Unreal Movie Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1

3 out of 5 stars

Chances are if you’re seeing the fourth Twilight movie, you’re either a very devoted fan or a very devoted boyfriend, or some combination of the two. These films are made for a very specific subset of the population, so when you view one outside of that group, it’s a bit hard to judge it as it was meant to be seen.

But judge it I shall, and the harsh smackdowns I’ve given most of the other films over the years have been some of my most satisfying to write, and so I look forward to this time every year.

Something’s happening though. It’s like the venom of these movies has infected my bloodstream over the years, somehow…changing me. I despised Twilight, I disliked New Moon and I tolerated Eclipse but now I…like Breaking Dawn?

“I’m pregnant. I mean, checkmate.”

Yes, I know. I can’t believe I just wrote that. And under my own name to be etched on the internet forever no less. When aliens invade and harvest all of our data and knowledge, there will then be an intergalactic record that I actually admitted to liking a Twilight movie.

So what the hell is going on here? Well, simply put the quality of these movies, at least from a cinematic perspective is going up with each new installment. There’s been a different director for each film, and we’ve gone through Thirteen’s Catherine Hardwicke, About a Boy’s Chris Weitz, 30 Days of Night’s David Slade and now for Breaking Dawn, Dreamgirl’s Bill Condon.

Condon may focus mainly on films that revolve around singing and dancing, as he’s also the man behind Chicago, but somehow he’s really done a great job with this film, which is particularly impressive given the rather wonky source material. The film is beautifully shot, and Condon takes us from the highest highs of Bella and Edward’s fairytale wedding and honeymoon, to the lowest lows as she wastes away, being consumed by an evil demon baby.

Yes, it sounds silly, and it is, but by the fourth go-round, you know what you’re expecting from these movies. I appreciated this film more than the others because it had a more clear-cut path than all of them, and did it’s best to minimize the silliness and extraneous subplots that normally plague these films.

“Oh my God, if I could do it over again I would have NEVER HAD TEEN SEX.”

The movie, while being a Part 1 itself with another chapter to come later, is divided in two. It opens with what would be an epilogue in most films. Bella and Edward are finally wed in a ceremony that goes off without a hitch in a gorgeously arranged forest where thankfully no one is sparkling, something that is mercifully avoided for the duration of the film. They’re then whisked off to a private island where they attempt to do the nasty for the first time like good Mormon boys and girls who will always wait until marriage to try such things.

Their bed-breaking, bone-brusing lovemaking session makes Edward wary of every attempting the deed again while Bella’s still human, but things go from bad to worse when she figures out she’s pregnant just a few days later.

But it’s not your normal teen pregnancy. A vampire/human combo isn’t even supposed to exist, and that baby starts sucking the life out of Bella. A huge round of applause should be directed toward the makeup and special effects team here, who do a fantastic and harrowing job of transforming Bella from the girl next door to a skeletal zombie by the end of the film.

The film works because it keeps it simple. The original Twilight was about a dance of courtship between two actors who had just about the worst script to work with in history. New Moon encouraged girls to jump off of cliffs when their boyfriend breaks up with them. Eclipse was a lot of battles featuring CGI werewolves that remain the dumbest thing about these movies, and a telekinetic wolf conversation takes the award for the worst scene of Breaking Dawn.

“Bitch, call me Wolf Boy one more time.”

But now everything is much easier to process. The cast has been stripped down to its bare essential characters who have followed us through most of the films. There’s no Italian vampire mafia around, no redheaded rogue stalker vamp who needs to be beheaded. Rather, the villain for most of the film is the baby itself, and Bella’s losing battle with it brings out some genuine emotion in almost all of the characters. Jacob, in particular, finally embraces his role as “best guy friend ever” even as his true love is married and having his rival’s demonspawn child. He finally becomes a relevant character instead of a useless third wheel who never had a chance during the last three films who always felt like a waste of screentime.

The script has been reworked so there are less awkward moments and flowery phrases than usual. The dumbest moments come from the book itself, but they couldn’t be avoided for that reason. The debate about Bella wanting to call her kid “Edward Jacob” is downright cringe inducing, as is her final choice “Renesmee.”

The most impressive part of the film is that it’s able to take the silliest plot developments that even had fans scratching their heads when the book was released, and translate them into scenes that aren’t outright laughable. Edward cutting the baby out with his teeth is not as ridiculous as it sounds when rendered in the film, and a moment I was dreading seeing realized, Jacob falling in love with Bella’s baby by “imprinting” on it, was actually quite thoughtful, as the film jumped into the girl’s future for a brief moment when she was all grown up and the appropriate age to receive his affection and devotion. It was actually a bit…touching? Gah!

“Why does that baby have to be SO HOT?”

Similarly well done was the moment the entire series has been building toward . Bella’s transformation into a vampire at long last is a journey through her veins (literally) and her memories, and it was a very solid note to end the film on. I daresay that this installment was better handled than when Harry Potter had to split his final story in half. That Part 1 movie meandered without a clear direction, and ended on a decidedly anticlimactic note. But here, we feel like we got a complete film, and the decision to cut it where they did was spot on.

If you hate Twilight, you’ll hate this movie, no doubt about it. But if you’re like me, and you’ve forced yourself to sit through the last three films and now this one, you can’t help but have it rub off a little bit on you. In terms of pure filmmaking, this is much better shot and scripted than any of the others, and manages to overcome its source material to be a somewhat effective film that is tolerable to outsiders and will undoubtedly be beloved by fans.

And I’m actually kind looking forward to seeing how it all ends. Sigh.

3 out of 5 stars

 


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