Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

MFR Rating: ★ ★
I’ve proudly seen all the Twilight films. As Mark Kermode commented on this week’s Kermode and Mayo Film Review podcast, it’s a franchise easily thrashed because of its connotations with fangirls and for whatever reason, fangirls are always given a tougher time than fanboys. If a boy claims to be a Star Wars obsessive it’s entirely fine despite considerable problems with that franchise, but if a girl likes Twilight it’s easily ridiculed, even though there’s an interesting little story under all the makeup. Let’s stop all this silliness and just accept there are themes in Twilight understandingly appreciated by a certain demographic. Or let’s go further, why can’t a boy like Twilight?

I’m a bit of a late adapter to the saga, having caught up on the series over the past year. I’ve always considered the first Twilight to be the highlight of the series with its rather overly emotional and grungy aesthetic. For me, it all started to lose its way a bit with New Moon, which was essentially a couple hours of moping punctuated by the revelation that Jacob is a werewolf. I mean, come on, what are the odds that both men she’s involved with happen to be mythical creatures? Eclipse plodded along slightly tiresome but nevertheless left me in a place where I wanted to know what would come next. And finally, Breaking Dawn is released and I can finally catch one of these flicks on the big screen.

The first thing you need to know is Breaking Dawn makes no effort to placate new viewers. If you’re not familiar with the series, you’re going to find the story even more bizarre. So be warned: this isn’t a film that stands on its own. As fans know, we left off dreaming of wedding bells which arrive nice and early. Jacob gets his invitation and quickly takes his shirt off angrily. But will Bella go through with her transformation to become like Edward? How is Jacob going to cope watching his beloved Bella marry a vampire? And wait, what is that growing in Bella’s stomach?

I really, really wanted to like this movie. I promise. But unfortunately there are so many complicated emotional issues which feel so under-explored. You’ve got Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in this incredibly divided situation between two worlds and he’s displaying the emotion of someone reading the Financial Times. Come on Taylor, give me more. So much of the acting is so mumbling and disinterested which has always been a problem with these movies, please just change the tone occasionally and give me more. Turn it up a notch.

The central relationship between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) really doesn’t feel strong enough to carry the movie and often feels like going through the motions of plot points. Although I didn’t personally partake, you can’t ignore the amount of times the cinema erupted into a spontaneous guffaws during moments that were intended to be entirely poignant. I haven’t read the books so I don’t know how much is pulled directly or adapted, but so much of it doesn’t work on screen and needed a much braver re-work.

At least the special efforts didn’t bother me as much as the previous films which looked incredibly amateurish. Unfortunately, the creative decision to have an important conference of werewolves performed in their canine rather than human forms was laughably poor. I don’t care if maybe that’s how it happens in the book, it looked incredibly silly on screen. There’s also the rather frustrating constant musical interludes which splinter the film and prevent any momentum without really adding anything. Sure, there’s a nice use of Iron & Wine during the wedding which is not only a very pretty song but a nice nod to earlier scenes, but to convey emotion you need more than emotional music. Like decent acting, or a nice screenplay.

What works slightly better is the mystery regarding what exactly is growing inside Bella, which does feel genuinely sinister and a nice bit of body horror. The film actually gets more enjoyable as it gets more ridiculous and tries to emerge ever so slightly from its comfort zone. I’ll be watching Part II. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’ll be watching Part II.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is out now in the UK and in the US. Running time: 117 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).

Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.

Review by David Rank


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