Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I
$30 million dollars taken from midnight showings alone tells you that the collective appetite for Stephanie Meyers’ pristinely sexless teen romance has not diminished despite the shameless snapping of this final installment into two halves. Far from it, armies of Twi-hards the world over are still lining up around the block for Taylor Lautner’s abs (on display in the first scene), swoon at every smoldering glance from Robert Pattinson, and hang on every tremble of Kristen Stewart’s lip. Of course, part of the excitement comes from the knowledge that we’ve finally arrived at the nuptials, and, of course, the sex. Break-the-bed sex, as we’ve come to know from the trailer.
Director Bill Condon knows better than to try and reinvent the wheel by this point. We want pensive stares, intense outpourings of unfettered emotion, and we want moping, lots of moping. But bizarrely and quite unexpectedly the opening act is comprised of comedy enacted with the kind of lightness of touch that this series has been sorely missing for three films now. Trouble with the heels, drunken toast speeches, embarrassing relatives – it’s all so much fun, and so delightfully un-Twilight. But fear not, dear viewer, for faster than you can say “Killer, mutant, vampire/human-hybrid baby” do the clouds of doom descend and we’re back to the moping.
By now we’ve come to know these character intimately, and what really shines through is how much Pattinson, Lautner, and Stewart have grown into these roles in a way that, for example, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Danielle Radcliffe never did. That’s a good thing, too, as by contrast the script is just awful this time around, shackling each character down to base array of primal screaming with little room for nuance. As Bella’s pregnancy begins to threaten her life and word reaches Jacob’s crushingly dull pack of furry gap models, voiding the treaty with the Cullens in their eyes, battle lines are duly drawn.
But the supporting cast barely gets a look in beyond serving the role of cipher as and when required. Cullen patriarch Carlisle (Peter Facinelli) is a doctor, so that’s important. Alice (Ashley Greene) can’t see Bella’s future anymore, so that’s important. Sam’s (Chaske Spencer) Alpha is intent on Bella’s destruction, forcing Jacob to make a difficult choice, so that’s sort of important. The rest don’t even register. This is all about Bella, Jacob, Edward, and the baby, and it’s this intense focus on the central dynamic that sees the pillar of Meyers’ story finally begin the creak and wane under the weight of it’s own batty internal logic.
Up until now Bella’s entire world hinging on her attachment to what has been ostensibly two willing, yet semi-unattainable men, has always been on her terms. The series many detractors who bash it for, as they see it, teaching young girls that they should be defined by who they date have always missed the point that it’s about her empowering herself through her decisions. Bella chooses to pursue Edward, and chooses to give up mortality in order to be with him. Only now, spending so much of the movie gaunt and emaciated on a couch, her devotion to the thing inside her – which Edward is terrified of, Jacob repulsed by, and a demon according to the legends – seems born out of little but sheer bloody mindedness.
It might not be the issue that it is if there was more distracting action going on around it, but even by this series’ standards this is almost entirely conflict free save for a fleeting brawl at the very end that is too disjointed to be truly affecting. And the final cliffhanging teaser is just the end of Avatar with the color red traded for yellow. Hopefully, the best is yet to come with the imminent arrival of the Volturi signaled by Michael Sheen’s deliciously hammy mugging during the closing credits. We’ll wait for that before rendering a definitive verdict. For now, there is just enough here to sink your teeth into, but Part II had better deliver some serious bite.