Title: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Directed By: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Sarah Clarke, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Booboo Stewart, Chaske Spencer, Julia Jones
After three immensely successful productions, why would Summit Entertainment change their formula now? Of course the studio wouldn’t, but you’d think bringing aboard an Oscar-winning director would almost naturally warrant some changes for the better, but sadly, Bill Condon’s prowess was entirely consumed by the drone of The Twilight Saga and he actually winds up delivering a piece that’s rather sub par to two of the previous installments.
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson). Yes, the time has finally come for Bella to put an end to that pesky love triangle and seal the deal with Edward, but, in true Twilight fashion, Jacob (Taylor Lautner) holds a grudge and brooding ensues. Regardless, after the I dos, the newlyweds wave goodbye to the friends and family we’ve met in the films over the years and hop a plane to Rio de Janeiro after which they board a boat to the secret island de Cullen. Forbidden vampire on human mating goes down, beds break and, shortly after, Bella grows a baby bump.
The problem is, this isn’t just any old baby. As Bella’s baby grows, it destroys her from inside. As Bella’s health deteriorates, the Cullens do whatever they can to prolong her life. Meanwhile, over at camp werewolf, the dogs are in an uproar over the bun in the oven. Pack leader Sam (Chaske Spencer) calls for the baby’s execution and, in turn, Bella’s, which, of course, Jacob will not stand for. With brother and sister duo Leah and Seth Clearwater (Julia Jones and Booboo Stewart) by his side, he separates from his pack to come to Bella’s rescue.
The tone of that synopsis should serve as the perfect segue to the rest of this review as The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is laughable – literally. The piece opens in a far from compelling manner, showing us a select group of characters receive their wedding invitations, a sequence that’s been done to death in the film’s trailers. There’s an attempt at tossing in some conflict via an intense confession from Edward, but the flashback goes nowhere and has zero impact on the rest of the film.
On the bright side, once we get through Bella’s pre-wedding jitters, which mainly consist of Stewart looking like her usual uncomfortable self, Bella and Edward’s big day does have a bit of a magical sensation to it. Plus, whether you’re really into The Twilight Saga or not, after having seen all the films, there is something quite heartwarming about seeing all the characters come together. The film actually also manages to earn some intentional laughs at this point in the piece through a well-cut montage of goofy congratulatory speeches.
However, the moment Bella and Edward hit the road, Breaking Dawn takes a turn for the hilariously pathetic. At least 20 minutes of the film could have been shaved by trimming the endless amount of reaction shots that go on for far too long. The honeymoon portion of the movie is absolutely plagued with them and not only do they make these scenes grow tiresome fast, but it makes the super serious material become a joke. A young woman losing her virginity is nothing to laugh about. Sure, the idea that this is happening between a human and vampire is a bit, well, surreal, but that doesn’t mean the moment couldn’t have been handled in a way that garners some genuine emotion. Instead, thanks to poor acting, painfully slow pacing and embarrassingly simplistic writing, we get something that takes itself so seriously it comes across more as a Saturday Night Live parody.
Things drone on for quite a bit more until we arrive at the absolute peak of this film’s absurdity. After we experience some Jacob-in-werewolf-form POV vision, which resembles that trippy tunnel scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, we get to – brace yourselves – watch talking werewolves. Yes, in four-legged form, Jacob, Sam and the rest of the gang speak. From that point on, it doesn’t matter how much these big bad wolves snarl; they officially look as though they belong in a live-action/animation comedy hybrid.
On the technical side, it seems like Condon just doesn’t know what to do with the material. At times the camera’s stagnant and far from stimulating, but, when there is an attempt to spice up the imagery, it’s done through tacky and obvious focus pulls or some sort of lame visual trick. Even worse, Condon just does not know how to cover a battle scene. No, Eclipse wasn’t perfect, but David Slade treated us to the most well paced film of the Saga, which included some mesmerizing fight sequences. There’s really just one big battle in Breaking Dawn, but Condon doesn’t come anywhere close to getting enough coverage to do it justice.
We find more problems in the music department. The soundtrack items are well placed, but Carter Burwell’s score is overwhelmingly intrusive. Think a scene’s heating up? Burwell will let you know a few seconds in advance by foreshadowing it with his tunes. But, on the other hand, perhaps that might have made some scenes more effective as, if emotional shifts were merely conveyed by the performances, they would have gone completely under the radar. Breaking Dawn is drowning in bad acting on every single front. Stewart, Pattinson, Lautner, Booboo Stewart, Nikki Reed, the list could go on and on. With some of the minor characters, it almost seems as though their lines were merely shot in a single day. None of them have conversations; they merely have a line or two here or there and, when they do speak, their intonation doesn’t quite fit the tone of the moment.
Yes, Breaking Dawn is that bad, but, there’s no denying that’ll leave you looking forward to the second half. As bad as the majority of the movie is, it’s a wonder how the team was able to pull it together for Part 1’s final moments. If you’re one of those hardcore Twilight fans that’s been concerned about that epic birthing scene, don’t you worry. As someone who disliked nearly every moment in this film, I can assure you that big moment is handled beautifully. If only Condon and co. had been able to strike the same chord with even just a few other scenes in this movie.