In recent years Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has become a global phenomonen to rival Harry Potter. Originally best-selling novels, it wasn’t long before the rights were snapped up and a film mega-franchise was born. Casting Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in the lead roles, 2008s Twilight was a huge success, telling the forbidden love story between a vampire and a human, it also took $392m worldwide at the box office. Since then there have been two incredibly successful sequels, New Moon and Eclipse that moved the story to broader themes of trust, betrayal and the right of women to choose. The Twilight series of films were often camp, style-over-substance affairs, but they were at least moderately entertaining, increasing in quality with each installment.
The novel series finishes the story of Edward (Pattinson), Bella (Stewart) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (despite the films long title, if the Hollywood executives feel it necessary to put that title on their posters, then I’ll put it in my review). It was decided, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2, to split the film into two parts so that the story had time to breathe and fans of the series could say goodbye to the characters that they’ve grown to love. Plus there’s more money to be made with two films instead of one, so 2011 saw the release of the first part, innovatively entitled The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1.
Breaking Dawn Part 1′s plot sees eternally bummed-out teenager Bella finally making up her mind and joining ‘Team Edward,’ and the two love-birds getting married. A lot of returning characters from previous films get sent their invitations to the wedding. Notably Jacob receives his and is so incensed with rejection and full of angst, that he takes off his shirt and goes off for a run. The happy couple then travel on their honeymoon to Rio and finally consummating their relationship. A short while later, Bella notices that she has a bump developing and low and behold, the happy couple are expecting a half-human, half-vampire child that threatens to tear the fragile alliance between werewolves and vampires, not to mention Bella’s body, apart.
As you can see the plot is the height of melodrama and preposterous reasoning. But, as with all the previous instalments, that doesn’t make The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 a bad film. It’s everything else that does that. Where to start? The acting is demonstrably terrible from the main leads, as Pattinson and Stewart, two of Hollywood’s up-and-coming stars appear so uncomfortable with the material that they awkwardly shuffle in camera shot and share absolutely zero chemistry and the much-awaited marriage consummation night. Thank goodness for Taylor Lautner, he of the rippling abs and growing charisma. When he’s in human form, he at least seems to understand the ridiculousness of events surrounding him and gives a knowing nod or eye roll at the right time, as if acknowledging how silly it all is. Sadly when he’s in werewolf form he seems to have developed a terrible cold that makes him sound like a rasping villain from a Disney film.
There are brief moments of humour that break the crushing boredom, it’s only a shame that they almost all occur at the wedding scenes in the opening 20 minutes. The speeches are a hoot, and for a short while the audience is lulled into a false sense of security. The potential names for Bella and Edwards child draw an audible laugh because of their nature, with ‘Eja,’ a cross between Edward and Jacob for a boy, and ‘Renesmee’ a cross between Renee and Esmee, for a girl.
Director Bill Condon, a man best known for dramatic films like Gods & Monsters and Dreamgirls appears to have little or no understanding for the source material or audience. Where the previous Twilight films had some fun with the camp nonsense that makes up the saga, Condon approaches it from a dramatic stance, which makes for a truly abominable viewing experience. Gone are the quite interesting fight scenes of David Slade’s Eclipse, replaced with one, singular boring action sequence, that is thankfully short. The rest of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is one long-winded, explanation of the bizarre plot. It’s dull, tiresome, repitive and humourless except for when it’s grotesque and fairly disgusting, especially the birth scene where they were clearly shooting for Alien, but miss by quite a way. And don’t even get me started on Jacob’s creepy ‘imprinting.’ There’s nothing quite like paedophilic overtones to really hammer the nail in the coffin of this abominable viewing experience.
Twilight films have never been outstanding, but they have at least been quite fun. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is where that streak ends. It is unimaginable to comprehend what Stephanie Meyer was thinking when writing the novel, and even more unbelievable to imagine a Hollywood studio giving the go ahead for such a bizarre excuse for a film. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 feels like a test of their own popularity and you can imagine both author and studio saying “If they’ll buy this, they’ll buy anything.” It’s a real shame that a major blockbuster aimed squarely at the female demographic, rare in itself, should be so appallingly put together. Thank goodness for this years’ other piece of female-friendly film-making, Bridesmaids.
There some small attempt at a cliff-hanger to encourage audiences to see the final part, if only this basic thought had occurred to them in the preceding two hours, the audience might have been saved from the endless reaction shots and outrageous plot contrivances and let’s not even talk about the horrendous musical score that guides you through the reaction you should be having to the car crash happening in front of your very eyes. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 represents absolutely everything that is wrong with franchise film-making, and the sad thing is regardless of quality they’ve already made enough to justify another sequel even if they hadn’t already made it. Twihards will no doubt hail it as the new Citizen Kane, but for anyone not under the spell, we’re just happy that there’s only one more to go as the end comes welcomingly into view.
Here’s the review from the poor soul I dragged with me to the cinema to see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. All in the name of charity… Alex Morrison’s Running Errands