The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1

Movie Information

The Story: The wedding of the century between Edward and Bella quickly turns into a nightmare when Bella gets pregnant with a baby that threatens her life. Drama ensues. The Lowdown: Much more stylish than the previous Twilight films, making it more interesting as filmmaking. As drama, however, it's more of the same -- only maybe a little goofier.
Genre: Tween Horror Romance
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Gil Birmingham, Peter Facinelli
Rated: PG-13

Another Twilight movie, another $140 million of teen and tween money into the pockets of Summit Entertainment, another bad movie. It ought to be as simple as that, and in some ways it is. The difference here is that every so often director Bill Condon manages to make the film a heady mix of visual splendor and over-the-top camp. He even briefly really pulls a rabbit out of his hat and makes the story compelling. That’s no mean feat when you’re talking a movie with a leading lady who already looks like the walking dead while yearning to become one—and whose basic notion of acting consists of remaining expressionless or running her hand through her hair. This is not to say I’m recommendng this movie—merely that it’s more elegant and interesting than its predecessors. And considering the squandered talent of its director, that’s ever so slightly depressing.

The problem is that Condon can only do so much with the material at hand—especially in this case, where maybe an hour of plot is stretched out to 117 minutes. It starts off with Bella (Kristen Stewart) doing a voice-over about putting away childish things (like fantasizing about dreamy dead guys and muscle-bound wolf boys?), but then the movie immediately gets down to cases with pissy Jacob (Taylor Lautner) throwing away his invitation her wedding with Edward (Robert Pattinson), bursting out of his clothes (the better to show off his beefiness), turning into one of those ludicrous Buick-sized CGI wolves, and running off into the woods to do whatever it is these boys do in the woods. Unfortunately, this level of overheated lunacy is short-lived as we plunge into the wedding preparations.

In all honesty, the wedding preparations and the wedding (taking place under the world’s biggest weeping cherry tree) are pretty good. In fact, the single best scene in the film—where Edward details his bout of real-throat-munching-vampirism ca. 1935—takes place here. But that scene is a double-edged sword and then some, since it starts in a movie palace that’s showing James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which not only brings in a vastly superior movie to the one we’re watching, but it calls to mind Condon’s own Gods and Monsters (1998), which is also vastly superior to Breaking Dawn—Part 1. Bella’s nightmare isn’t bad either—probably more horrific than the first three movies put together—and the wedding is cleverly edited.

By now you’re thinking it’s not that bad, right? Well, then we get to the honeymoon and … well, it all goes to hell pretty fast. I’m not even going to get into the whole business of the property damage that seems to go hand in hand with vampire sex (I don’t see this improving once Bella gets vampirized), but let’s pause for a moment to reflect on how Bella is all roughed-up and bruised, but she’s cool with it because Edward did it. If there’s ever been a more brazen excuse for spousal abuse, you probably have to go back to Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom from 1909 to find it. No matter, the big point here is that, for a dead guy, Edward appears to have some pretty lively sperm, because Bella finds herself pregnant—with a rapidly developing fetus that threatens her life.

From here it just gets sillier as it turns into some weird pro-life tract, a stand-off between the vampires and the amusingly telepathically chatty werewolves, and general dumbness. The ending improves on this—vampire teeth C-section and all—but it’s so protracted that it loses whatever dramatic impact it might have had. OK, I’ll admit to some amusement over Condon’s final shot being a reworking of our first look at the bride in Bride of Frankenstein. Now, about this business of Jacob going all ga-ga over and “imprinting” on the baby … And just think, a year from now you’ll get to see the bad vampires come after the baby. In the meantime, you can watch parents fret over whether this one went too far, while the fans grumble that it didn’t go far enough. Rated PG-13 for distubring images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 1

  1. DrSerizawa

    Where did this stupid Vampires vs Werewolves crap start in the first place? One of the old Lon Chaney Jr movies right? Then we went on for years and years where this stupid concept was left alone until the dumb “Underworld” series. I used to call “Underworld” stupid but the “Twilight” series has lowered the bar substantially.

    My favorite “Twilight” spoof is here:

  2. Ken Hanke

    I guess it starts with Lon and Lugosi in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1938. The Wolf Man and Dracula don’t even meet in House of Frankenstein (1944) and they aren’t specifically battle it out in House of Dracula (1945). In fact in Return of the Vampire (1944), Lugosi’s ersatz Dracula has a werewolf minion (who appears to tend to his master’s laundry).

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