The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1
Directed by Bill Condon. Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the Stephenie Meyer novel. A Summit Entertainment release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements Running time: 108 minutes.
Critic's rating: * 1/2
Bella: Kristen Stewart
Edward: Robert Pattinson
Jacob: Taylor Lautner
Just 30 seconds into The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, Taylor Lautner takes off his shirt. Moments later and Robert Pattinson is brooding. The collective minds behind the Twilight series know exactly what its tween and teen audience wants. That's the biggest compliment I can muster for the newest film in the saga. That, and the Computer Generated Imagery effects are the best yet in any of the previous three movies.
Otherwise, Breaking Dawn is a failure on almost every level, from the zombie acting and amateurish screenplay to the uninspired direction and low-budget production. The indie music soundtrack is the only thing that provides Breaking Dawn an only emotional connection with the audience. That's fitting since Breaking Dawn's only motif -- that love conquers all -- is nothing more than an indie playlist to someone's mix tape.
The film's first hour is a waste of screen time, as human Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward (Pattinson) get married and spend their honeymoon on a small island off the coast of Brazil. They look pretty. They look in love. They have sex. The romance is hot and heavy through most of this, leading to such classic dialogue as Edward reassuring his bride how much he loves her, "This night is the greatest night of my existence," followed by her cooing, "You're the best."
Perhaps screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg, who's written all of the Twilight screenplays, has been watching the Hallmark Channel for inspiration. Or, if the dialogue from Stephenie Meyer's novels really is that bad, why couldn't Rosenberg assist Meyer by punching up these romantic exchanges to something above an ABC Afterschool Special? Perhaps this is an instance of applying makeup to a pig's face. No matter how much lipstick you use, it's still a pig.
Things get marginally better from there as melodrama replaces young romance in the second half of Breaking Dawn.
Bella and Edward cut short their honeymoon because she is pregnant. This isn't a blessed event, we learn, as a human having a vampire's child usually doesn't survive the pregnancy. It isn't long before the vampire fetus begins to starve its host mother, as Edward and his family look on in fear of what will happen.
As for Bella's former flame, Jacob (Lautner) the werewolf, he doesn't take the news of her marriage or pregnancy well. Jacob broods about it. A lot. Then he gets angry. Followed by more brooding. He finally puts aside his contempt for Edward and his brooding for the sake of Bella, and offers to help them. Word of Bella's pregnancy has gotten back to the wolf pack, which view the unborn child as a threat to them and humans. They decide to break the truce they have with the Cullens and kill Bella, her unborn child, and any vampire that tries to stop them. Now Jacob is forced to choose. But not before a bit of brooding about his dilemma. At least there's a payoff at the end, with a decent action sequence that finally shows some life in this film.
This is the first Twilight outing for director Bill Condon, who directed two wonderful films, 1998's Gods and Monsters and 2006's Dreamgirls, so you can't dismiss him as a hack. He, along with Rosenberg, are also back for next year's Breaking Dawn -- Part 2. So what exactly is he doing slumming with this? I'm not sure Condon knows either, since his direction is as lazy as Rosenberg's script; there's no style to his film and certainly nothing of any substance.
Stretching the final book to two movies simply doesn't work, with much of Part 1 serving as padding until Part 2. Condon is forced to amble along, saving -- one hopes -- his memorable magic for the finale. That doesn't leave much here to entertain. Creatively, the film is barren. And with little to no direction and not much to do anyway, the actors are left to struggle even more than in the previous films. There's no emotional range in any of the characters, other than happy, sad, and brooding. They move robotically from scene to scene and deliver lines like "I know how this is going to end and I'm not sticking around to watch," as Jacob tells Bella about her doomed pregnancy.
Say that line out loud. Now, to mimic Lautner's delivery, say it out loud without any conviction. In fairness to Lautner, how can anyone say that line without snickering? Again, the blame goes to Rosenberg who, perhaps to connect with a younger audience, seems to have written the Breaking Dawn script in Twitterspeak, with no character dialogue more than 140 characters in length.
Maybe that's a blessing, since what these characters have to say isn't worth your time anyhow. Much like this movie.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.