Note: This review reveals details about the wedding and birthing scenes. Also, there are no comparisons to the book in this review. The book is the book. The film is the film.
My fascination with vampires started when my friends introduced me to the creations of Anne Rice. Recently, Rice made comments about Stephenie Meyer’s work, and Rice’s vampires are a different breed. Darker and more ruthless, Lestat had no time for high school romances. Lestat didn’t sparkle. Am I a fan of the sparkles? No. However, I understand their function. Many authors have devised ways to work around the sunlight issue. For Rice, older vampires and those who drink from the Queen can walk in the sun. In Meyer’s world, the sparkles give vampires the same ability. Rice and Meyer have another similarity: both feature a beautiful and brooding male. Rice’s Louis and Meyer’s Edward loathe being vampires and constantly question the state of their souls. While Louis wondered the world searching for a purpose to continue his tragic existence, Edward found his reason for living in Forks, Washington.
Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Their love is the heart of ‘The Twilight Saga,’ and the reason many have become fans of the series, and the saga does have a large, fervent following. I must confess that I am not a fangirl, but I’m not a critic eager to rip the film to shreds before the first frame flickers in the dark. I can understand why some are not fans of ‘Twilight.’ Instead of a traditionally cold-hearted, blood-thirsty vampire, Edward is sensitive, expressive, and passionately in love. He tells Bella repeatedly that she is his whole existence. Melodramatic? Yes. Edward is a teenager, an eternal teenager, forever fixed at the age when the emotional pendulum swings from one end to the other in seconds and every thought is important and intense. Not only is he at his emotive apex, he is from another time, a time judged as pure, romantic, and chaste. This idealized view of love is why many are fans of the series. Love for love’s sake, love conquers all, and sex can wait until marriage.
In the real world if someone says you are his (or her) sole reason for existence, you should proceed with caution (or leave), but in the ‘Twilight’ world the obsessive love between Edward and Bella works because of the forces working against them. Their love is celebrated with a lavish and beautiful wedding, which is how ‘Breaking Dawn Part 1’ begins. The opening wedding sequence establishes character relationships, past and present, and the strong bond between Bella and Edward.
The chemistry between Kristen Stewart’s Bella and Robert Pattinson’s Edward never left much room for doubt that the pair would end up together. If you have never seen any of the previous films, you know Bella and Edward belong together when she sees Edward at the wedding. She cannot take her eyes off of him, and she is serene as her father escorts her down the aisle. The wedding sequence even establishes the connection between Bella and Jacob during a tender moment turned sour. Stewart and Lautner have chemistry, but not enough to completely sell Jacob as a serious competitor to Edward. Jacob and Bella do have a bond, one that is deep and necessary to the story, and their bond is explained in one exquisite moment near the end of the film.
The film begins strong. The entire wedding sequence – the day before, the ceremony, and the reception – is well-paced and skillfully acted. Billy Burke, as Charlie Swan, steals the reception scenes, including his part of the great montage of all the different speeches. However, once we go on the honeymoon with the newlyweds, the pacing falters. The honeymoon section of the film is too long, and it takes a while to get to the major plot moments. The inconsistent pacing of the film made me want David Slade back. Slade directed ‘Eclipse,’ and ‘Eclipse’ is a tight, taunt, and suspenseful film. Unfortunately, Bill Condon, the director of ‘Breaking Dawn Part 1’ does not maintain the quality of ‘Eclipse.’ ‘Breaking Dawn Part 1’ feels padded; hopefully Condon will time the action better in ‘Part 2.’
One example of how Condon disappointed me is the birthing scene. The sound design and editing is excellent. Bella’s bones snap and crack as she goes into labor sooner than expected. However, the visuals are sparse. I expected more clawing action under Bella’s skin as the baby tried to escape and a lot more blood. Instead, we see many close ups of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. I’m sure Condon wants us to use our imaginations about what Edward has to do to deliver the baby, but the choice of angles and the editing do not create a feeling of suspense. I wanted to be afraid; I wanted to feel anxious about Bella’s and the baby’s fate, but the moment did not make me grab the edge of my seat. The lack of intensity of the scene left me wanting more from such a vital part of the film.
Although the middle is muddled, the film starts strong and ends with an interesting set of scenes that set up ‘Part 2’ in a satisfying manner. The film has many funny moments thanks to Charlie and Alice (Ashley Green), and ‘Breaking Dawn Part 1’ showcases the actors well. The performances carry this film, especially Taylor Lautner as Jacob. Lautner shines and makes Jacob’s arc in the film believable. If Lautner had missed one beat in the film, then the ending would have fallen flat. To discuss Lautner’s performance in more detail would mean to reveal a lot more of the plot.
At this point I would either recommend the film or not, but this is ‘Twilight,’ so fans will go no matter what anyone says. If you’re new to the series, enjoy the wedding, take your break during the honeymoon, and pay attention to the scenes with the werewolves in any form they are in. By doing so, the ending of the film will make sense.