2 Stars out of 4
Calling Twilight a “saga” is like calling Jersey Shore a human drama. I’m sure when Twilight: New Moon ended with Edward whispering “marry me” to Bela, the Old Norse poets would have rolled around in their graves. A “saga” I’m sure is what this series wants to evoke, but Breaking Dawn Part 1 is cold-hard evidence this series, originally written by Stephenie Meyer, is now sucking on the vein of soap opera.
Breaking Dawn Part 1, however, is notable for one achievement: it is the first film since Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires in 1915 to dramatize a wedding with the groom a vampire. Yes, in Breaking Dawn Part 1 we are cordially invited to the wedding of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and Bela Swan (Kristen Stewart). Filmed like a prom queen’s fantasy the opening captures all the tiny preparations, from finalizing the wedding dress to the last dabs of mascara, as 18 year-old Bela nervously anticipates the big event. As a “saga”, you by now have to think they are joking.
But no. Things will get hairy, I promise. The arrival of the hot and hunky Jacob (Razzie-worthy Taylor Lautner, you might get lost in his eyes) is not a long wait. An even shorter one is the amount of time it takes to remove his shirt. He proudly wears those pecs the way James Dean did his red jacket. In a whirlwind of his own conflicts of interest, Jacob tries to protect Bela (and, thus, reluctantly her new vampire family) from his own Wolf Pack who want to annul the “Treaty” and destroy the vampires forever.
So dramatic. But first, eroticism blooms. On their honeymoon in Brazil, Bela wants Edward to pop her proverbial cherry. Oh, it happens. You know what I mean? The moment we’ve all been waiting for. But in a quick flash of teasing closeups, the moment ends so abruptly you wonder whether the MPAA got involved, or Edward is terribly premature. But fear not, we witness one orgasm: the bed. In convulses to the point it splinters into timber blocks. So wait, is this called Breaking Dawn or Breaking Bed?
Not sure. Either way, the plot reveals that amidst the bed-breaking flurry Bela was impregnated. She is to have Edward’s first child, and that is much to the displeasure of Jacob. Worst yet, Bela falls terribly ill. There is even talk of removing the child. Many words are shouted out, delivering a few unintentional laughs, but no one somehow knew the word “abortion.” Bela wants to keep it, even if it means her life. Note: compliments to the make-up department; they make Bela look vividly pale and skeletal in her sickness.
But you know you are in trouble when I pay a compliment to the make-up department and not the director. Breaking Dawn Part 1 is directed by Bill Condon, who – curiously – did the two excellent films Kinsey and Dream Girls. Condon is talented. Somehow it is visible here. I think with Breaking Dawn Part 1 he attempts a more understated, nuance approach but he’s drawing square circles. This style simply does not stretch with actors who would not make the cut for a high school play.
Kristen Stewart has picked up her game though. I think she’s a good actress (see The Runaways, Adventureland) even if she usually strums only notes of deadpan. I noticed Breaking Dawn Part 1 was trying to tell more of Bela’s story. There is an effort to psychologically penetrate her character, and Stewart thankfully is the only presence here capable of that.
The film remains, unfortunately, curiously random. There are too many tones, questions, and flaws that go unalleviated. The movie has patches of conflict, but never tries to sow in the tension. There are, also, awkward surreal sequences that would make Salvador Dalí gag. At one moment Jacob has a premonition of him and Bela’s daughter (yes, it’s a girl!). But who knows what that means.
But stick around (I know you will). Perhaps these holes will be filled next year in the film’s final chapter. Even if they are, no one will be able to answer why this series has never taken off. The series deserves credit for staying faithful to Meyer’s books, but that could be precisely the problem.
Sure, I would recommend this to Twilight fans (not that they need one), but I would not recommend this to a human being. One way or another, there is a fascination. Never have I seen a series make so much money while it continues to produce such consecutive cinematic nonevents.
Note: I have left out many plot details not simply to avoid spoilers, but backlash from Twilight connoisseurs about any technical errors I could have made. How did I do, guys?