Movie Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2

Image via Screen Rant

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

I’m not sure what I’m more embarrassed about: that I spent my Friday night watching “Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2,” or that it took me almost a year and a half to finally get around to watching it (see Pt. 1’s review here).

Either way, I’m glad to say that I’m finished with the series. It seems so long ago when I read the books before the movies were released and found myself on this bandwagon. While I liked the supernatural, forbidden love between Edward and Bella in the beginning, I felt that Stephenie Meyer ruined everything in Breaking Dawn.

For those who are blissfully unaware of this story, let me summarize this outrageously far-fetched, poorly designed plot:

  • 18-year-old mortal Bella Swan is celebrating her honeymoon with her vampire husband Edward Cullen, and even though vampires don’t have blood running in their veins, he somehow manages to impregnate her.
  • Bella is almost killed by her hybrid baby, who is growing at an abnormal rate, but is “saved” when Edward turns her into a vampire.

Team baby!

  • Bella falls in love with the daughter that almost destroyed her from the inside out, and names her Renesmee, because combining the names of your mother and mother-in-law is a totally normal thing to do. Nicknaming her “Nessie” is even more normal, by the way.

I know, right?

  • Bella’s other love interest, werewolf Jacob Black, imprints on Renesmee, which means that he found his soulmate in a toddler and now has to wait years before consummating anything. But don’t worry, she ages quickly!
  • The Volturi, aka the vampire mafia, hear word that a supposedly bloodthirsty immortal child has been born, and seek to annihilate it and the entire Cullen coven.
  • Things escalate into this huge battle between vampires and werewolves against the Volturi, but since Renesmee is actually only half-vampire and not immortal/dangerous after all, the Volturi discover that it was all a big misunderstanding and leave. Happily ever after ensues.

Yeah, no kidding!

Ugh, that summary was painful to write; I don’t know how Meyer could stomach the entire novel. She has a disheartening way of building up tension and then completely deflating it, whether it was ruining the highly anticipated honeymoon with a fatal pregnancy or foreshadowing an epic battle that never actually happens.

The saving grace of the film version (besides the sexy Lee Pace as Garrett!) is that Meyer changed the script slightly so that it wasn’t as downright boring. Disappointing still, but an improvement nonetheless. But young-adult fiction fans of other action-packed blockbusters like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games will fall asleep during this snoozefest.

Thank goodness for Lee Pace keeping me awake!

It’s unfortunate that authors can’t seem to find that happy medium between making the finale a bloodbath and eliminating all obstacles with little sacrifice. Because what’s frustrating about Breaking Dawn is just how easy it all seems.

Bella is blessed with powerful defensive capabilities as a vampire despite her lack of grace, intrigue, or uniqueness as a human. Like her new relatives, she becomes strikingly beautiful and strong, but without the thirst and pain of adjusting to her undead lifestyle.

It wouldn’t be that difficult for young female readers to interpret the message of this saga as “Find a prince to marry and have babies with, and all your problems will be solved! Love conquers all!”

Seriously!

And what’s more upsetting about Renesmee than her disturbing aging special effects is that she’s branded by a man since the moment of her birth. Sadly, she inherited from her mother a lack of autonomy; instead of having the opportunity of making her own decisions, she’s immediately defined by her partner.

I could go on and on about how the Twilight saga needs a hearty dose of feminism, but I’d be writing for as long as vampires live. All I’ll say is that I’m relieved that this bandwagon has finally come to an end. “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 2” was better than the book, but given how bad it was in print, the silver screen couldn’t make a significant enough improvement to warrant recommendation.

Self-explanatory

Movie Review: Catching Fire

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Apologies for the delay, but I’m finally recovering after suffering a cold for the past couple days. But I’m back and ready to share my thoughts on November’s biggest film!

I may anger a lot of fans by beginning my post this way, but here it goes: I know that The Hunger Games gets compared to Twilight simply for being blockbuster series with teenage love triangles, but a part of me now understands the comparison.

Point taken, but I still went there!

Hear me out!

The similarity has mostly to do with my opinion of each story’s ending rather than anything serious, like female autonomy and benevolent sexism. It’s just that at this stage in my life, I’m watching these movies just to go through the motions because I’m dreading how it all will conclude.

Those who have been reading Book Club Babe know how much I despised Mockingjay, so it makes sense that I was only moderately excited about seeing “Catching Fire.” (If you want to see me ecstatic, join me at the “The Desolation of Smaug” premiere!)

One more week until the gratuitous inclusion of Legolas! #SorryNotSorry

But just like “Breaking Dawn” was so horrendous that I haven’t even gotten around to finishing the final film, I’m feeling lukewarm about this dystopia. To me, the genre needs a well-deserved break because this bandwagon feels two years old.

