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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

November 20, 2011  |  8:17am
<i>The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1</i>

I was “Twilighted” on Wednesday night. The instant the film started, fans roared. The opening shot features a shirtless Taylor Lautner, and girls cooed. Clunky dialogue elicited belly laughs from everyone. And, by the way, nothing really happens for almost two hours.

Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is a bad film—a self-aware one, for sure, but a bad one nonetheless. A legion of fanged-out fanatics will rally behind it for one tremendous weekend, and it will have some limited legs leading to boffo overall box office performance but little lasting impression. In fact, in 20 years, the young viewers who went gaga over this series will likely be wracked with embarrassment when revisiting the films on Ultraviolet or whatever digital format rules the marketplace.

Story here is secondary to the glam shots of supermodels sporting perfect hair and makeup even when in the throws of vicious combat. It starts with a wedding—the vampire, Edward, marries the human, Bella. After an odd, but storybook (with Grimm’s Fairy Tale flavoring) ceremony, Bella and Edward take off to Rio where they eventually hole up on a remote island for some inter-species lovemaking. Will Bella remain a human or submit to becoming a blood-sucker?

Well, after a couple weeks on the island, Bella feels something stirring within her. She’s still human, but in her womb there’s something that might not be. The race is on, and strangely in the hundreds—if not thousands—of years of vampire mythology, the pending human/vampire offspring is unique. Like most everything in the Twilight universe, the story exists on the preposterous foundation that it is breaking new ground. The search for answers to Bella’s predicament falls well short of credible. (It’s laughable when Edward searches the Internet for answers.)

In order to get everything in under two hours, Bella’s pregnancy is speedy. Although many days, if not weeks pass, she goes from a slender healthy 18 year-old to an eight- to nine-month pregnant woman who looks as though she’s a chronic methamphetamine user in what seems like overnight. To be fair, the transformation is effective. In a movie littered with wooden and downright poor performances, Kristen Stewart gives the best of the worst. As she becomes twisted both emotionally and physically, I found myself somewhat affected by her plight. If only the melodrama that surrounds her was more convincing, I may have engaged with Bella’s heartfelt fight to save her unborn child. In a way, the story reminded me of a lighter, more teen-friendly version of Paul Solet’s horror film Grace.

But the biggest crime committed by Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is that it is boring. Much of the action takes place in the Cullen’s rural modern mansion, and Bella spends much of her time relegated to a couch while the other characters wring their hands and walk pensively around her. The conclusion is a bit anti-climatic and feels understandably incomplete given that this film is the final book in the series divided into two parts.

The separation of the final book into two movies is a transparent, if understandable, attempt to get the most return out of the franchise. (The second installment can be seen next year.) It is worth noting that the Twilight series has been a wonderful moneymaker for distributor Summit mainly because the installments have been made on modest budgets. The last two films have budgets reportedly well over $100 million, and judging from this film, I’m not sure where the money went. The cinematography is mighty fine, having been captured on film by Guillermo Navarro, an Oscar winner for his work on the other Guillermo’s Pan’s Labyrinth. The direction is by another Oscar winner, Bill Condon, who is also handling Part 2 (though he is not credited with any of the writing here).

Aside from bringing the film in on schedule, I’m not sure what a heavy-hitter like Condon added to the series. Certainly, his contribution isn’t nearly as noticeable as the different approaches taken by the various directors who helmed the Harry Potter series. Perhaps Condon’s genius lies in not disturbing the flow of the translation of the Twilight tomes to the big screen, but that doesn’t make Breaking Dawn – Part 1 any less of a yawner for anyone not firmly inserted into the Twilight universe.

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