Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
As the phenomenally successful Twilight series moves towards its conclusion the tone turns decidedly darker, but everything else remains pretty much the same. The angst-ridden romantic triangle between emo-like vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), virginal Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and the angry werewolf Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is still at the crux of the film. But things must change.
After a lavish wedding, Bella and Edward are officially married, and head off to Rio De Janiero for their honeymoon. Meanwhile back home Jacob pouts and sulks. This occupies nearly half of the movie, and the tone here is light and frothy, with much more humour than previous films in the series delivered.
Then Bella falls pregnant, and the quickly growing half-human, half-vampire foetus inside her is threatening her health and her life. Bella grows disturbingly thin and gaunt. The Cullen family gathers round to try and help her and save her life through infusions of precious blood. The werewolf clan gathers to destroy Bella’s human-vampire offspring. And Jacob, who has decided to side with the Cullens, watches and pouts. And that is about all the slim plot has to offer this time around. As with the ultimate instalment in the Harry Potter franchise, the bloated final Twilight film has been broken into two parts. But this may be to its detriment, as Part I is pretty bland stuff, with very little action. It seems more like a cynical and purely commercial decision to milk the fans for more dollars. And, as with the Potter series, the characters have been largely forced to grow up and face more mature responsibilities this time around.
Written by regular screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, Breaking Dawn remains reasonably faithful to Stephenie Meyer’s 750 page novel and its simplistic treatment of themes of romance, vampires versus werewolves, identity, sacrifice, betrayal, death, sex and family values. But unfortunately Bill Condon’s glacially paced direction of the underwhelming material is rather bland and unimaginative, and the film becomes a bit of a bore. Condon, better known for serious films like Gods And Monsters, etc, is clearly the wrong director for this material. Even the special effects and CGI animation in a brief battle between the Cullens and the werewolves towards the end are unimpressive, and the fight scenes are badly choreographed.
Stewart again probably gives the strongest performance of the three leads, imbuing Bella with a resolute determination. Pattinson’s Edward continues to be one of the least terrifying screen vampires ever created, but here he is given even less to do, as most of the time he stands around helplessly and looks worried about Bella’s failing health. The film does manage to capture the off-screen chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart to good effect here. Lautner runs through his gamut of intensely brooding emotions, from pouting to glaring, and of course he gets to take his shirt off in a couple of scenes. The rest of the regular cast merely goes through the motions; hopefully there will be more for them to do in the climactic sequel.
Guillermo Navarro’s gorgeous cinematography of the Vancouver forests and exotic Brazil locations is one of the few highlights.
This fourth episode of the series is far more mawkish, and it is to be hoped that Part 2 has more bite! The Twilight series has played around with the usual lore of the vampires, but it doesn’t come close to touching True Blood for edgy horror or sexy vampires. Although Breaking Dawn Part I won’t win any new admirers for the series, hardcore Twilight fans probably won’t be too disappointed. A brief post credit sequence featuring Aro (Michael Sheen), the sinister head of the fearsome vampire clan Volturi, hints at the showdown that is to come in Part 2. Twilight fans will have to wait impatiently a year to see Part 2.