Breaking Dawn Part One: I would’ve loved to have a proper Breaking Dawn 1.0 review for you this weekend, but I was out of town for the screening, which, by the way, had lots of hilarious warnings about not bringing any kind of cellular phone into the theater. Because, you know, the plot of Breaking Dawn is a closely guarded secret, except for that tiny instance of it being spelled out in some kind of novel of the same name that sold a few jillion copies, and if there’s one thing Twilight fans absolutely won’t do, it’s spend money on a theatrical release of a movie when they could possibly download it somewhere (and of course if there’s one thing professional film critics do, it’s bootleg movies on their cell phones). Here’s my question: why is this two movies?
I mean, obviously the answer is money. But logistically, it seems actually pretty difficult. These aren’t the Harry Potter books, teeming with world-building and supporting characters and beloved subplots. My understanding of the last act of the Twilight story arc, which comes mainly from my wife reading the Wikipedia recaps (deciding, I think correctly, that even as far as trashy reading goes, Wikipedia trumps Stephanie Meyer), is that it has more than enough events for one movie, which puts it way above the first three. (Here’s a recap: there’s a vampire, a girl, and then a werewolf. And sometimes other vampires and werewolves, who barely fight. No sex. The end. Or is it?!) But “more than enough for one” does not necessarily equal “two,” and—SPOILER ALERT!—it sounds like part one contains the wedding, the sex, and the birth of a vampire baby. What’s left over after that sounds suitable for maybe a 15-minute DVD-only epilogue, but apparently Summit is making Bill Condon turn it into an entire feature film. I’m wondering if maybe that anticlimax is going to be just a smidge less awesome than its Harry Potter equivalent (which it sounds like would be Deathly Hallows, Part One, not the action-packed Part Two). In other words: dessert first! If there’s ever a Twilight movie that sounds like it might actually fulfill its camp-pulp-gothic-romance potential, this may be it.
The Descendants: I haven’t seen Alexander Payne’s latest, and I considered using this space to explain why About Schmidt and Election are significantly better than Sideways, my argument pretty much boils down to “they are way funnier,” so: done and done. The strange overrating of Sideways nonwithstanding (theory: some people do not like for things to be funny), I’m looking forward to the return of Payne’s satirical-humanistic stories of middle-aged men in deadpan crisis. I hope it’s not crushed under the expectant weight of presumed Oscar-contention status.
Happy Feet Two: I saw Happy Feet One and I’ve seen countless trailers and TV ads for this one, but I could not for the life of me tell you what this movie is about, except probably penguins. Contrary to the post-2000 model of sequels getting bigger and more popular than the movies that spawned them, animation, with the exception of the Toy Story series, hasn’t had much luck: this year both Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2 made almost exactly 77% of their predecessors’ gross; I kinda thought that both had a shot at 100% or better. My gut feeling says that families haven’t been religiously rewatching Happy Feet with the same fervor of Panda or Cars over the past five years, and that animation tends to favor new stuff over franchise stuff, which puts Happy Feet Two at around $150 million domestic. This whole enterprise seems like a pretty big expense just to make $150 million domestic, but then again, see like five to fifteen summer movies per year for a similar equation.