The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 – Review (2)


Bill Condon and crew will need to Twi-harder for Part 2

Twilight is a phenomenon I don’t think I’ll ever understand. What began as a quartet of very successful, if poorly written novels, became a movie franchise where its sole purpose seemed to visually stimulate undersexed moms and frisky teens that fell in love with novels. It may be the biggest novel-to-screen adaptation since Harry Potter, but the two are farther apart when it comes to building audiences. There’s a reason why the Twilight films are so frontloaded and drop like stones in succeeding weeks; it can’t sustain viewership. Some women may be willing to exhale over and over again at vampire Edward’s hair or Jacob’s singular six-pack shot, but once it’s over they don’t come back for seconds.

Author Stephen King made an on-point comparison between the two franchises when he wrote,Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

In the case of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the franchise now shows why it’s important for an 18-year-old girl to marry and sleep with her new husband, who just happens to a vampire.

With each successive release, the franchise has been a revolving door for directors. After Catherine Hardwicke was removed from the series, unable to commit to a quick turnaround and have New Moon ready for the following year, Summit Entertainment went with hired hands Chris Weitz, then David Slade. The sequels seemed to lose the gothic romanticism that Twilight instilled, but Slade’s Eclipse proved to be progressively better than the previous entries.

Coming on board this time is a director venturing far outside his cinematic wheelhouse, Bill Condon. He last directed once-announced Oscar host Eddie Murphy to his first and probably last Academy Award nomination in Dreamgirls. With Condon in the director’s chair he’ll also hold the distinction of being the only filmmaker to make it through two Twilight movies and avoid teeth punctures to the jugular.

The usual players are back, led by Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, Robert Pattison as Edward Cullen, and Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black. The rest of the Swans, Cullens, friends, and, um, Wolfpack are there as well, but they see their roles greatly diminished this time around. Bella’s dad (Billy Burke) adds some much needed comic relief with his little screen time, and Jasper, by far the most interesting character – living or dead – doesn’t say much.

We open on Bella and Edward taking the next steps in their relationship, marriage. Jacob, who was the other suitor in the romantic triangle is there as well, seemingly unable to know when to concede the loss and allow the once threesome be a twosome for good. For such a lavish affair, surprisingly it doesn’t last long. The honeymoon off the coast of Rio De Janeiro is even more elaborate, with romantic interludes and poses you’d see gracing trashy romance novels. Then the unthinkable happens: Bella is accidentally impregnated. And with such a development, Bella makes a statement that seems to sum up this entire franchise:

“I know it’s impossible, but…”

Of course, it’s impossible. The series has done its best to destroy the mythos of the vampire by having him go from exploding in direct sunlight to sparkling. Now they’re telling us that dead guys with Rigor Mortis “downstairs” can impregnate teenage girls. And to have the deed be done to bad emo, college rock music is a sad turn of events. At least take a page out of The Lost Boys soundtrack and have them knock boots to Gerald McCann’s “Cry Little Sister.”

What’s really disappointing with Breaking Dawn is that for the first time it looks like the series is regressing when it should be intensifying to a thrilling conclusion. We’ve come to expect wooden acting from the players involved, but you’d imagine that after three movies the familiar cast matched with strong direction the series would continue to progress to the ultimate finale. With Breaking Dawn – Part 1, however, audiences don’t even get a movie. It opens on a wedding and climaxes with a birth. The cliffhanger is only revealed if you stay and watch a short scene before the credits roll.

Films like The Lord of the Rings trilogy can get away with a cliffhanger, because they are part of a large literary work, with each release acting as a part of the epic narrative. Here, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the decision to break the final novel up into two films was a pure financial windfall and nothing more.

In terms of the acting, Pattinson and Stewart are more aloof than ever. By now it’s trying in how to determine the difference between Stewart as Bella and Stewart as Stewart. Most of Pattinson’s performance is visual, as if director Bill Condon was giving him posing cues (“Okay, now give me brooding.”). Lautner has an increased role this time around, but sadly the additional screen time does not mean more ab shots. Instead, he has to make the best of his animal instincts as an actor.

If you have stuck with the Twilight series thus far my above observations will do little to sway you. Obviously this was more about a paycheck for Bill Condon – a check with a lot of extra zeroes is hard to turn down – and for some reason there’s a sense that his direction wasn’t all that different than Gus Van Sant on the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season (as seen in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back). It’s just a sad turn of events, to see an acclaimed director go from making such features as Gods and Monsters and Kinsey to film something Brett Ratner could have churned out.

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is stiff and lethargic. It never seems to strike the right balance of gothic and romance, and instead seems to give the impression that teenage pregnancy is okay if it’s with a vampire. To put it bluntly, this movie, like Edward on a hunger binge, bites hard.

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

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