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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Anna Kendrick, Dakota Fanning, Ashley Greene, Billy Burke, Jackson Rathbone, Kellan Lutz, Maggie Grace, Michael Sheen, Peter Facinelli, and Nikki Reed
DIRECTED BY
Bill Condon
SCREENPLAY
Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (Novel)
MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13
RUNNING TIME
117 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Summit Entertainment
DVD EXTRAS
6-Part "Making of" Documentary; Wedding Video; Jacob's Destiny; Edward Fast Forward and Jacob Fast Forward; Audio Commentary w/Director Bill Condon
 "Twilight - Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1" Review  
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As I was on my way into the theatre for the advanced screening of Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1, I had the good fortune to be right behind a couple of young women in their early to mid-20's. The only word that could possibly be used to describe these young women would be "giddy." They were positively giddy, one of them even exclaiming with complete joy and sincerity "I've been waiting for this all year. This is going to be the best night of my life."

SERIOUSLY.

As I was preparing to leave the theatre following the advanced screening of Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1, I had the equally good fortune to be right behind a young teenager who exclaimed "This was the best one yet!"

Sigh.

So, there you are. If you're a proud member of Team Edward, Team Jacob or simply Team Twilight, then there seems to be a pretty darn good chance that this first of two films based upon Stephenie Meyers' last novel in the Twilight series, "Breaking Dawn," is aimed squarely at you and you're going to whip yourself into an orgasmic frenzy of vampiric delight regardless of what any silly ole' film critic says.

So be it.

I am not a Twilight hater, though certainly the films are not aimed at my demographic and you'd likely never hear me actually acknowledge the films as actually "good" films. That said, I did give Eclipse a modest B-, 2.5 - star recommendation mostly owing to director David Slade's ability to tap into the humor, camp and style quite a bit more successfully than his predecessors. Unfortunately, Slade isn't back for this film nor signed on for the final film. The end result is that Twilight - Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is an overly long, overwrought and wildly uneven film that is likely only to truly please the most hardcore of Twilight's fans.

In case you've been living in a coven, Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1 gives us Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Bella's (Kristen Stewart) big day, much to the chagrin of Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and poor ole' Bella's dad (Billy Burke, who gives one of the few decent performances in the film). Because we have a lot of time to kill to turn this into a full-length feature film, the build up to the wedding is drawn out to at least 20-30 minutes with ample amounts of Edward feeling guilty, Bella looking nervous, Jacob racing off into werewolf-fueled rages and absolutely zero in the way of tension being built up.

Edward and Bella head off for a "surprise" destination honeymoon, and we're treated to another half hour of "Should we?" "Can we?," "I'll try," "Oh, please try!," "I'm sorry," "I'm not" and on and on and on. (SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN"T READ THE BOOK). Bella ends up pregnant, and the last half of the film is spent watching the already emaciated Kristen Stewart become more emaciated thanks to carrying some sort of demon (Jacob's words!) as he screams at Edward with all the emotion he can muster "You did this to her!"

Um. Yeah. DUH.

Then, we're forced to endure countless debates about whether or not Bella should keep whatever it is that's inside her, while both vampires and werewolves become increasingly aware that a death would mean the breaking of the treaty.

Even for those of us who don't consider ourselves true Twilight fans, there's always been a certain something to admire about the films. At the very least, the Twilight films have been visually compelling poetic journeys with an almost meditative quality about them. While new director Bill Condon directs with a confidence that has been sorely lacking, his direction lacks the fluidity and almost mystical quality that previous Twilight films have captured. In Slade's preceding film, for example, the wolves were majestic and fierce and beautifully realized creatures in nicely choreographed action sequences. In this film, the wolves border on cartoonish, are all bark and no bite and, in one of the film's absolutely worst scenes, Condon even tries to intertwine both their animalistic and human traits with laughably bad results.

It's worth noting that the Twilight films have never been mega-budget films, at least not by Hollywood's grandiose standards. Twilight - Eclipse upped the ante considerably with a $68 million production budget. Sure, that's a ton of money but by Hollywood's special effects standards it's still reasonably modest. This film, on the other hand, considerably ups the ante with a $110 million production budget but, rather sadly, there's not much evidence of the increased budget on the big screen. Flashback sequences are frequently amateurish and the film's dream sequences come off as looking like old school special effects.

Much like was true with the Harry Potter films, the majority of the major players here have been around for the entire series and they've really lived with their characters. While the Potter characters grew and developed over the course of that series, all we can say about Edward, Bella and Jacob is that they're practically carbon copies of the characters that we first laid eyes on way back (at least it feels way back) when the series started.

Kristen Stewart is still a sullen, lovestruck teenager determined give up her humanity for the one she loves. While Breaking Dawn should give her a chance to flex her acting muscles, mostly what we get is a goth-eyed, preggers teenager with Marilyn Manson make-up. While I've heard time and again that young women are swept up in this as "true love," it's hard not to wonder how "I have to die for love" is a "true love" message. It sounds more like domestic violence to me. That said, Stewart remains one of the true stand-outs of the Twilight series and, at least among the leading trio, remains the most likely to have a post-Twilight career worth writing home about.

Robert Pattinson is certainly tailor-made for this type of role, though unless there's a major renewed interest in vampire movies it's hard to imagine his maintaining any semblance of an A-list acting career. Pattinson and Stewart finally acnowledged that they are, in fact, a couple to which most of the film's fans swooned. Pattinson is decent enough here, though he's certainly never stretched himself over the course of the films.

Taylor Lautner? He came so close in the last film to showing an emotion that I allowed myself false hope that he'd finally stretch and become the Rupert Grint of Twilight and at least make a bit of a name for himself beyond his admittedly impeccable abs. All Lautner does here, however, is grimace and growl and, if my memory serves me well, he actually only takes off his shirt 1-2x. Lautner's method of serving up a sincere performance is to actually say something sarcastic while he's smirking to justify the smirk.

The supporting players, on the other hand, occasionally come off quite well. Billy Burke has always added an emotional depth to the films that they sorely needed, and his scenes early on in Breaking Dawn are both funny and remarkably touching. Anna Kendrick is only here briefly, but she does a nice job while on screen.

The film's mood shifts are also a bit jarring. Twilight - Breaking Dawn Part 1 starts off quite a bit like its predecessor with a mix of melodrama and humor that fits the film quite nicely. Unfortunately, once the wedding is over we switch into romantic histrionics and once the pregnancy occurs we go way over the edge into trauma drama with the baby mama. It doesn't help that some scenes are slowed down dramatically, a slowness in the pacing only reinforced by Carter Burwell's mind-numbingly placid original score.

If you've been along for the entire Twilight ride, then there's likely nothing I can say to change your mind. By all means, I truly hope you enjoy yourself into the orgasmic frenzy of vampiric delight that you so richly deserve. If, however, you've never cared for anything the films or, adversely, you've never seen a single one then there's absolutely no reason to start with this one about a morbidly in love teenager, her impossibly good looking but otherworldly hubby and their gut bustin' baby to be and the dysfunctional families that surround them all.

Man, maybe this really is a slice-of-life film after all.

DVD REVIEW

While watching the Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 DVD certainly didn't change my mind about the quality of the film, it did give me an appreciation for Bill Condon's directorial efforts and for the reasons behind its fan base. In this two-disc Special Edition release, there exists an abundance of extras that should please most Twilight fans whether you really were a huge fan of this most recent film or not. With Part 2 coming up later this year, this DVD sets the stage and will likely whip the fan base into a frenzy of anticipation.


© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
    The Official Rating Guideline
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