(Speaking of outdated, here’s another inflammatory opinion: “Divergent” sounds like a cheap knockoff riding the dystopian wave, and watching the trailer before “Catching Fire” only reinforced my belief that I’m so ready for something new).

That being said, I’m not here to judge a movie based on its inevitable sequel. I actually have little negative to say about “Catching Fire,” like so many other viewers.

All the actors in the film did a great job, from Jennifer Lawrence suffering nightmares as Katniss to Stanley Tucci as the sickeningly sycophantic Caesar Flickerman. I was simultaneously admiring and scorning the Capitol’s display of weath, with their flamboyant costumes and ostentatious parties.

In fact, it was interesting to watch this movie with both my parents this time, since my dad and I are the only ones in my immediate family who have read the book. My mom hadn’t even seen “The Hunger Games,” so all she knew was the quick explanation we gave her on the way to the theater.

Ever filled with kindness, my mom found it difficult to stomach the story, and I don’t blame her. The unnecessary violence and disparity in socioeconomic power is disgusting and infuriating. I can only hope that people desire the same change in our own society as they want for Panem.

They didn’t call it “panem et circenses” for nothing!

All in all, watching “Catching Fire” was timely during Thanksgiving, reminding me to grateful for all that I have. And even though this whole splitting the finale into two films is another trend that won’t die, I’m just thankful that such a disappointing ending will be recreated by an amazing cast and crew.

Now move over dystopias, and make way for the hobbits!

Movie Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1

Rating: 1 out of 5

I’m about half-way done with Kafka’s The Trial, which keeps getting stranger and stranger. The gist of the story is that the protagonist has been accused of a crime that he doesn’t even know if he committed, since no one will tell him any details of his case. At one point, he complains about the incompetency of a few officials, only to find them being tortured while at work.

You know what else was torture? Having to watch the latest Twilight film.

Earlier this month, my younger brother, his girlfriend, and I were messing around and playing games when we decided to watch the movie, ironically, of course. We’d have a laugh making fun of the whole thing, and then I’d be able to blog about it for all of you.

I just want to say that I hope you’re grateful that I watched this horrendous movie, so you don’t have to. I apologize for the review being so late, since it debuted last November, but how can you muster up enthusiasm for a film that you know is going to suck?

I’m not insulting it because I hate Twilight. In fact, I read the series in 2007, the summer before my freshman year of college. I gobbled up the first three novels before Twilight’s adaptation even premiered, because I’m such a sucker for romance. This is embarrassing to reveal, but I also went to the midnight release of the fourth and final novel Breaking Dawn.

And that’s where my hatred of Twilight started. If you don’t know the story, let me sum it up for you: Bella is madly in love with vampire Edward and wants to consummate their relationship, but Edward, being the old-fashioned guy that he is, wants to wait until they’re married.

You mean to tell me you couldn’t make a better dress with this movie budget?

So at 18-years-old, Bella marries Edward, then they jet off together on a tropical honeymoon. They finally have sex, which is a rare feat between a human and vampire, because vampires normally kill their lovers due to their bloodlust.

And because she didn’t think she could get pregnant by a vampire, Bella didn’t concern herself with contraception. She becomes impregnated with a hybrid baby, which develops rapidly and is essentially destroying her from the inside out.

I hope you learned your lesson, Bella…

As if this story couldn’t get any more self-righteous, Bella and her vampire family fight about whether to abort the baby, but Bella decides to keep it and realizes that drinking blood helps the situation a bit. When she finally goes into labor (her father-in-law’s a doctor, conveniently), Edward is forced to turn her into a vampire before the baby breaks all her bones and kills her.

That’s where “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1” ends. Director Bill Condon decided to copy the “Harry Potter” series and divide the last installment into two films, the second of which will be released this November. Thus, I gave this movie only one star not just because it sucked, but because the book also sucked.

I’ll admit that I’m a socially liberal feminist, so I did not appreciate how author Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism influenced Breaking Dawn. I felt like it was a poorly-written glorification of teen marriage and parenthood. Instead of throwing her whole life away for a guy, why couldn’t Bella go to college, find a steady job, and meet someone who doesn’t have anger and control issues? That wouldn’t be nearly as popular with the Twihards, but I question the values supported in this series and their effects of these impressionable fangirls.

