The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – Review


Fans will enjoy it, at least

Out of all the franchises to become blockbusters out of nowhere, no one expected Twilight to become the sort of pop culture moment it has since Twilight debuted in theatres to almost $70 million in box office receipts. Part punch line and part phenomenon, the book series that spawned the film franchise proved to be almost as big a draw to theatres as a franchise of Harry Potter films was. And now, much like that franchise, the final installment in the series is being released a year apart in two separate films. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part 1) sets up the franchise’s final act.

This time around focuses on the relationship drama between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) and the mess they make finally consummating the grand love affair that started in Twilight. Married, the film’s opening act follows a “wedding of the century” type for the two with all the drama involving Jacob (Taylor Lautner) having dissipated (though we are treated to a scene of him taking his shirt off for a run immediately after getting the wedding invitation). Following their wedding, the newlyweds take their honeymoon in Brazil and something completely impossible happens: the mortal Bella finds herself pregnant with Edward’s child.

With the child slowly killing her, and all parties in the werewolf/vampire rivalry taking interest in her pregnancy, the film follows the consequences of her pregnancy and the eventual battle over their child that it’ll cause. The film ends with the second part of the book it was based on, with Bella finally becoming a vampire and the stage is set for a climatic third act. It’s also fairly toned down from the book; this is a PG-13 film and as such the story (which lends itself closer to an R than a PG-13) is toned down in its intensity because of it. But that’s not the film’s problem; the elements in a novel can afford to be over the top because it’s about imagination as opposed to the visual medium cinema provides.

The problem is that the film is mainly a valentine to fans of the book and nothing else. If you haven’t watched the films from the start you won’t be able to get into the film nearly at the end point. Unlike Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which was just the culmination of a good vs. evil story on an epic level, Twilight is an epic romance. Romance is more about characters than archetypes; you need to know the characters well to be able to get into the final act of their grand love affair. You can’t jump in midstream without getting horribly lost because this is a tightly plotted melodrama over a handful of acts instead of an over-arching story taking place. The film’s cliff-hanger is well designed, oddly enough. By the time the film ends the awaiting conclusion feels like it should be continuing instead of stopping mid-stream.

The film is so dense with characters and subplots, as well as motivations that you have to be there from the beginning to get into it. If you haven’t been then you just can’t get into the film; unfortunately it puts handcuffs on a strong story-teller like Bill Condon. He’s preaching to the choir, having come in as a director for hire on the fourth film, and doesn’t have room to craft a film in his own image as opposed to the images of the three films already made. There’s no room for him to be able to do something extraordinary in it; it’s shocking just how pedestrian he becomes with the material. He’s not out to rock the boat or inject some new energy into the film; for someone with a pedigree like Condon has it’s almost disappointing just how mediocre he tells this story.

If you’re a fan of Twilight going in you won’t be disappointed, as this is a film designed for fans of both Team Edward and Team Jacob. Unfortunately anyone rooting for Team Everyone Else will be significantly disappointing.

Director: Bill Condon
Notable Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick,
Writer(s): Melissa Rosenberg based off the novel “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer

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