The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN Part 1 poster Robert Pattinson Taylor Lautner

Rating: 2.75 of 5 ★★¾☆☆ 

I am definitely in the minority, and I realize that. Breaking Dawn is on track to make $140M this weekend (proving the power of women at the box office when they’re captivated). Many of them will probably see this two or three times or more, but I didn’t love it.

First of all, I think it suffers from Harry Potter 7 syndrome in that there wasn’t enough book to warrant a full movie. The narrative is cohesive; it actually has an arc and ends well. But there were several places throughout where it seemed slow, where shots just lingered on Bella forever or characters literally just moved slowly through the scene for no reason. And there was so much of the film where nothing happened. I love good character moments as much as the next person and can be engaged by internal conflict. But those character moments have to offset plot and action and something actually happening. You can’t just string one to another to the next.

It didn’t help that I went in with far too high expectations. Because in all the interviews and clips and soundbites everyone talked about how this is a horror movie.

io9: There’s a lot of horror that deals with alienation, but not a lot of horror that deals with romance as its main subject – what’s it like mashing up horror and romance?
[Director] Bill Condon: It’s so interesting. Another way of saying that, is that it’s female horror, you know? [Twilight] concerns itself with important markers in a woman’s life, and the woman is the central character. It’s through her point of view that we experience things. It gets more inside the ideas, like the horror of what’s growing inside you. That’s also connected to your lover growing inside you. The horror of being invaded, along with your desire to be invaded. You know, all those issues sort of swirl around this film franchise.
full article here

So I wanted it to surprise me, to be interesting and unexpected and do something differently. But it didn’t. It was completely by the book and not that horrific and not especially interesting or unexpected at all.

Also, he’s wrong because the woman is not the central character in this film. She’s maybe the central character of the first half that swirls around the romance of her wedding and her honeymoon. But the second half all she does is lay around on the couch and die (which is why nothing happens). But at the same time, everyone around her is experiencing things that we don’t engage in enough for my taste and it’s almost Jacob’s story because it deals a lot with his loyalties and emotional journey.

Also, Condon’s wrong because it’s not that horrific. Aside from Bella being disturbingly thin (which was very well done) having a baby is a bloody mess. And as women we live with blood and pain – it takes more than that to appall us.

But it would have been more interesting if it were “female horror” as Condon calls it.

Stephenie Meyer: “I’m not going to say Breaking Dawn doesn’t get weird, because it does, but these are things that as I was exploring what it means and what it meant to be a woman, particularly to be a mother… I’ve always been really fascinated with the idea that 100 years ago, if you were going to have a baby, you literally were saying, ‘I could die. I am taking my life in my hands to do this.’ There’s a courage to that that we don’t have to develop, and so I’m fascinated by that kind of woman, that woman that makes the choice that she’s going to risk her life. It’s like being a soldier.”

If they had managed to explore Condon’s ideas of horror and Meyer’s theme of willingly and knowingly stepping into that horror and that risking your life, that probably would have been really interesting.

But, like all things Twilight, it takes those ideas and handles them in a very one dimensional fashion, or as Variey said: “the film is rich in surface pleasures but lacks any palpable sense of darkness or danger.” I do not like Melissa Rosenberg and haven’t figured out, after the mess of the first one, why they haven’t brought in other screenwriters the way they did directors. (I mean, I know they didn’t do it because with a carousel of they had to make sure the films stayed consistent – but still, she isn’t very good).

I did laugh out loud a few times, which is something of a feat. Once during the toasts which were all pretty funny and clever. And also at the extended vanity shot of Stephanie Meyer as Bella comes down the aisle. But then there were a few moments where the movie jumped out of the narrative to abstract shots and character voice overs which are always annoying and absolutely a sign of weak writing. It’s as if the story can’t be expressed through dialog or performance so they have to step out for a moment and spell it out for us. It’s bad writing and bad movie making.

On the plus side, all the performances were noticeably better than earlier movies. And the romance of the wedding and the honeymoon were fancy. I know that Rosenberg is slavish to the books, so I should have expected that the honeymoon would be nearly exactly what’s written in the books, but I never liked his whole turn after the first night. While it created some sweet moments between them, it’s just ridiculous and I was kind of bothered that she kept it. I know, I should have known better. She also changed one of my favorite moments, but since I’ve become an advocate of making movies different creatures than the books I don’t feel I have the right to complain about that one.

Mostly, it’s exactly what the book is, with one good fight scene at the end. I wanted more action, and more tension in the story and the characters and more romance and for it to be… interesting. Or even just more emotional so it’s like the earlier films where walking through the emotional experience is enough to enjoy the whole thing.

Which, I think Bill Condon had a really interesting observation that translates from Bella to the Twilight audience.

But to me, it is Bella, the person who really feels out of step with the world, and that’s what draws her out of the real life into a kind of fantasy life, into a dream life. And that kind of getting caught up in some dream, that seems to me to be a running thread.


November 19, 2011 | Review , , , , , | this post contains affiliate links