Twilight author Stephenie Meyer took her teen vampire love story book series in an unexpected direction with the fourth and final novel of the franchise, Breaking Dawn. Meyer's Breaking Dawn created quite a dilemma for Summit Entertainment, as the book had more bizarre plot twists and turns than the previous three books combined. And given the fact Twihards demand the films remain as faithful as possible to the books, there was no way Summit could do anything except follow along the strange path Meyer wandered down (she claims she wasn't making a statement about abstinence or abortion) with Breaking Dawn. Ultimately, that meant Breaking Dawn was divided up into two films and some of the more graphic scenes - the honeymoon, Bella's subsequent pregnancy, and the childbirth scenes - had to be toned down in order to maintain a PG-13 rating (an R-rating was never, ever an option).
So, given the fact Breaking Dawn the book has a much more involved, complex plot than Twilight, New Moon or Eclipse, why is Breaking Dawn Part 1 such a letdown? Because it's tepid when it needs to be steamy, and the pace is excruciatingly sluggish. There are sporadic moments when the film livens up, but considering the source material's ripe with dramatic opportunities - more so than the previous films - Breaking Dawn's disappointingly tame and lethargic.
The Story in a Nutshell:
In the first few minutes of the movie, Jacob takes off his shirt and runs away (because a shirtless Taylor Lautner is needed to kick off this next-to-last film). Next up, Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) finally exchange their I do's while Bella's dad - despite the fact he's a cop - still can't figure out that all these strangers at his daughter's wedding are anything other than human (they don't look human with their pasty skin and weird eyes, but no one ever seems to notice). Jacob shows up unexpectedly as the reception's winding down, he and Bella have a brief reunion, and then he's angered once again by Bella's decision-making and runs away.
Bella and Edward fly, boat, and taxi cab off to their honeymoon on Isle Esme where feathers fly and virgins are deflowered. Bella is very nervous about the whole thing, but not half as much so as Edward who refuses to have sex twice because of how bruised his poor human bride wound up being after their first night together as a married couple. Still, all it takes is once and before Bella has a chance to adjust to being married, she finds herself carrying Edward's baby. And that baby is growing at a frightening pace.
Back in Forks, the Cullens have taken sides in the 'should Bella keep the baby' debate, with Rosalie becoming Bella's baby's biggest fan. But that baby is slowly killing its mom as it sucks up all the nutrients and demands more, all while Bella's unable to keep anything down.
Will the baby live? Will Bella? And what's up with the wolfpack? Will Bella and Edward's vampire-human hybrid baby mean full on war between the Cullens and the wolves? If you're asking these questions, you haven't read the books. But even if you haven't, you should be able to figure out the answers given the fact fans would have stormed Meyer's house had she killed off Bella Swan. And no way would Meyer ever kill off a baby in a teen-centric novel series.
The Bottom Line:
Breaking Dawn Part 1 begins well enough with the much-anticipated wedding of recent high school grad Bella and her brooding, handsome vampire boyfriend, Edward. Director Bill Condon gives the wedding dress its fair share of close-ups, leisurely panning down Stewart's back to show the dress off in detail (although the shot cuts away before we're treated to a close-up of her butt, thankfully). There are even a few light moments between Bella's divorced mom and dad while Rosalie (Nikki Reed) and Alice (Ashley Greene) work on her hair and make-up. It's such a promising start to the film that when, after half an hour, the pace abruptly slows to a snail's, the change is jarring. The wedding is the highlight and the rest of the film feels like filler, with easily 30 minutes of the film's 117 completely unnecessary. And considering that Part 1 includes the wedding, honeymoon, pregnancy and birth scenes, the energy level should have been high throughout.
The overpowering score, which was so intrusive I initially thought it was a temporary track, is not what we've come to expect from composer Carter Burwell, and the effects are just as cheesy as they've been throughout the saga. As for the acting, Robert Pattinson seems more comfortable in Edward's lily white skin, and for once he's allowed to play through a series of emotions. Kristen Stewart doesn't once play with her hair, which is a massive improvement over previous installments. But Taylor Lautner still hasn't lived up to expectations, and has yet to show he's capable of carrying on with a solid acting career outside of playing a shirtless, shapeshifting lovesick teen.
I know by now that I'm asking too much, but here's hoping that A) the supporting players (i.e. the Cullen family) are given more screen time in Part 2, B) any new CG effects will not be as cheesy as the rendering of the wolves has been for the entire series, and C) that once Bella turns into a vampire, she will smile. These are not unreasonable requests, are they?
Breaking Dawn Part 1 was directed by Bill Condon and is rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements.
Theatrical Release: November 18, 2011