Film Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011)

Twilight-Breaking-Dawn-Part-1-Movie-Poster

Scott has already spelled out most of what you need to know about the Twilight films in his last three reviews – they ain’t good. There’s a bit of campy sensibility that can be squeezed out of Catherine Hardwicke’s first film, but the next two play as bland and lifeless as anything you’ll see onscreen. The fourth film, Breaking Dawn: Part 1, was released last November to the usual response – a critical savaging (25% on Rotten Tomatoes) and huge box office ($281 million.) But in all the typical Twilight vitriol, people missed what might actually be the weirdest entry into the franchise, and in its own way, the most interesting. Don’t get me wrong – Breaking Dawn is a cluster-fuck; but at times, it’s a fascinating cluster-fuck.

 
Much has been made of author Stephanie Meyers’ notoriously lifeless narratives, and nowhere is that more pertinent than in the first hour of Breaking Dawn. The “young” lovers – human Bella and vampire Edward – get married and take a fabulous honeymoon. And it probably wouldn’t matter that these scenes have no excitement or thrills, if they didn’t take up the entire first hour of the fucking movie. Yep, for almost sixty minutes, there is precisely zero narrative tension in the film; it’s an almost stunning thing to behold, a bullet to the face of every screenwriting manual in the history of cinema. It’s complete and utter fan-wank; an opportunity for lovers of the book to simply stare at the objects of their affection in different pretty settings; and the obvious result of cutting the final book in the series into two films instead of just chopping out what doesn’t work ion film. Hell, I don’t even think it’s a bad idea; it serves its fan purpose and it’s shot beautifully by director Bill Condon (yep, that one…Candyman 2, Gods & Monsters, Kinsey, Dreamgirls… someone cashed a huge check.) It’s narratively nothing, but it’s, you know, pretty.

 

The bizarreness kicks in during the second half – when Bella realizes she’s been impregnated with a vampire baby, sparks a fight between the werewolves and the vampires, and slowly descends into a zombie-looking half-life. Not to spoil too much, but the film’s big twist is already infamous – she births a creepy psychic baby, and her werewolf wannabe-lover automatically “imprints” on it (i.e. realizes the baby is meant to be the love of his life.) In the book, the author tries to write around this insanity by saying “imprinting” means loving someone however they need to be loved at that point in their life. The movie tries to cover it up with some vague, profane-looking visuals. But in short, Bella births the impossible vampire-baby, her boyfriend chews through the placenta to free the baby before it can kill its mom, and then her other boyfriend falls in love with it. From the director of Kinsey, I guess it could make sense.

 

And as bad as Breaking Dawn is (the standardly shitty acting, pacing, and special effects are all here), Condon really does seem to throw himself into those final freaky minutes. The spastic, hyper-edited finale notoriously gave someone an epileptic fit. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was all smiles and delirious laughter when I watched the bloody climax explode in all its placenta-chewing, baby-seducing glory, causing genuinely anxious screams from the tweens at the theater.  Condon seems to be reveling in his horror-flick past here. It may not be worth the two tour hours that came before it, but the last 15 minutes of Breaking Dawn are better than at least half of what I saw in theaters last year. Indeed, the movie sucks overall, and I’m definitely not the audience for it, but thank Condon for throwing the horror fans a little something there in the end (or just trying to fuck with the kiddies’ heads.)

 

Rating: 2/5 ★★☆☆☆ 

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About Josh_C

Josh has studied film at the Universities of Missouri and Florida, and he is currently studying horror film and popular culture in the Communication and Culture program at Indiana University. He has previously worked with the True/False Documentary Film Festival and the Ragtag Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, and he served as short-term production assistant on This Film Is Not Yet Rated. He is currently working on a dissertation on independent horror, horror film festivals, and horror fandom; feel free to contact him to discuss any of the above! He is also studying Dark Carnival Film Festival (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com).

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