D: Bill Condon. DP: Guillermo Navarro. W: Melissa Rosenberg. Starring: Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson/Taylor Lautner/Ashley Greene/Nikki Reed/Kellan Lutz/Elizabeth Reaser/Peter Facinelli/Billy Burke/Jackson Rathbone/Sarah Clarke/Anna Kendrick/Booboo Stewart/Julia Jones/Maggie Grace/Chaske Spencer. (NOTE: Based on Stephanie Meyer’s young adult fiction book of the same name).
Once again, twi-hards from near and far gathered and camped out for this this year’s release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. This is the fourth film, but first part of the conclusion of the star-crossed romance of the human Bella and vampire Edward. And for those of you who have no idea what Twilight is about, I envy you for missing out on this one.
This latest installment jumps right into the wedding day for Kristen Stewart’s Bella and Robert Pattinson’s Edward. This wedding is symbolic as it not only will act as a catalyst to allow the couple’s relationship to evolve out of its chaste state, but represents Stewart’s Bella’s commitment to eventually becoming a vampire like Pattinson’s Edward. But let’s be honest, this symbolism is pretty overt. Almost as absurdly obvious is the shot of author Stephanie Meyer as Stewart walks down the aisle, look for it twi-maniacs. Regardless, unfortunately, the wedding scene (though a beautiful venue) falls rather flat. The chemistry between the other actors seems dishearteningly unapparent with the only memorable moment being when the camera sweeps around the room during the couples wedding ceremony kiss. Revealing that no one is there, and the kiss must make them feel like they are in a world of their own. That remains the only sparkle of true romance for awhile in the film.
Once the couple goes off on their honeymoon, director Bill Condon (2006’s Dreamgirls, 2004’s Kinsey, 1998’s Gods and Monsters) shows his true faults in attempting this project. Almost immediately, every scene is filled with soundtrack fodder. As if the story isn’t simple enough to follow, we now must have a song for every scene to gauge the characters emotions. So much so that by the time the much anticipated sex scene happens you’re over it and the rest of the montages are just laughable. There is also no hope for acting chops to be created for the leads, we’re too deep now. And it is glaringly clear in the first hour of the film that Condon did not know how to tackle such a piece of slow moving story with not much depth or levels besides romance. But can we fault him? Hold on, it gets worse.
Unfortunately for this industry and audience members who had not read the books, the actual twist in the film was revealed during the huge marketing campaign for Breaking Dawn – Part 1. Stewart’s pregnancy revelation on her honeymoon not only changes the course of the story, but of her character. However, with everyone and their grandmothers having known this was coming from the trailers (thus the element of visual surprise is gone) it completely falls flat. The second half of the film has a much different tone to it, but all sense of suspense is still lost. Kudos must be given to the make-up and special effects departments for destroying Stewart’s body so well on screen during the pregnancy. The birthing scenes are logically a mess, but they have their moments of glittering intensity and Pattinson is able to lose his shell for a few scenes. But the rest of the film is agonizingly slow, builds up to the silliest of battles (because the real battle has been saved for the next film) and even sports a power rangers type pow wow of the wolf-clan. Try not to laugh at that one, I dare you.
Without a doubt, this is the most disappointing film (so far) in the franchise. Not only was the audience laughing at it (myself included), but the film felt so disjointed and overdone that it seemed to be taking the mickey out of itself. A director like Bill Condon might have actually hurt the project. His ambition to stylize the film is admirable, but is lost amidst such a slow story. Stephanie Meyer’s final book should not have have been split into two as there is simply not enough substance to warrant it. I actually went home craving Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse. And that is saying something.