Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part One

"No measure of time with you will be long enough. But we'll start with forever."

Romantic, creepy, occasionally funny (intentionally and unintentionally), and ultimately enjoyable, Breaking Dawn Part 1 was an interesting exercise in how sometimes the source material shouldn't always be followed. I don't really know how to review this movie without bring up some of the major plot points. So if you don't want to be spoiled, I'll say that it was a faithful adaption, for good or bad. It didn't add anything new to the franchise, and won't sway anyone from their opinion of the series. If you like the books and movies, you'll probably like this one. If you don't... then you won't.

Major Spoilers Below!

The book stirred up controversy because of some rather blatant messages about anti-abortion and premarital sex. This is especially evident in the extreme physical trauma that Bella suffers. She starts with bruises, and ends up as a battered and broken corpse. This transformation from a healthy young woman is rather disturbing, and it's all because she has the audacity to want to be a part of a world she doesn't fully understand. For me, the issue is more about her right to choose her own path, no matter what the obvious consequences are. Is it right to kill the child to save the mother, without her permission? Is she healthy and rational enough to make that choice?

Thankfully, the movie doesn't try to answer those questions. The writer wanted the character to have a baby, and this was the way she decided to describe that scenario -- right or wrong, it doesn't really matter. The problem is when it's viewed by people who could be influenced by its message. Bella sacrifices everything for her love, her body and potentially her soul. She leaps into a strange world with both feet, and never looks back. Her suffering is so acute that we have to watch as she is literally torn apart. The reward, perfection and immortality.

Looking at the series as a whole, there is an underlying theme of Bella's disconnection with the world. She is always at odds with her humanity, and when she encounters Edward and the Cullens, she realizes internally that this is what her life should be. She fights tooth and nail to become like them, and I think that's the reason she goes through what she goes through. She is so unwilling to sacrifice the unnatural side of her new existence that when a baby threatens her life, she can't see it as a danger. Her dogged determination, flying in the face of rational fear, is really her defining characteristic.

There is also the fact that the child is truly something special, reinforced when her telepathic husband hears the unborn child's thoughts of love for her parents. It renders the entire situation moot, because there is no question about the nature of the baby anymore. It is one of those big convenient answers in the book, making the situation as black and white as possible.

The other big controversy involves Jacob imprinting on Bella's baby. This was never really explained, and although there is a fascinating visual depiction of this event, it still doesn't really work except as another convenient plot device. It solves all the problems with the broken treaty with the Quileute werewolves, and the love triangle that dominated everything that came before. In the book, Meyer explains imprinting as an absolute connection, a true love which can take whatever form is needed. For example, Jacob will be her best friend throughout her childhood. Later in life, if she chooses to be his girlfriend, that would be something that could evolve easily. It's a strange and slightly uncomfortable situation, but it doesn't seem perverted or disturbing.

Bella's transformations, and there were two major ones in this movie, were stunning. She goes from healthy to emaciated, using a combination of make-up and digital effects to produce something that was difficult to watch. She was skin and bones by the time she gave birth, and Edward working on her corpse to restore life felt like it was hopeless. But her transformation into a vampire was just as impressive. There were other moments that didn't work as well, specifically the wolves. They moved, looked, and sounded like wolves, but the animation spoiled the feel. And the digital face they gave Renesmee was a little too surreal, which served the scene well but felt too CGI.

For me, though, Breaking Dawn isn't a cautionary tale, it's a love story. The first movie had problems with the chemistry between the two leads, and the next two movies worked on that problem. But this is the first time I felt that connection, and I think that the actors totally sold that side of their performance. I don't really like wedding scenes, but I really enjoyed this one. I was actually kind of dreading sitting through romantic clich├ęs, but I didn't cringe once... well except for the speeches. The honeymoon scenes were equally fun. They managed to capture the insecurity of that first night, and the joy of the first weeks, until Bella became pregnant.

Unfortunately, there really is no plot in this first half, except to serve as set-up for the second half. Which means that although there is a beginning, a middle, and an end, those pieces don't actually fit together to form a complete picture. Two bookended events, the wedding and the birth, were filled in with a lot of exposition and melodramatic tension. However, the problems with narrative flow were offset by some of the best performances in the series. I also appreciated that the director used several musical cues from the first movie. It felt like a final installment, except this wasn't the end. Interestingly, they could simply end the series here. The final moment works as a logical stopping point, albeit a frustrating one. I wonder if it's frustrating only because I know there is another whole movie of content to see? Either way, we have to wait until next November to see Part 2.

For a fan of the series as a whole, I would give this 2 1/2 out of 4 baby vampire-human hybrids.

One final note -- you should stay until the cast credits are done because there is an additional scene.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

10 comments:

Rachel said...

