Review | The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1

Every cynical viewer of the Twilight movies has a particularly memorable “What the hell?” moment. Here’s mine: Jacob (Taylor Lautner) angrily flees the Cullen family compound in wolf form after he learns that vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson) has impregnated his new bride Bella (Kristen Stewart). After seeing Bella wasted away, being consumed from the inside out by the demon spawn, he calls on his wolf pack (we know because we’re suddenly shot inside his head, privy to the inner monologues of his comrades). The CGI beasts gather, snarling and pacing, and proceed to argue over whether to kill the vampire-human hybrid mommy-eating baby … cognitively.

What. The. Hell.

It’s not like we haven’t had three previous films to warn us: The plot of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1 is utterly absurd, the dialogue is clunky and unimaginative, and the acting is varying degrees of sub-par. Luckily, the franchise nabbed a director who understands the inherent campiness at play, and makes a concerted effort to extract it. It’s clear that Bill Condon is far superior to the material, but he sure does attempt to transform the fourth installment of this mind-numbingly emo series into something resembling a faceted, entertaining experience.

And, in some ways, he succeeds.

It probably goes without saying, but if you haven’t seen the previous three Twilight movies, you’re going to be mighty confused by Breaking Dawn — Part 1. Not only does the narrative jump right in where Eclipse left off, but this installment weaves in a refreshing bit of subtlety — for every overly expositional set of statements, there’s a veiled hint at items only devout readers of the original material would notice (the first mention of imprinting in Breaking Dawn, for example, includes references to secondary storylines hashed out exclusively in author Stephenie Meyer’s novel).

We open on a shot panning down from rainclouds, over a roof and onto a front door, where Jacob exits, angrily fleeing the Black family compound (are you having deja vu from my first paragraph yet? If this script was a Mad Lib, every blank line after Jacob’s name would be filled in with “angrily flees”), flinging a piece of paper to the ground, ripping off his shirt (savor this moment; unlike the Twilight movies of yore, this is the only time you’ll gaze upon Jake’s bodacious bare bod) and transforming into a werewolf. We see the paper on the ground: Bella and Edward’s wedding invitation.

Next up is the ceremony, handled in decisive edits and seeped in fun energy. Alongside Bella’s nerves, Alice’s (Ashley Greene) fussing as stylist/planner and Edward’s trademark holding-in-a-bout-of-bad-gas expression, we’re treated to some hilariously sarcastic banter from Bella’s classmates (led by the one spark of talent in these films, Anna Kendrick as Jessica), a surprisingly intimately shot trip down the aisle (we linger on the close-up details of Bella’s dress, expressions on the guests’ faces, the bouquet in her hands), a frenetic quick-fire edit of wedding toasts, and then the couple is off to the honeymoon — one last human trip for Bella until, as they agreed, Edward turns her into a vampire.

This is where things get good. Condon delves right into the nervous tension of their wedding night, secluded on an island near Rio de Janeiro. Before the Deed, Bella rushes off to the bathroom for a “human moment,” to brush her teeth, comb her hair, shave her legs. It’s handled with an air of quirkiness, and Stewart — dare I say it? — emotes more realness and likability in this scene than any other in the previous three films. And then, yes, there’s headboard crushing … and pillow ripping … and lots of PG-13-friendly petting. After Edward exerts too much sexytime strength (minorly bruising his blushing bride) and refuses to do her again until she’s turned, Bella launches into a days-long tease-fest, to the tune of awkward lingerie modeling and some seriously sultry games of chess.

Their bubble is ultimately burst when Bella lands herself on the fast track to preggo, something the two never considered a possibility — and something that, as Peter Facinelli’s Carlisle later explains, there’s no precedent for. (Worth noting: the “Oh, shit” look on Edward’s face as Bella explains her condition over the phone is pretty much worth the price of admission.) Within weeks, Bella is holed up at the Cullen compound, heavily pregnant, gaunt, hollow-eyed and starving to death, thanks to her rapidly growing fetus. The make-up and CGI effects are pretty harrowing, especially during a shot of Bella as she takes off her robe before bathing. If cheekbones and rib cages could kill …

So this brings us around to where I started: Jacob, still in love with Bella, drops the knowledge on his pack, the wolves consider the fetus a violation of the long-standing werewolf-vampire treaty, and loyalties are tested. This is also where the pace of the movie slows considerably, giving way to the trademark melodrama of its unnecessarily complicated (without being complex) story and lending far too much screen time to the wooden delivery of its players (Jackson Rathborne’s Jasper lets loose one particular line that makes you wonder whether Condon is purposely poking fun at the actor’s inability to inflect).

The slog is worth it, though, because Condon delivers a gloriously campy, gory, horror-style ending that could easily stand alongside Darren Aronofsky’s recently released anti-meth PSAs. “If I’d asked, ‘Can vampire sex lead to high-risk pregnancy?’ I wouldn’t be asking.” And for anyone musing over where exactly the film leaves off (knowing full well we’ve still got one more to go), Condon chooses a perfect moment. Another PSA, if you will: Sit through the credits (which happen to be quite well-designed, graphic sans-serif font in stark blacks, whites and reds) for an important scene.

