REVIEW: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 [2011]

Score: 4/10 | ★ ½

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 117 minutes | Release Date: November 18th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Director(s): Bill Condon
Writer(s): Melissa Rosenberg / Stephenie Meyer (novel)

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies”

Here’s a pitch for a new Trojan Condoms’ advertising campaign tie-in to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1: Even Vampires Need Protection. Yes, the entire film could have been struck from the record if only Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) was a responsible hundreds-year old creeper when de-flowering his literally blushing bride.

A complete waste of time with its first half being all about an eighteen-year old high school graduate losing her virginity on her wedding night—I guess it’s a good example these days that some girls wait that long—the second act is merely an overblown debate on abortion. With the vampy vamps firmly in the kill that ‘thing’ camp, it’s only Mama Bella (Kristen Stewart) and human wannabe Rosalie (Nikki Reed) who see the fast-growing monster sucking its incubator’s soul as a bouncing little baby. And don’t even get me started on the Quileute werewolves’ opinion. Not only are they Pro-Choice, but they aren’t too keen on inter-species relationships either.

The simple fact Edward isn’t firing blanks confuses me enough since he is dead, but what irks me more is Summit Entertainment thinking we needed to watch supernatural beings fight over a baby’s life for two hours. Breaking Dawn Part 2 better be insanely good if I’m to believe splitting these up wasn’t merely a cash grab into the pockets of impressionable tweeners and their checkout line romance novel reading mothers. It’s bad enough Stephenie Meyer introduces the best characters of the whole series in New Moon—The Volturi—and then mothballs them, but do we have to watch the vampire/werewolf dance we saw rectified in Eclipse all over again? Who knew a little baby could cause so much destruction and then end it all with a flash of those dreamy eyes.

Probably the best made of the series—kudos to Bill Condon for that, I guess—there is still a major problem of stretching a storyline worth maybe twenty minutes into an epic of emotional gravitas unbefitting of the plot onscreen. Yes, we need to see Jacob (Taylor Lautner) choose sides and growl his way into the role of wolf pack master. Yes, we need to separate ourselves from the parents who will never see Bella again after she turns. And yes, we need to watch her build a place with her new vampiric coven. I don’t question these things, only the speed at which they occurs.

The wedding fangirls have been waiting three years for is finally here and it isn’t bad. There is some real humor in the reception speeches from Charlie (Billy Burke), Jessica (Anna Kendrick), and Emmett (Kellan Lutz) as well as Renée’s (Sarah Clarke) embarrassing lullaby. The double entendres using ‘forever’ to signify both human and vampire definitions entertain and make you wonder whether the Swan’s are aware of the stakes this marriage holds. Also, a brilliantly orchestrated nightmarish vision of bloody guests in a pile of death almost had me believing this thing could be cool.

But then comes an exotic retreat to an island off the coast of Brazil, the destructive consummation of our main lovers’ union, and the laughably over-wrought drama about what to do with the accidental surprise wreaking havoc with Bella’s lady parts. Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) and Esme (Elizabeth Reaser) get some quality screen time for once as the doctor checks his quasi-daughter-in-law’s vitals and she matronly attempts to charm the dogs outside, but the philosophical battle built otherwise means nothing when we all kind of hope Bella dies during childbirth. At least the birthing scene is intriguing to watch with its myriad of colors and focus pulls that have reportedly caused seizures in some audience members. I still wish the infamous Twilight bite would have made it onscreen, but that probably would have garnered an R-rating or something.

I applaud the make-up people for making Bella’s transformation into a skeleton very realistic and I shake my head at the computer effects group for their baby Cullen’s fantasy growth montage. Why couldn’t they have hired an actress for this? I assume the credit to Mackenzie Foy is for Part 2 since the age doesn’t fit, but the teenage version here is pretty much one of those ‘what will my baby look like’ novelties morphing Pattinson and Stewart’s faces together. The special effects team do get it together for a decently orchestrated fight between vampires and wolves at the climax, but the memories of watching these giant furry beasts growl and scream at each other telepathically minutes before wouldn’t let me stop laughing every time I saw them.

I’m not sure if Meyer wrote the book intending to spark abortion debate or hamfistedly allude to womens’ rights issues, but the way it’s treated here is laughably childish. The only interesting thing that happens is a fracture of the werewolf pack and Jacob coming into his own. Give me less of Edward lamenting his libido’s effectiveness and Bella trying to get a second go-round despite bruises all over her body and show some me more of conflicted Lautner. By no means a great actor, he does an okay job wrestling with the wedding, pregnancy, and need to choose a family after believing he was already a part of one. At this point I could care less about Bella’s future and hope the Volturi finally swoop back in to rip her head off inciting a battle royale of fangs, claws, and flesh. Give me more Jacob because he’s the only character I give any interest in seeing evolve.

[1] (L-R) ROBERT PATTINSON and KRISTEN STEWART star in THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN-PART 1 Photo by: Andrew Cooper © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
[2] (L-R) NIKKI REED and TAYLOR LAUTNER star in THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN-PART 1 Photo by: Andrew Cooper © 2011 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
[3] MICHAEL SHEEN (center) and JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER (right) star in THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN-PART 1. Photo: Andrew Cooper. � 2010 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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