Thanks to a variety of circumstances, I had managed to avoid directly consuming the twin phenomenons that are the Twilight series and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic for the majority of their lifespans. Twilight never interested me except as something to dissect, and although I was interested in My Little Pony based on good word of mouth, I believed that it wasn’t available by legal means in my neck of the woods.
Last week though, circumstances changed when it came to both: dad rented Breaking Dawn Part. 1, giving me both the opportunity to watch it without having to spend three to six dollars and an impetus to watch the final movie in theaters. Better yet, I realized that another channel besides the unavailable The Hub carried Friendship is Magic, meaning I could watch two episodes per day if I so chose. So, throughout the week, I caught six random episodes of ponies, and watched vampires decapitate one another on Saturday.
It’s weird. Twilight, when taken as a whole, is an incredibly problematic work. As a work of cinema, breaking dawn has little to recommend it when it comes to pacing, character development, tone, plot, originality, camera work, visuals, etcetera, etcetera. Meanwhile, My Little Pony was created/developed by the woman behind the excellent Super-Best Friends Forever shorts on DC Nation, has a devious sense of humor, likeable characters, a nice aesthetic, and, according to others, a certain something that makes it appealing to groups outside of its original intended demographic. And yet, after watching them both, I can say without reservation which one captivated me more, and it’s not the that most people in my circle would consider good.
I’ve mentioned that I tend to appreciate interesting concepts coupled with flawed execution more than I like the opposite. Generator Rex may have squandered every opportunity it had to be awesome, but in the end, it was a show about a world in which every organism in the world had been infected by a virus that could randomly mutate them into random monsters at random moments, which meant that I was willing to forgive a whole lot of bullshit if it meant not missing the moment when all that promise was realized (it never did).
The power of that sort of premise, to me, is it’s ability to suggest. Now matter how comprehensive the show is, there will always be tons of stuff they won’t be able to cover, which allows my imagination to step in and fill in the gaps.
As relates to Twilight, my lack of familiarity with most of the story helps immeasurably. Breaking Dawn is a story about characters with a history; they have had specific interactions that have led them to become the people on the screen. Given the series, the canonical version of that history probably isn’t all that all that interesting, but in any case, my ignorance of it allows me to set it aside in favor of whatever I put my mind to. I can think of Alice and Bella as besties, or that Bella and Edwards’s relationship is actually based on mutual respect for one another. As far as I know, the Volturi, the awesomely campy cabal of vampire baddies in hoods that form the locus of conflict in the second movie have done nothing to make me doubt their competence. It makes it much easier to root for the characters, who are generally played by actors, who if nothing else, are very pretty and don’t take me out of the action–that’s the director’s job.
Sure, the first part, dealing mostly with Bella’s wedding, honeymoon is rather boring . But it’s an interesting kind of boring. It’s boring I’d never seen attempted before and features Ashley Greene as Alice and a cameo by Anna Kendrick, whom I’ll always have time for (I can’t believe I missed Pitch Perfect). The second part, on the other hand, deals with vampires all over the world (a lot of them with superpowers that come in addition to the standard vampire deal) choosing sides for the conflict that may ensue due to Bella and Edward’s half-vampire kid. It features the good guy vampires reuniting form a war council, which is a trope I have excessive amounts of love for, and actors like scruffy Lee Pace (love) and Rami Malek, who steals every scene he’s in as Benjamin, a vampire who is basically also the Avatar. Basically, there’s pretty people and oddball accents galore, culminating in a battle scene that ends in a way I think is both a cop-out and brilliant. By the end, when the credits start rolling in a really retrospective-y way that highlights, again, the history the actors have with each other, I was getting a little misty, not because I cared about Bella or Edward, but because I was saying goodbye to a ‘verse, that, with a little love and tender care, could have been something special. I may never get to see that spin-off movie where Alice and Benjamin travel across the world being awesome, but a guy can dream, can’t he?
Ironically, Friendship is Magic, which I feel is supposed to be about the power of imagination, doesn’t manage to press those buttons. Although the world-building is solid and surprisingly well thought out, and I have little doubt, way more coherent than Twilight’s, the episodes themselves feel too pat to elicit curiosity. Coupled with (as far as I’ve seen) rather predictable plotting, it does little to elicit my attention. It’s not a bad work, but its one that is clearly not aimed at me, and that’s fine.