Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Sarah Clarke and Billy Burke.
I went and saw Breaking Dawn, Part 1, last night at my favorite multiplex theater, the AMC Lennox 24. I’m not a huge fan of the Twilight series, in case you’re wondering, but watching the Twilight movies without the rabid fans isn’t nearly as fun as watching it with a regular audience. To see it with the fans that literally shiver with excitement, or cry out as they swoon over bare chested man-wolves, you really have to go to the first available screening, the midnight show. I honestly cannot remember the last time I’ve seen the Lennox so full of people for just one film. The theater had Breaking Dawn showing on at least twelve different screens that I knew of and the parking lot literally was the most full I’ve ever seen it. The concession stand workers were running around trying to fill food and drink orders for the massive lines leading to the counter. It was pretty crazy.
Now, before I go into any criticism of the movie, or the series itself, I feel I should state that I’m not trying to trample anyone’s opinion or love for the Twilight series. If watching these movies fills you with excitement and joy, I say good for you. Embrace the films and love them as you want to. No matter what anyone may say about a film that you love, don’t take it to heart, it’s merely a differing opinion. The only thing that matters is how the movie affects you and what you get from it. I am not Twilight‘s intended audience and therefore I look at it differently. I judge the Twilight movies, not on preconceptions of the books or its fandom, but on the film itself and how I feel it holds up to criticism. Ok, preface is over, onto the movie.
Breaking Dawn is probably the most entertaining of the Twilight series yet. However, when I say entertaining, I mean in a “primed for Rifftrax” kind of way. The film is often times bizarrely funny and contains plenty of moments where I simply exclaimed, “what the hell is going on right now?” I honestly do not know if the filmmakers are joking around with us or if they believe that what they are producing makes any sense. There are so many awkwardly acted scenes throughout the movie (and through the earlier films) that it makes me almost believe it is done on purpose. There are three actors in the film that I feel are doing the best with what they can and that is Kristen Stewart, Billy Burke and, suprisingly enough, Taylor Lautner, but even they have some pretty uncomforable moments. The majority of the rest of the cast feel like they are from an alien world and are simply imitating human beings through awkward stares and weird facial ticks. I do have to say that I thoroughly enjoy the various “I have to poop” looks that Robert Pattinson provides. It cracks me up from time to time.
The one thing that the whole Twilight series lacks is characterization. I have no idea how some of the characters come to the decisions they make. Hell, through all the four Twilight films thus far, I can’t understand why Bella loves Edward so much (and vice versa). Their relationship is weird and not exactly healthy but they continue to profess their undying love for each other which is based on.. what? Infatuation? It feels like their love happens because Stephanie Meyer simply wrote it that way. It doesn’t grow out of anything organic.
In Breaking Dawn, Bella literally is dying because of the fetus (baby!*) growing inside of her and completely ignores advice from her new husband and seemingly best friend, who both tell her that the baby will kill her and something needs to be done about it. She pretty much doesn’t even acknowledge what is being said and seems to be okay with everything that is going on, even the prospect of her dying. I have to surmise that Bella has a death wish of some sort. She constantly ignores pleas from people to do something to save her life. This stems back to the the first movie even. From the get go, Edward, the love of her life, constantly tells her she shouldn’t want to be turned, that having a heartbeat is something worth keeping. Jacob constantly is pushing her to reconsider her position and choose a mortal life instead of becoming a vampire. She doesn’t care, she wants to be (un)dead, leaving the living people that care for her behind. The thing I found most puzzling surrounding Bella’s life being threatened by the baby is why she wasn’t turned into a vampire from the start of the pregnancy. Edward sure as hell didn’t want the baby and the plan was always to turn Bella at some point. They tried to state that they couldn’t do that or her heart might give out or some BS like that. Since when does turning someone into a vampire involve medical risks? I don’t think there’s ever been a vampire story ever told where someone was like “oh, I shouldn’t turn them right now, their heart might give out and die.” That is purely an invention of Stephanie Meyer used to prolong the inevitable a little bit longer for no good reason. Then again, we are also dealing with Meyer’s version of vampires, which lack any sort of credible threat to anyone. They don’t have any fangs and sparkle in sunlight.
There were quite a few moments in the film that I enjoyed, again from a “it’s bad but in a hilarious way” perspective. Edward denying Bella of having sex (after doing it once and breaking the bed/giving Bella bruises) and the montage that encompasses her trying to get him to sleep with her again by being all seducey with provocative clothing mixed with shots of them playing chess was definitely a funny scene. I also enjoyed the moment when Jacob is ready to kill the baby, after Bella has “died”, and goes to do the deed but then makes eye contact with Renesmee, Bella’s baby girl, and they exchange looks as Jacob “imprints” with her. For those of you who aren’t familiar, imprinting in Twilight is basically love at first sight, but oh so much more. It basically means that you’ve found your soulmate. So yea, Jacob basically falls in love with… a baby. Awkward. Oh, and don’t let me forget the C-section birth, courtesy of Edward. They use a scalpel to make the cut to get the baby out at first but then abandon that in favor of Edward biting her open. Then after the baby is out, all the while Bella has a gaping hole in her body bleeding out, they all pause to admire Renesmee and the miracle of the baby! Who cares if Bella is rapidly losing blood and dying on the table there? There’s a cute baby (covered in blood) to admire!
There are some elements to Breaking Dawn that were done well. The film looks great thanks to the photographic skills of Guillermo Navarro. The scenes involving Jacob turning away from his pack to protect Bella and going up against his own kind do have some genuine tension to them. The make-up/CG enhancements to Kristen Stewart’s face and body during scenes where she’s pregnant definitely made her look deathly and weak. You got a good sense of how brittle she had become and when the baby causes her to crack (or break) her back in one scene, you definitely wince at it. The way Part 1 ends was a good way to entice the fans and make people anticipate the next one, as if they weren’t already.
So while I walked out of the movie enjoying it for all the wrong reasons, I feel like the film, from a fan point of view, could be highly enjoyable and probably the most engrossing of the bunch. That is pure speculation though as I really have no idea. I still do not understand why these movies have generated such a following, especially since they can’t be quantified as “good” movies. Judging Breaking Dawn purely as a film, it isn’t the worst I’ve ever seen but it is filled with (often at times) poor direction, bad writing, awkward acting and many inconsistencies. But regardless of my opinion, after the previous three films, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not you will enjoy it. More power to you if this is your kind of movie, I sincerely hope it doesn’t let you down. It entertained me, I’ll give it that. I’m just not sure it meant to entertain me in the way that it did. To quote my brother Nolan, it’s a schlock masterpiece.
*in the movie, there are a couple of exchanges between a few of the characters in reference to Bella’s pregnancy. Most of the characters keep calling it a “thing” or “fetus” but one character adamantly corrects everyone by spurting out “baby!” a few times.