Besides the dangerous piety, the movie was just plain boring. There was absolutely no reason to split this story up, because there simply wasn’t enough action to warrant it. This film drew out the wedding, honeymoon, and pregnancy to excessive lengths–two hours to be exact. I’m afraid that all movie adaptations of books will imitate the “Harry Potter” strategy (“The Hunger Games” is already on board with the idea), whether it’s needed or not. Hollywood should care less about profits and more about creating an engaging finale.

All in all, “Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1” was dull, slow, cheesy, melodramatic, and accompanied by an obnoxiously loud and annoying soundtrack. It deserves its 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not to mention, I watched it after the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal broke it, so her romance with her co-star/now-ex-boyfriend Robert Pattinson was not very convincing. That’s not saying much, since Stewart’s acting abilities were never convincing.

The only Stewart that Robert Pattinson needs!

I’m sure that I’ll watch Pt. 2 when it comes out on DVD, just to be rid of this overrated series. It’s sad that I was such a huge supporter of the books before the bandwagon exploded, but this last novel completely ruined the saga for me.

However, there is a silver lining. Meyer must be aware of how much Breaking Dawn sucked, because she’s changed the ending for the last movie. It’s going to be super awkward to watch Stewart and Pattinson make their rounds on the talk shows for publicity amidst their real-life drama, but who knows? Maybe their characters will be obliterated in some sort of freak accident.

Here’s to hoping, anyway.

Book Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

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Image via Goodreads

WARNING: If you have not read The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, do NOT read this review. SPOILER ALERT!

Rating: 3 out of 5 (the ending itself: 1 out of 5)

If you’re like me, you rushed right into Mockingjay because Catching Fire left on such a cliffhanger. Katniss destroyed the arena by shooting a weak spot in the force-field, and then was rescued by Haymitch and the District 13 rebels.

Unfortunately, Peeta was captured by the Capitol, and District 12 was obliterated in retaliation. Now the finale documents Katniss’ journey to rally the districts together, save Peeta, and kill President Snow. Sounds hard enough, until she starts doubting the rebels’ motives and questioning whether she’s being manipulated yet again.

It was extremely difficult for me to process this novel. I couldn’t sleep last night, because my mind was whirring with reflection. I decided that I have two opinions, one for the majority of the book and the other for the ending (the last 50 pages or so).

First, I enjoyed most of Mockingjay. Like the previous two in the series, I was riveted to the story. I had to be dragged away from it. I cared about the characters and wanted the best for all of them. The fear over what was happening to Peeta drove me just as crazy as Katniss, and I was equally as impatient to end the war and breath a well-deserved sigh of victory.

Well, that sigh of victory never came. As soon as the rebels I loved started dying off (especially Finnick), I knew that something was wrong. And when Prim was killed, I felt that any hope for poetic justice was also burnt to a crisp. This whole time I waited for Katniss to find her courage and bring Panem into a golden age, but I was sorely disappointed.

And before you start arguing that that was Collins’ whole point, that war destroys happy endings, that life isn’t fair, JUST STOP. I don’t want to hear it. I never said I needed a cliche happy ending, but I did need a sense of closure. Collins dangled hope in our faces, and then cruelly jerked it away at the end. I get it, war sucks, but there are books out there that address that message and still manage to leave the reader satisfied.

Case in point, Harry Potter. Imagine if the entire series built up to this epic battle between Harry and Voldemort, and then instead of destroying the villain from the inside out via Horcrux, Harry becomes hospitalized while Voldemort dies from choking on his own laugh. Harry misses the entire climax of the war, and when he wakes up, Ron’s dead, all his friends are shipped off to different countries, and he hooks up with Ginny not out of true love but because there’s nothing else better to do. Oh, and then he’s coerced into reproducing, bringing his children into a world that you feel hasn’t quite learned its lesson.

THAT’S HOW THE HUNGER GAMES ENDED.

If you’re not pissed, then either you enjoy feeling like a Dementor just sucked all the happiness out of your life or you don’t require enough from an author. I’ve loved every minute of the series, but just because Collins decided to take the “Sorry, life’s not rainbows and butterflies” escape route, I regret recommending this series to everyone around me. I would never wish that depression and frustration on anybody, but if you’ve already started reading the trilogy, hurry up and finish it so you can move on with your life.

I’ve read reviews by other hurt readers, and I agree with their points. Katniss was a total weakling in this novel: where was the girl on fire who defied the Capitol in her first games? Instead we get a girl who’s medicated and out of the loop most of the time. Sure, she’s only 17, but she had absolutely no agency whatsoever. In the end, she’s shoved back to District 12 while more corrupted adults tell her what to do, even who to choose–since Gale’s shipped off so unceremoniously to District 2 you don’t have to time to react.

