The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
Release Date: November 18, 2011
Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg (screenplay), Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The Twilight franchise has become an undeniable phenomenon. People camped out for days to catch midnight screenings of Breaking Dawn – Part 1, the first half of the final story in the series. But watching the film, it’s hard to understand exactly what the appeal is. The writing is sloppy, the acting is underwhelming and the film’s overall message and themes are quite troubling.
On the bright side, the film looks quite beautiful. All of the vampires in the film have irises in their eyes that explode with color. The cinematography is quite fetching too, showing off rich landscapes and vibrant set pieces. Unfortunately, if you stop looking at the lovely images onscreen and begin thinking about the film’s plot, the whole thing falls apart
The story centers around the marriage of Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Bella is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate and Edward is an over-100-year-old vampire who looks 17 and has spent his years going from town to town reliving high school over and over again like some twisted version of Groundhog Day. But he’s willing to give all that up for a life with Bella, who he has reluctantly agreed to turn into a vampire after their honeymoon.
The film never bothers to address how troubling any of this is. Instead, the audience is supposed to find it romantic that Edward has finally found love and not think about how this naive girl who is too young to know what she truly wants is prepared to give up her entire future (and her life, since she will henceforth be “undead”) for a much older man.
Then again, this is a franchise that has sanitized and altered everything about the vampire mythos to make the idea of being a vampire seem appealing. These vampires don’t have to worry about going out into the sun – it doesn’t kill them, it simply makes them sparkle like diamonds. And while Edward and the other Cullens still drink blood, they all feed on animals instead of people. Plus being a vampire makes you super fast, super strong and gives you special powers like telepathy and psychic visions.
The only character that actually tries to talk Bella out of her decision is Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner). But Jacob has a few ulterior motives for doing so – a) he has feelings for Bella and b) he is a werewolf, the sworn enemy of the vampire. So Jacob’s objections to the wedding and the subsequent turning ring hollow.
The film only becomes more troubling after their honeymoon. Bella and Edward consummate their relationship on a private island off the coast of Rio and somehow Bella becomes pregnant. (I say “somehow” because the film never bothers to come up with an explanation for how this can happen.) The baby inside her grows and matures at an increased rate (again for reasons that are never explained). It also begins killing Bella from the inside, sucking the life out of her as it grows. (And unfortunately, Edward can’t turn her into a vampire until she’s given birth to the baby – again, you guessed it, for reasons that are never explained.)
The rest of the movie is spent with Bella laying on couches in pain while everyone around her tries to figure out what to do. And this is the most troubling aspect of this franchise. Bella is such a passive character that it’s hard to sympathize with her. She is constantly a damsel in distress in need of rescuing. In the second film, Edward leaves her so she spends the entire movie putting herself in danger just to get his attention. And in this film, she just sits there slowly dying while everyone else figures out how to save her.
Not helping things is the fact that the acting all around is quite wooden. The main characters all range from underwhelming to quite bad. The only actor in the entire film who gave a compelling performance was Billy Burke, who plays Bella’s dad Charlie Swan. Burke has a limited amount of screen time, but in it he manages to present a complete character who you instantly relate to and feel empathy toward. He is a father giving his young daughter away to a man he’s not entirely comfortable with. You feel for him and want to see more of his story. Chances are, it is more interesting than what is actually being presented onscreen.
The film just sort of plods along with very little action and not much advancement. The werewolves do decide they need to destroy Bella’s baby, since they are afraid of what it might grow into. Jacob objects to this, since their plan involves killing Bella while the baby is still inside of her (which, once again, means that Bella will need to be rescued). Also, we learn that all werewolves “imprint” on another person, which bonds them to that person for life. There’s an entire subplot about Jacob’s imprinting, the payoff of which is quite bizarre and unnerving.
It’s a bad film, full of sloppy writing and underwhelming performances. Though I realize that this review is falling on deaf ears – those of you who are into these movies will see this regardless of what I say. Like Bella, you’ve made your decision already and you are in this for life. Sadly, I can’t rescue you.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his reviews, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. You can contact Joel at firstname.lastname@example.org.