“The Twilight Saga” is a phenomenon that cannot be stopped. In spite of the fact that only the first film met with anything close to favorable reviews the films are massively successful. The series has proven to be incredibly divisive, with a very large and very loyal fan base but an equally vocal group of detractors who can’t stand it. The four books will ultimately yield five films, as the final book has been split into two movies, and the fourth film is already a box office smash. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1” manages to be something that no other film in the series has yet accomplished: it’s entertaining. Although for all the wrong reasons.
“Breaking Dawn Part 1” begins with the long pending wedding of Bella Swan, played by Kristen Stewart, and the vampire Edward Cullen, portrayed by Robert Pattinson. Both are equally excited and nervous, both about the wedding and what is to come afterwards. However there is a third party even more distressed, the young werewolf Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner. Jacob is in love with Bella and can’t stand Edward, because in addition to the fact that Edward holds Bella’s heart vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies. But while Jacob has come to terms somewhat with the fact that he can’t have Bella he still takes great issue with the wedding. He knows that either Edward will turn her into a vampire, or they will attempt to consummate their marriage while Bella is still human and due to Edward’s strength that might very well kill her.
Edward and Bella retreat to a private island for their honeymoon where Bella does survive the night of passion, though not without consequences. At first it seems that bruises and a broken bed are the only problems. Then Bella realizes that she is now pregnant. But what she is pregnant with is not normal, it is growing abnormally fast and is sapping so much of her energy that it is killing her. She refuses to consider getting rid of the child, but can she actually carry her baby to term and live?
Starting with the positive, “Breaking Dawn Part 1” has one thing that the previous films in the series never had: a sense of forward momentum. A long standing issue with the franchise as a whole is that very little actually happens, despite each film running about two hours. The first film kind of got away with this because it was all new enough to distract from minimal plot or story events. However the second two became painful by virtue of the fact that they didn’t seem to be going anywhere; nothing was changing about the characters or the situations. This time there’s a consistent sense of forward motion to the story because there’s a clear endpoint: the birth of Bella’s child. With such a clear and definite destination it gives the film a sense of urgency, however mild it may be, that the series has never really had before and it makes for a much more brisk viewing experience.
The other thing is that “Breaking Dawn Part 1” is actually quite funny, sometimes even on purpose. There are a number of moments, such as a montage of toasts at the wedding, that are meant to be funny and in fact are worthy of more than a few laughs. Of course there are even more parts that are not meant to be funny but most definitely are. This is either a bad or good thing depending on your status as a fan: for those who don’t like these films it now crosses the “so bad it’s good” line, for fans it means they’ll have to suffer through derisive laughter. There are quite a few moments of unintentional comedy, though the best is probably the wolf argument. The tribe of werewolves, in wolf form, argue over what to do about Bella but since they’re not in human form they can’t speak. Instead they hear each other thoughts, which the audience hears as voiceovers. It’s hilariously reminiscent of the talking dogs from Pixar’s “Up.”
At this point most of the actors have stopped taking this seriously. Stewart and Pattinson checked out for “Eclipse” and they remain so for this film. Stewart has yet to have a full on smile in the entire run of the series and Pattinson has perfected the art of looking tortured by bugging out his eyes slightly. Most of the supporting cast doesn’t care anymore either, but rather than phone it in they’ve opted to just have fun with it. This means that most of the supporting players have a fun and bouncy energy to them, even those who were all serious and dour previously. But then there’s poor Taylor Lautner, who is still taking this deathly seriously. To put it simply he’s trying too hard, you can practically see him thinking to himself “I acted that scene so hard!” after every take. While his earnestness is somewhat admirable he should have jumped ship with the rest of the cast and just showed up for the paycheck. At this point his scenes have the smell of an actor desperately trying to prove he can act all over them.
This is undoubtedly the best looking film in the series, and probably the best made overall so props to director Bill Condon for that. Given the frankly ridiculous nature of the story at this point (the true insanity of which crosses into spoiler territory) this really is the best film that could have been made. Next year will see the conclusion of the series with “Breaking Dawn Part 1” which will have the unenviable job of wrapping up the series. While this film managed to actually feel like it was going somewhere the book “Breaking Dawn” ended with what has become one of the most notorious anti-climatic endings in recent history.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5 for comedy value (1.5 when viewed straight)