In Theaters Review of Breaking Dawn, Part 1: One part teenage-girl fantasy, one part horror-lite freak show, the latest Twilight Saga installment is by far the strangest of the four blockbuster films so far. But rest assured everyone still looks really, really hot. (Um, except for Bella in the second half…)
(Disclaimer: If you have no idea about what happens in Breaking Dawn and want to be totally surprised, avoid this review.)
Because of its nonstop action, Breaking Dawn was my favorite of Stephenie Meyer’s four Twilight novels, and that’s why I had high hopes for its film adaptation. Even though I’ve developed an admittedly dysfunctional love-hate relationship with the other three movies ever since Twilight‘s 2008 debut, I continued to believe that it would be tough for new-to-the-franchise director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) to mess up the frenetic pace that catapulted readers from Bella and Edward’s wedding, to Bella’s tumultuous pregnancy, to the birth of her “what IS it?” baby, to her vampire transformation, to the wolf pack’s violent reaction, to the Volturi and other vampire clans’ defensive responses, to the ultimate conclusion of the series. However, once the (purely financial) decision was made to split Breaking Dawn into two films, I should have realized that each of those plot milestones would be drawn out. And excruciatingly drawn out they were.
The first half of Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is dedicated to Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) nuptials and subsequent honeymoon. The series’ devoted fans will most likely enjoy these scenes, despite how achingly slow they are. My favorite part was the montage of wedding toasts—Anna Kendrick’s Jessica and Billy Burke’s Charlie had the best lines, and it’s a shame neither character was in the film more. I also appreciated how “Bella’s Lullaby” and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” two of my favorite songs from the original film’s soundtrack, began to be integrated into almost all of the lovey-dovey sequences (and continued to be featured until the end).
As for the highly anticipated “Edward breaks the bed during their honeymoon” sex scene? There really wasn’t much to it. Remember that BDP1 is rated PG-13, so anyone hoping to see a nekkid vampire actually getting it on with his human lady love is going to be very disappointed. As will be anyone who was already disturbed at Meyer’s not-so-subtle “sex is bad” message throughout the books. In Breaking Dawn, Bella worries incessantly about and prepares extensively for her First Time, only to be bruised and battered (but not on purpose, Edward promises! And she tells him it’s OK! So that means it is, right?) by her new husband, and then end up pregnant immediately with a baby that is going to KILL HER. ?!?! I will say no more on this subject because it is just too disturbing. Well, OK, I will say that how all of this was presented in the book didn’t bother me nearly as much as it did in the film. Perhaps that goes back to how everything had to be drawn out in order to fill a two-movie, four-hours-plus total running time.
The good news is—though this might mean I’m a really sick puppy—I enjoyed the second half of Breaking Dawn much, much more. Once Bella’s deadly pregnancy is confirmed, Jacob is informed, and everyone starts fighting about what should be done, the pace and intrigue picks up drastically and I was hooked. Still wincing at the bad acting and cheesy dialogue and weird editing choices and awful wolf CGI, mind you… but hooked nonetheless. I think what got me was how scary Bella looks while pregnant. Whomever was in charge of that transformation (which I’m assuming had to be largely special effects because the girl was skeletal) deserves a round of applause. It was so hard to look at, yet fascinating. But fear not, ladies, everyone else remains really, really good-looking and no “pasty white makeup/distracting gold contacts” were an issue this time as they were back in New Moon.
The final act is where the film turns into an all-out freak show and Baby WTF is determined to make an appearance amidst much drama and blood. Viewers who are not aware of what goes down during the birth scene are in for a shocker, because everything that’s come to represent “a Twilight movie” before this scene is nowhere to be found. Maybe that’s why I liked it. I’ll also give Condon credit for handling a certain surprise subplot concerning Jacob (Taylor Lautner) much more skillfully than I thought possible.
Be sure to stay for the final bonus scene after the credits roll, which sets up Part 2 (not in theaters until November 2012). And, as always, but especially since the Twilight phenomenon is nothing if not polarizing, I’m anxious to hear reactions from both Twihards and everyone else who’s seen the film. Did you walk out of the theater thinking “Now that was the strangest movie I’ve seen in a long time,” like I did?
Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is now in theaters nationwide.
The Twilight Saga films at Redbox (limited availability in certain locations):
More Redbox movies from the cast of Breaking Dawn, Part 1: