Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 review

The Twilight series is a bullet magnet for critical scorn especially from avowed film geeks. How formerly reviled Trekkies must have rejoiced as JJ Abrams made their franchise cool again at the same time as Twilight became the new kicking boy. The reason for the enmity towards the sparkly vamp / fluffy wolf series seems to me to be largely down to youth.

While other contemporary franchises are rooted in comic books from the last century, revivals of old TV shows, or bend over backwards to appeal to all demographics simultaneously, Twilight is aimed like a heat seeking missile at teenagers. Which is not to say they are not enjoyed by a broad range of fans, but the core audience is most definitely Young Adult, and female at that. There is nothing more dangerous than a geek scorned, so legions of non-teen genre fans have made hating Twilight a badge of honour – sure, you don't have to look very far on YouTube to find examples of extreme Twilight fandom, but so what? The same goes for Star Wars, Harry Potter, World of Warcraft or any comic franchise. There's nothing wrong with teens having a franchise of their own. Frankly, grow up – and maybe take a cold hard look at some of the crap you watched back in the 80s and get all misty eyed about now.

Having said that, the quality of the Twilight film series itself has been variable. Catherine Hardwick's first film was solid, apart from some ropey CGI. Chris Weitz's New Moon was one of the most boring films I've ever seen – you are in trouble when your action highlight is a motorcycle maintenance montage. David Slade's third entry, Eclipse, was a high watermark, featuring better action than any previous entry. The series has made stars out of Stewart (also unfairly mocked as an actress) and Pattison. It doesn't seem to have had the same effect for co-star Lautner, though, if the dismal box office of Abduction is anything to go on. It was once remarked of MGM's aquatic musical star Esther Williams that "wet she's a star, dry she 'aint". It's much the same with Lautner, only in his case he's a star with his shirt off, wet is just a bonus for fans.

This episode of the saga kicks off on the eve of the wedding of vamp Edward (R Patz) and human Bella (Stewart), with werewolf Jacob (Lautner) seething in the wings. Bella and Edward exchange vows which no one seems to be aware are completely meaningless. What use is till death do us part to a VAMPIRE! Be warned, the wedding scene in this film would probably be too long even for Michael Cimino, although The Deer Hunter missed a trick by not having a comedy wedding speech montage that seems to last for five hours. The notably absent Jacob eventually turns up, but throws a hissy fit when he finds out that Bella plans to stay human for her honeymoon. "You'll kill her," to yells at Edward. Whatever could he mean?

Edward whisks Bella off to a secret island in Brazil where they skinny dip to the first of many indie landfill tunes. And after three-and-a-bit films of simmering unrequited passion, they finally experience the joy of a fade-out to the next morning. Is this the ultimate case of cinematic blue balls or what? Anyway, it seems that Edward for all his hundred years on the earth has learned little biology, as he is stunned when Bella starts to show signs of an accelerated vampire pregnancy. And this is where the problems kick in, as the pregnancy threatens Bella's life but she is unwilling to give up the baby.

I'd love to go on describing more of the movie's insane plot, but that's enough spoilers for y'all. However, the highlights never stop. At two-hours plus the film could have been considerably shorter if director Condon had maybe cut the indie music backed montages by 50%. Jacob's wolf clan are as fluffy and adorable as ever. Really, even when snarling and bearing fangs, the overwhelming desire is to give their tummies a tickle. There is a spectacularly ill judged scene where the wolves talk telepathically in weird Disney voices. And then there is the blood smoothie, blurgh.

This probably sounds like absolute rubbish, and it is but ... and you have no idea how professionally embarrassing it is to say this ... I enjoyed the hell out of this stupid movie. Condon goes hell for leather into the realms of hysterical melodrama. There's lots of brooding, and R Patz and Lautner indulge in many staring contests. However, the film's greatest virtue is Stewart; the actress has to deal with a wealth of embarrassing indignities (a girlie freakout over forgetting to pack a swimsuit, hideously effective wasting makeup, the blood smoothie, the birthing chair), yet somehow she keeps a straight face. No matter how ludicrous the film gets, it is anchored to the story of a young woman making her own choices and living with them.

Let me break it down. If you are not a Twilight fan, do not go see this movie, you will have a horrible time. If you are a Twilight fan – hell, you don't care what I think. There, that's the power of effective film criticism.

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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