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Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011)

Directed by: Bill Condon

Premise: The first half of last story in the Twilight series. Bella (Kristen Stewart) marries her vampire boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson). But when Bella gets pregnant the human-vampire embryo threatens to destroy her and void the peace treaty with the local werewolves.

What Works: The problem with most of the previous Twilight films was there lack of narrative action. Very little actually happens in the stories, so it is to Breaking Dawn’s credit that this film has a legit plot to it. The dilemma faced by Bella and Edward over their unborn child is a powerful one and the story milks that drama to give this film a narrative shape that other Twilight films lacked. As has become the custom for a lot of event pictures adapted from bestselling fantasy literature such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit, Breaking Dawn has been split into two parts. Unlike some other split stories, Breaking Dawn actually has a logical dividing point and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg picks the right moment at which to end this half, resolving enough of the story to satisfy the viewer while also leaving the audience on an effective cliffhanger.

What Doesn’t: There is a curious and fundamental problem with Breaking Dawn. This is the final chapter of an ongoing series and so it is incumbent for the film to have some significant climaxes but a lot of what should be big dramatic moments fizzle out. The film opens with the marriage of Bella and Edward but the whole affair is lacking dramatic weight. This is the moment that the previous three films were leading up to but the wedding does not pack an emotional punch. Breaking Dawn never seizes upon any of the key nuptial moments like the exchange of vows, the separation from parents, or the ritual dances. Instead the film resorts to a montage of wedding clichés that deflate the significance of the moment. Similarly, the lovemaking between Bella and Edward, which is inextricably tied to their wedding, lacks carnality or the revelation of transgressing the boundaries of virginity, which this series has made a central issue. This is disappointing coming from director Bill Condon, who has directed sexually provocative features like Kinsey and Gods and Monsters. But the lack of heat ultimately exposes what has been the flaw of the whole Twilight film series: actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson just don’t have any chemistry together. The series never convincingly sold the idea that these two were passionately and irrevocably in love with each other but in earlier movies it was able to distract from that with various obstacles that kept the lovers apart. Now that Bella and Edward have one another the story doesn’t have the adolescent drama or the romantic schmaltz to fall back on and the relationship is suddenly dead in the water. In the second half Breaking Dawn does manage to break this up with the drama of the pregnancy and the disruption it causes with the local werewolves but this also never leads to a meaningful climax and the werewolf conflict just ends with nothing resolved or accomplished.

Bottom Line: Breaking Dawn Part 1 has some serious flaws. It is a better movie than most of its predecessors but as the beginning of the end to the Twilight series, this film lacks climactic moments.

Episode: #366 (December 4, 2011)