The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I (2011)
Breaking Dawn Part 1
Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Melissa Rosenberg
Based on the Novel by: Stephanie Meyer
Let’s get this over with: I haven’t read Stephanie Meyer’s oft-derided YA paranormal romance novels. I probably never will. But I have seen the other movies in the series so far and while they aren’t great nor even good, there is at least some entertainment value to be found in there.
I’m no vampire purist so I don’t care if Meyer wants to make sparkly vampires; I don’t think these stories are any more about how important having a boyfriend is than any other female-oriented YA book. Let’s face it, to the target demographic here, having a boyfriend is really, really important so if someone is just upset that the book strikes a chord, you might as well rail against the idea that teenage girls can be a little frivolous. Which would be like railing against the idea that teenage boys can be clueless, hormone-soaked morons. In other words, a pretty big waste of time.
Whatever people seem to think they hate about Twilight, whether it’s the unedited, angst-ridden whine of the books or the casting of morose anti-starlet Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, I think most of it sounds like sour grapes. Listen, this territory has been well covered before (Buffy the Vampire Slayer—at least the TV incarnation—did it, and did it very well thank you very much) but it gets revisited because it works. Vampires and werewolves make great allegorical characters and they allow writers to speak about ideas such as immortality and love and loss and power and seduction and darkness and light in a language that everyone can understand and, when you get right down to it, it’s pretty easy to make it entertaining, too. Because frankly, most of the work has already been done in the pop culture that has been refining these myths for hundreds of years. Dropping a sunlight allergy isn’t going to make or break this minor revision.
So I view the Twilight movies for what they are: Paranormal teenybopper romance. And the first few movies were fine for what they were although admittedly they dipped into heavy corn territory far too often for my taste and, as I pointed out in a separate blog post, I thought there was a pretty big plot hole in the second film, New Moon. Whatever. I’ve been watching these because my wife likes them and she’s put up with enough super hero and science fiction nonsense from me that I can at least give her this series.
Or so I thought until I saw Breaking Dawn.
Here’s the thing about Breaking Dawn Part 1: This is not a movie.
Let’s summarize what you need to have a movie: Conflict; resolution.
Breaking Dawn has practically zero conflict. The cabal of vampires who were set as the primary antagonists in the third film are utterly absent here and the first whole hour of the movie is dedicated to an extended music video about Edward and Bella’s wedding and their honeymoon during which they consummate their marriage once and then the rest of the half hour is devoted to a will-they-or-won’t-they kind of sexual tension which is utterly null and void because they have already had sex. It’s barely enough to hold even the most forgiving moviegoer’s attention if your principal obstacle is whether or not two attractive young characters are going horizontal, but you cannot in good conscience devote the better part of half an hour to whether or not they will do it again.
About halfway through the movie Bella discovers she’s pregnant, something no one seemed to think was possible—I guess everyone assumed Eddie was shooting vampiric blanks or something. In any case, they head back home and the Cullen clan sit around wringing their hands while Bella’s gestating child grows at a supernatural rate and seems to be killing her. Eternally friend-zoned and back-burnered werewolf Jacob shows up, pissed off as usual at Edward for his continued existence and they exchange some terrible dialogue before Jacob’s wolf pack show up, somehow forcing yet another Uneasy Alliance between Jacob and Edward. Something to do with the wolves wanting to destroy Bella’s child because it’s an abomination or something? If it’s an abomination they were looking for, they might have wanted to start with the film’s hack of a director.
At any rate the last, laborious third of the movie is one torturous Mexican standoff between the Cullens and the werewolves culminating in a pretty unnerving birth sequence which isn’t really graphic but is still kind of harsh mostly due to the incredible foley work done. And let me pause for a minute to marvel at a film whose primary claim to excellence is a four minute sequence performed by the sound effects crew. Thinking about it, this may be all you really need to know about Breaking Dawn Part 1.
But just for laughs, let’s back up to that list of two things you need to have a movie. Having already established a dearth of conflict, we now arrive at the end of the movie wherein we realize, as the credits roll (or flash as the case happens to be), that we have not really resolved any of the questionable levels of conflict we managed to scrape off the unending scenes of poorly written and terribly delivered dialogue. Unless you count “vampire family gets married and starts new life together” as an acceptable synopsis for a movie—and you shouldn’t—that is literally all you get out of Breaking Dawn. Sometimes movies need to find a way to get more of themselves onto the cutting room floor, but in this case I can’t see why all 117 minutes of this had any reason to not end up in some Final Cut Pro user’s trash folder.
Perhaps—just perhaps—you could make a case that a condensed, five to ten minute version of the last half hour of this movie could serve as an acceptable prologue prior to the title card for a different movie as a setup for something that actually qualifies as a story. But this entire film counts as one huge example of the Wadsworth Constant.
Here’s my hope: Somewhere, someone decided that the book Breaking Dawn had to be filmed in its entirety in spite of the fact that the plot doesn’t kick in until the halfway point and therefore the forthcoming Breaking Dawn Part 2 actually contains the movie this one was supposed to begin. If that’s the case, okay. I guess I get it: This one’s for the fans of the book only, to stave off their ire at not including a true-to-source adaptation. I think I would have preferred it be a feature on the deluxe edition DVD, but whatever. But please, for the love of all that is good in loving husbands and boyfriends: Put a disclaimer in the ads warning potential audiences that what they are about to pay the better part of $20 to see is, in fact, DVD extras.
And then for your own sake, give Breaking Dawn Part 1 as wide a berth as you are physically able.