (Pattinson) and he’s not very happy with the news. Edward himself is reluctant. Not that he doesn’t love Bella. It’s just that, for them to have children, it would help if she, too, became a vampire. Despite several bad omens telling her “no,” Bella and Edward walk down the aisle, then head off on the honeymoon of a lifetime. (I guess you could say an “after” life time). But love is not a guarantee of happiness.
The fourth film in the popular series (with a final film coming next year), “TBD-1” is smartly directed by Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters,” “Dreamgirls”) in a straight forward manner that keeps the film from bogging down in its last act. Helping keep the film moving is the outstanding camera work of cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who has shot some of Guillermo del Toro’s best work. The story should be familiar to “Twilight” fans. Not having read the books I don’t know if this last chapter could have been told in one film. The final 30 mins are padded with constant shots of a weakened Bella, her swollen belly and intermittent glances from Edward and Jacob.
The cast have obviously become comfortable in their roles, yet are strong enough to not appear lazy. With not a lot to do towards the end of the film but look worried, Pattinson and Lautner could have easily dialed their performances in. That they didn’t is a testament to Condon’s direction. Stewart gets the lion’s share of the dramatics here. Carrying a demon child can’t be healthy for anyone, but it really takes its toll on Bella. Highest marks to the make up people who turned the vibrant Stewart into a sickly, emaciated martyr-to-be. Both male leads are also comfortable in their skins, though it would be nice if Lautner didn’t squint so much. Speaking of skins, I’m not sure what the over/under was in Vegas but it takes approximately eight seconds into the film before Lautner takes his shirt off. The supporting cast earns their pay. It is their story that is the most interesting, especially the blood-sucking Cullen Family. Perhaps after the next film the producers can focus attention on them and give them their own movie. Peter Facinelli is strong as the patriarch of the family. In a recent interview I did with him I commented on how much I always thought he resembled Tom Cruise. Here, with his coloring and hair, he had me thinking of another vampire: Lestat from “Interview With the Vampire.” And I mean that comparison in a positive way.
The biggest disappointment to me were the visual effects used to create Jacob and his pack when they roam the woods as wolves. They move very herky/jerky, not gracefully as they should. It’s like the producers hired the guys that did the dogs on the top of the building in “Ghostbusters” to create the beasts. If the comments from the fans around me are to be believed, the screenplay is very true to the book. If you’ve read the books you are aware of the problems Bella deals with while with child. Parents may want to think twice about bringing their younger Twi-hards or at least anticipate covering their eyes. And please hang around during the end credits for a quick hint of “Breaking Dawn – Part 2.”