I know that Katniss would pick Peeta regardless, after Gale most likely murdered her sister due to his obsession with violence. But it’s a default choice, like all the others she makes in Mockingjay. I understand that nobody would ever be the same after experiences like hers, but then you pull a Frodo and travel to a place where your pain won’t affect others, where you can live in true peace. Could you imagine Frodo marrying some hobbit and having kids like someone normal, after all he’s been through? (And yes, this argument also applies to Harry Potter, as I didn’t particularly like the Epilogue in Deathly Hallows either. But at least there will never be another Voldemort…I can’t say another President Snow or Coin wouldn’t rise again in Panem).

I also agree with readers who say that this series should have never been written in first person. Katniss is a pretty boring character in Mockingjay, and I would’ve appreciated insight into Peeta, Gale, even Prim, Johanna, or Finnick. I missed out on the end of the war because Katniss got herself turned into a fire-mutt–a rather lousy attempt to wrap things up. I couldn’t even cry over characters’ deaths, because the story wasn’t emotional enough to draw out my sympathy.

Overall, Mockingjay had redeeming qualities, unlike Meyer’s Breaking Dawn, but I felt extremely cheated anyway. I went to bed in a deep depression, but woke up angry. How dare Collins do this to her fanbase! In fact, I actually wouldn’t mind if the movie producers went in a completely different direction with this novel, because I know I would.

If you want a story about a corrupt alternate universe with characters that pull at your heart-strings and a story that changes your life in a sorrowful, but satisfying way, read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro expresses true human emotion without sugarcoating it like Meyer or hacking it to pieces like Collins, and because of that, he is one of the authors whom I admire the most.

I’ll continue to look forward to The Hunger Games film, but with less excitement than before, because now I know how it will all end. I know I’ve ranted quite a bit, but I’d love to hear what you all think, whether you agree with me or not. Just don’t tell me to give it a second chance, because I promise you I won’t be reading this series again.

Book Review: The Hunger Games

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Image via Goodreads

Rating: 5 out of 5

I know that I may be late on the bandwagon, given that Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games was published in 2008, but since the film isn’t going to be released until March 23, 2012, I figured better late than never, right?

And boy, I was not disappointed. Usually, I can sense a bestseller right away: I read the Twilight saga over four years ago after hearing all the buzz, and I recommended it to my friends way before the first movie came out. Now, I’m not here to compare the two series in depth, because I haven’t read Collins’ sequels yet, but looking at the first novels of each series, I would say that The Hunger Games trumps Twilight in terms of writing prowess and originality, but Twilight still wins in the romance department (since Gale wasn’t physically present in The Hunger Games to make a true love triangle). But unless the next two books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, suck as hard as Breaking Dawn, I tentatively award The Hunger Games trilogy the winner of recent YA bestsellers.

But enough of vampires and werewolves. Time to talk about Panem, the post-apocalyptic North America that is broken up into 12 districts (the 13th being completely destroyed during a past uprising). In order to keep the common folk down, the Capitol has created the Hunger Games, an annual event which requires a boy and girl (ages 12-18) from each of the 12 districts to fight to the death on live television. The protagonist, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, volunteers to take her 12-year-old sister Prim’s place as the tribute from District 12. The baker’s son Peeta Mellark is also chosen, and the novel follows their struggle to stay alive in an arena where if the other children don’t kill you, starvation, killer wasps, and other surprises will.

Greek myth lovers will notice the resemblance to the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, which inspired Collins–as well as the author’s channel-surfing between a reality competition and footage of the Iraq War. Both inspirations are highlighted, as fantasy, rivalry, and violence merge. I was as grossly captivated by the Games as the citizens of Panem were, and I felt the same mixed feelings of victory and guilt as Katniss did whenever another tribute died. The writing is suspenseful, the scenes action-packed, and the message powerful and haunting.

I have very few complaints, other than the pacing was slow at times and some of the tributes’ deaths were anti-climatic. Overall, though, it was an excellent read and worthy of all its fame. Now I’m like every other fan and putting a lot of faith in the movie, which as of now, the cast and alleged PG-13 rating are making me nervous. The kids were dirty and emaciated, and the fights were brutal, and I would hate it if a bunch of Hollywood heart-throbs watered down this gritty story.

It’s called the “Hunger Games” for a reason, guys! (IMAGE CREDIT: JEFF RIEDEL AND EW)

I’d love to start reading Catching Fire right now, but I have to pack for a much-needed beach vacation! I won’t be blogging over the weekend, but if you’ve read The Hunger Games, let me know what you thought of it, and you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, it’s not too late! With Harry Potter finished and Twilight coming to an end, this series will be the next big thing–trust me!