The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1

Year: 2011
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephanie Meyer
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Anna Kendrick

I'm sure I've already talked in other Twilight reviews about how I came to this entire series with an open mind, prepared to let the films speak for themselves and ignore any of the baggage I bought from the planetload of pop culture, opinion and comment about the books.

In the context of the Twilight movies, I found this the least effective and weakest of the lot so far. Not that being a guy makes me expect lots of fights or keeps me from appreciating the romantic dilemma that's central to the tale – I realise it's a romantic drama aimed at girls rather than Call of Duty fans who'd want to see vampires and werewolves tearing victims' throats out.

It's just that up until the moment Bella (Stewart) discovers she's pregnant while honeymooning with new husband Edward Cullen (Pattinson), nothing really happens. The beautiful wedding and glorious honeymoon takes up a good half hour of the film and not only did we know it was going to happen, it doesn't advance the story, neither creating nor resolving any problems for the characters.

Of course we have the concern that Edward – with his superior strength and the desire for Bella that drove him away from her when he first laid eyes on her – would simply kill her when they get down and dirty as properly sanctioned man and wife (you can either mock or respect Stephanie Meyer's adherence to her Mormon religion in her art, but it's there).

But that narrative obstacle was posed right back at the beginning, it was the reason he wouldn't take her to bed to begin with and a clever device to hide Meter's possibly-unwitting subtext – that sex before marriage is not only wrong but dangerous. In any case, it renders the first third of movie as narratively useless as it is romantic and attractive to watch.

When it's clear Bella's carrying a child that will kill a mere human as it grows, things get going. She's raced back to the Cullens' woodland mansion and when the wolf tribe finds out about it, it threatens the treaty as the wolves issue a decree that the child must be destroyed. The Cullens do their best to protect Bella as the wolves close in and they find an ally in Jacob, who loves Bella so much he'd rather lose his place among his own kind than see harm come to her.

As the battle threatens to break outside, Bella gets weaker and sicker inside as the baby drains her life away from inside and they fight to keep her alive. It soon becomes clear that the only way she's going to survive the birth is if Edward turns her at the last moment, like she always wanted.

The special effects still look silly, like Edward running around the room packing up to leave in a hurry, and the wolves still look like something out of a particularly well rendered videogame. But as always it's not about the action, effects or plot, it's about the breathless central love triangle.

Once more Stewart is the only one who comes close to good acting but the script hobbles her as much as anyone. The whole movie also suffers a little from the same syndrome as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – all buildup, not payoff. once again however, a distinctive indie rock soundtrack gives it a little bit of an edge.

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