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

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 reviewStarring Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart, Chewed-on Umbilical Cord

Directed by Bill Condon

Our tale of monsters in love is drawing to a close. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 continues the story of Bella and Edward, a seemingly frail but strong willed mortal girl in love with an immortal vampire. When last we left our star-crossed lovers, the conflict between Jacob (a lifelong friend of Bella and a werewolf also in love with her) and Edward and, to a larger degree, the uneasy truce between the vampire family Cullen and Jacob’s werewolf pack took a backseat to an army of rampaging, bloodthirsty newborn vampires. In that aftermath you might think werewolf and vampire had bonded in battle and would never be at odds again. You’d think wrong.

Breaking Dawn opens on those moments you might expect in a romantic comedy, or even a John Hughes film. Bella and Edward are getting married, and while Jacob isn’t very excited at the prospect, he hangs back and lets happiness wash over the couple. This takes away 90% of the film’s angst. We see pre-wedding jitters, adorable superhuman vampire feats thrust upon the mundane, a fairy tale wedding and an epic journey to a honeymoon location that would make the “Sex and the City” characters grin. You come to the realization you are either watching an unscary movie about emo-monsters sharing their feelings like the Breakfast Club gang or a power-packed comic hero thriller about how Superman gets ready for a day at the Daily Planet.

It is at once tedious, odd and remarkably hysterical. Inexplicably, the first half of Breaking Dawn has many moments to enjoy, even if you aren’t a Twi-hard. It is all very confusing! The film takes on a fairly self-aware tone which, at times, leaves you scratching your head at the thought the characters may be spoofing themselves. Are they in on the joke? Is the joke for you? WHY THE FUCK ARE THERE JOKES ALL OF A SUDDEN??!! Honestly, I’ve become so used to the agonizing ordeal of sitting through these films that the struggle to wrap my brain around these very pleasing moments nearly struck me with a headache. Thank God it wasn’t in 3D as well.

Those enjoyable moments pass, and Breaking Dawn falls further down the rabbit hole as the eternally bemused Bella discovers a malicious bun in the oven that threatens to devour her from the inside out. From this point the film splits into two parts: one, a Lifetime TV film about friends and loved ones rallying around the fading rose Bella, all shot inside a single location and the other following Jacob’s relationship with his extended wolfy family and his role in it. The former contains startling visuals that will remind horror fans of the ultra creepy and starkly real Zelda from Pet Sematary. The latter is meant to be a series of tension-packed moments where we feel the weight of impending doom resting squarely on young Jacob’s shoulders. Perhaps for an easily startled teen girl, this is the case. For an adult crowd, laughter ensues.

The film climaxes with odd psychic wolfen deliberation, werewolf on vampire fisticuffs and a birthing scene so psychotic you can hear David Lynch applauding if you listen very closely. Mind … blown. Total insanity. If the makers of this latest installment were looking to set themselves apart from the rest of the series and end things with a bang … well then … mission accomplished! Acting performances are practically set in stone at this point with Bella’s perpetually pained glances, Edward ranging from amused to apathetic and Jacob displaying his best snarky smirks in between broody scowls. At times the supporting cast is so amusing they make the trio look as if they ARE indeed shooting a subtle spoof film within the actual storyline. By default the three steal their share of laughs as well, either as the straight man or as a result of cleaver writing, working unconventional lines into the mouths of these characters that feel so right and yet come off hilarious.

Let’s face it … we don’t go to a Twilight film for the action so no worries there. You get one frantic, poorly lit, shaky battle; and that’s the lot, unless you count vampire speed-running and the cargo shorted wolf boy squad bounding through the forest greens. I’m told Breaking Dawn is mostly faithful to the written word so take from that what you will. I’d gather anyone who is a hardcore fan has no need for this review anyway. You are there at midnight, ready to ooh and aah regardless. For the rest of you who are either intensely curious or have been dragged out by friends or that special someone who revels in your torture … get ready for a jarringly wild ride. Breaking Dawn goes from teen angst to relationship farce to disturbing in the blink of an eye. Whether these tonal shifts will work on audiences is anyone’s guess … and probably not something execs are wracking their brains over. It’s Twilight. It’s almost over. Fans are in until the last scene rolls.

NOTE: Stick around after the credits start rolling! There is one more scene for you to gobble up … and no, it doesn’t include Sam Jackson showing up to recruit Bella’s baby for a very special super team. If only it did.

2 out of 5

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