The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

17 Dec

Title: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Year: 2011
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Nikki Reed, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Julia Jones, Booboo Stewart, Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, MyAnna Buring, Maggie Grace, Casey LaBow, Michael Sheen, Jamie Campbell Bower
MPAA Rating: PG-13, disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements
Runtime: 117 min
IMDb Rating: 4.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 26%
Metacritic: 45


I have a weird kind of relationship with the Twilight franchise where I don’t know if I love it or not. I read all of the books the second each one of them came out, which means when I read them and imagined the stuff in my head I didn’t have Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson or Taylour Lautner to play the characters, and I liked all books just fine, Eclipse being my favorite. So of course I would see the films, and the first one was just okay, I would have given it a B- if I had graded it; the second film was a tiny bit better though still a B-; and then the third film was a marked improvement, and I gave it a B grade upon reviewing it in July of last year. So, what I’m trying to say is that the Twilight films, though still none being really great like the Harry Potter films were for a decade, have been getting better and better in my opinion, which filled me up with hope upon going into The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the first half of the final book in the series, that splitting-the-final-book-in-two strategy one they obviously took from the Harry Potter playbook.

A lot was made about the director hunt for this film, with people like Gus Van Sant being courted which would have been really interesting, and Sofia Coppola having reportedly turned down the opportunity because she only wanted to do one half of the final two installments and not commit to both, my love for her is unending so I would have loved to see how that turned out. The gig, of course, eventually went to Bill Condon, and I thought that was an inspired enough choice, this is the guy that directed Gods and Monsters, Kinsey and Dreamgirls, all very different films that showed the guy can handle quite a range with a consistent level of success. However, even though I would still recommend the film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 doesn’t continue to the trend of improving on the previous installment, representing a decline over the third entry in the franchise.

It’s just a slow film that has a lot of moments that you can’t help but laugh at even though they were obviously not made to elicit chuckles. The dialogue is just so stiff and the pacing so off that you can’t really connect with the film for extended periods of time, Mr. Condon pausing the action every ten minutes or so to give us a slow-motion look at some gorgeous person, that stuff just detracts a lot of any regular film, by which I’m only saying that these films aren’t regular, they are consumed in excessive amounts by a rabid fanbase that lives for those kinds of shots. Not to mention that I have issue with that PG-13 rating, I mean, I never once suspected that Summit would go for an R rating for a film that relies on the hoards of tweens that live and die for their allegiance to either Team Edward or Team Jacob (it’s already grossed nearly $645 million worldwide), but when you read the final book there are a lot of pivotal moments, and two of them are in this film, the honeymoon sex scene and the birth scene, and you can’t really do those moments right if you’re making a PG-13 movie, I’m really hoping there’s a director’s cut somewhere out there that will find its way on blu-ray.

Those are my main issues with this film really, and they’re things that are only off because of how the film needed to be, which is shame because other than that I actually think Mr. Condon did exactly what was asked of him, and did it well. The film is certainly well-made, and handles this really huge story in a nice way, delivering a two-hour film that’s really loaded and knows how to work both the campy elements and the romantic ones, even though a few of them will earn a few laughs they shouldn’t have, that’s just the fault of the dialogue. But the thing is that the loyal fans of the film will absolutely love those moments, and it’s pretty spectacular to get a film that has tapped into the vein of its fans so well, and even if you’re not a fan you still have to respect that.

Ridiculous as the dialogue may be most of the times, distractingly cheesy as the effects may get, stiff as the acting may appear, I will say one thing, Kristen Stewart’s pretty great in this one. I’ve always loved her as an actress, I think she has such an extraordinary amount of talent that she’s just bound to really give us a masterful performance sooner rather than later, obviously Twilight‘s not the platform for that, but that she makes so much out of the material she’s given here is really terrific. The film opens with those gorgeous invitations to the Bella-Edward nuptials that will fans squealing over the Carolina Herrera dress, and it also opens with Jacob receiving that invitation and ripping his shirt off in anger, because that’s just how these films go, and those squeals will get multiplied tenfold by the hoards of thirteen year-olds that have their moms paying for them to express a really huge amount of lust at such a young age.

Even if you can’t take this whole spectacle all that seriously you still have to be in awe of the heights it has reached. You have a guy falling in love with a baby, a girl losing her virginity in a way that may also cause her to lose her life and subsequently experience an accelerated pregnancy of a demonic baby that’s eating away her insides. The fact that I kind of bought into like half of those crazy things means that the film did something good, I think, and Mr. Pattinson and certainly Ms. Stewart appear to have really grown into these roles, and their own feelings about their superstardom and themselves (they’re a couple in real-life) seem to have added to how they play these roles. So we jet off to the coast of Brazil where the Cullen’s own a private island (natch), that’s where the aforementioned sex scene happens in disappointing fashion since you never fear for Bella’s life as much as you do for the bed they break.

After that honeymoon part we experience the pregnancy with Bella, and the final twenty minutes or so of the movie actually work hard to really amp up the craziness, and they do just that, as Bella starts becoming consumed by the child she’s bearing that will probably kill her, as the werewolves start camping outside to try to kill the unholy baby that’s about to come to the world, so much stuff happens in such campy manner that you can’t help but kind of dig it. The dialogue is horrible, but there are some nice moments that Mr. Condon somehow to brings out, and even if I didn’t think this one was as good as the third film in the franchise, I still really want to watch the final chapter, and I recommend this one because this is what Twilight is, a really epic and frantic melodrama about vampires with soap-operaish acting.

Grade: B-


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