Thanks to Condon’s fresh take, I’m slowly edging my way from apathy to curiosity regarding the final Twilight movie. It’s not like the material’s going to get any better, or the roles will be re-cast, but if the treatment of Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is any indication, there are still some surprises left in store.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 opens today nationwide.

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Comments

  • http://twitter.com/04nbod Nicola Boden

    Why haven’t people gone nuts over the obviously paedophilic undertones of Jacob’s imprinting?

  • http://twitter.com/katieisms Katie Calautti

    Some have, for sure…I just personally didn’t want to go there because it’s a bit spoilery.

  • http://twitter.com/andrew72287 Andrew Williams

    Nothing ‘gets good’ when it comes to this franchise.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Because while the baby is a child, the love is platonic. Not romantic. That won’t kick in until later.

  • Anonymous

    i thought I was the only one who noticed this…..oh I’m gonna have your baby as soon as possible cos I cant have the mum….nothing like open grooming to keep the puppy at home!!!!

  • ANGIE_WALLACE99

    THIS MOVIE IS THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN.   CAN;T WAIT FOR THE NEXT ONE

  • Scud

    This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

  • http://twitter.com/andrew72287 Andrew Williams

    I’d say we should be going crazy over the obviously paedophilic undertones of a 100 something vampire getting together with a high school girl.

  • William

    Terrible review. The fact that the Werewolves communicate telepathically amongst each other was established in the second and third films.

  • http://twitter.com/katieisms Katie Calautti

    I was commenting solely on the scene, not inferring that this was the first time it happened in the series.

  • http://twitter.com/katieisms Katie Calautti

    Right – also, if you really break down the facts, Edward exhibits classic warning signs of an abusive boyfriend (obsessively overprotective, “can’t live without you,” constant threat of physical harm). Best not to think on it too hard: It’s a rabbit hole of absurdity.

  • Bedlam66

    Can’t be worse then Oh I don’t know. . . The actual move. These movies are so bad they make me want to break up with my Girlfriend because she drags me to them. On the Bright side it was very Funny. Although I’m pretty sure by all the dirty looks I got tonight that those weren’t supposed to be funny moments.

  • http://www.online-pokerhu.com Online Póker

    Highly disappointing that the production didn’t do better. Perhaps the script was so boring even the director fell asleep during shoots or hired a stand in while he got a few extra afternoons out on the links. I sincerely hope this doesn’t put top execs off making complex stories multiple movies. As an audience member, it isn’t the fact that I’ll have to wait for the next installment to finish the story that’s putting me off from catching the latest movie, but lousy execution! Thank’s Ben for taking the time to I.d. what’s dead from the undead in this…

  • http://twitter.com/04nbod Nicola Boden

    He looks at this baby and knows one day he’s going to have sexytimes with her. That can’t be platonic. Its equating an infant with sexuality which is just wrong. Even if he never ‘does’ anything, its seriously creepy.

  • Cjorg2

    You’re getting paedophile confused with the true category – “Dirty Old Man.”  Edward is a dirty old man.

    The thing I find hilarious is that when you think about it, what kind of 100 yr old man would find anything a teenage girl said remotely interesting?  Apart from Hugh Hefner, I can’t think of anyone, and Hugh aint exactly known for picking girls for their sparkling personalities and brains.

    All these vampire human romances are creepy – even the Buffy/ Angel romance was creepy.

  • Lunatics On Pogosticks

    I tried to argue that to my sister! She just said it was sweet.All i know is if i “imprinted” on a new born my ass be in shackles.

  • Lunatics On Pogosticks

    Oh yeah i agree with you completely but dont you ever dare question the Buffy/Spike  relationship,now that was true love.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Knowing he’ll feel that later doesn’t mean he feels that now. He doesn’t. They made it explicitly clear that, right now there are no sexual feelings. And there won’t be until she’s grown up.  And if he never feels it while she’s a kid, then there’s nothing creepy. You just aren’t okay with it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QKN5MHOI6VUFOYCTV5REK7M7A4 Jacob

    Why would you be in shackles? It’s not like you’re trying to have sex with the baby. You’d be the best big brother for about 15-20 years Then you’d be wanting sex with her.

  • http://twitter.com/04nbod Nicola Boden

    Of course its creepy, even then. He behaves like this kid’s uncle who is too attentive with an eye to sexual interaction down the line. I think they call that ‘grooming’. ‘Imprinting’ is a breeding reflex, that is also explicit.

  • http://twitter.com/04nbod Nicola Boden

    LOL, wasn’t Spike a metaphor for Buffy’s self harm when she came back from the dead?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5V7WB5LWONXO22R6D4CYEZGYFE Alan

    Setting aside for the moment the ludicrous nation of the plot, am I to understand that there is an actual human being named Jackson Rathbourne?!? He sounds like a Chris Claremont villain!

  • Michael McDonnell

    Do a teen vampire thing that is R rated with bloody violence, gore and sex references not some pussified girly vamp crap.