I went into the movie knowing that it didn't have much hope of being actually good, and it is mostly just for the fans to enjoy. Personally, I thought it was pretty enjoyable when you didn't expect it to be the best movie ever.

I think that everyone involved in the making of the movie knew that many people see it as a joke and they played to that. Certain parts were so ridiculous that they were funny and my whole theater laughed like we were in on some joke. Especially the part where they explain the baby's name seemed like it was being played to those of us who know it's a bit out there.

Also, thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Ice Truck Killer as a vampire. Priceless.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Twilight fan and hadn't plan to see the movies. But, ICE TRUCK KILLER AS VAMPIRE?!?!?! I am so there!

J.D. Balthazar said...

Yes the Ice Truck killer (Christian Camargo) is in this movie, along with Maggie Grace (Shannon Rutherford - Lost), and Mia Maestro (Nadia - Alias). They were in the Wedding scene as members of the Denali clan of vampires, who are friends of the Cullens. Each only had a couple of lines and scenes in this installment. But in Part 2 they should all have a bigger role.

I really liked the scene where they named Renesmee, they did seem like they were all in on the joke. I wonder how many takes it took for Kristen Stewart to say it with a straight face.

Dreman said...

I just don't get the fascination with these movies. It has bad writing, bad messages, horrible acting and is truly miscast. The source material is extremely laughable and amateurish. Maybe it's just me, but there is just too many things wrong with this story to completely ignore. I come to this site for all my reviews of my favourite shows, but it's disappointing that this movie is receiving such a high rating. Next to such great shows reviewed on this site like Dexter, Supernatural, Community, Buffy...... for me, this is absolutely the bottom of the barrel when it comes to entertainment.

Billie Doux said...

Dreman, thank you for your kind words about our site. A lot of people truly hate the Twilight franchise, and you appear to be one of them. And that's fine, I totally get it. J.D. may also respond to your comment, but I wanted to address what you might be suggesting -- that a review of this movie doesn't belong on our site. We have five vampire shows covered here, and I think a review of *any* vampire movie, good or bad, is welcome here. J.D. didn't recommend the movie outright. He said that if you like the Twilight franchise, you'll probably like the movie. And if you don't, you won't. I'm assuming you won't. :)

Dreman said...

I really do get edgy when these movies come out. My wife finds it funny the way I react to these releases. I didn't mean that this review doesn't belong on this site and I do realize that reviews are mostly subjective. I was just thrown off by the 3 out of 4 rating for what I consider to be one of the worst series in movie history. I see that he said that the rating was for people who like the series but I don't believe in two tier reviews. I can usually understand why people like something and I don't but, Twilight will always remain a mystery to me. The second part is coming out in 6 months, so I guess there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Keep up the great work on the site. I've loved it since I watched Buffy for the first time a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

A fair review I suppose. The imprinting on the baby thing is beyond sick. I don't care if it's a super-vamp-human-hybrid..it's still a newborn. Eww.
Anna

Chela Madison said...

Ok, I'm a fan, so if you're strongly against Twilight I highly recommend ignoring this comment. I really enjoyed the movie. There were some issues/awkward spots for me: Bella's nightmare before her wedding, Edward's posture/general reaction when Bella says she thinks she might be pregnant (I'm not sure why it felt off exactly...I just feel like the way Rob was holding his hands was awkward or out of place...?), the voices of the wolf pack when they were communicating telepathically (I was getting an Optimus Prime/Red Power Ranger vibe), Taylor Lautner's line to the camera about his family being strong, and the baby's face (as you mention the CGI just made it feel a little too strange). But overall, I was very happy. I saw it for the second time yesterday. When I went to the midnight premiere, I was so hyped up that it was hard to focus on the little things. This time I was really able to absorb everything, and I was actually moved by how achingly sweet some elements of the movie were. I also felt that all of the homages to the first movie (like the wedding kiss mimicking their prom kiss with "Flightless Bird" playing, and the montage while Bella is changing) were endearing because this has been a part of my life for so many years now! It's been a lot of fun, and I've met some great people. It has also just been a blast to be part of this whole thing, and to feel connected to so many people around the world (I'm sure others are just completely annoyed and ready for Twilight to be over ;]). To see it all flash by during Bella's transformation scene was surprisingly bittersweet for me. Anyway, I'm rambling haha. Basically I loved it the first time, and I loved it even more the second. Thanks for the review.

ChrisB said...

For the first time in the series, I did not see this film in the cinema. It was so thoroughly and universally panned (and I knew that there weren't any huge scenes that needed to be seen on a big screen), that I decided to give it a miss and wait for the DVD. I popped it in this evening, thoroughly expecting to hate the film and willing to give it fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. I ended up liking it much better than I thought I would.

Don't get me wrong. Parts of it were sheer hell and parts were dire. The wolves are ridiculous looking and the scene where they are reading each other's mind was laughable. The wedding went on for far too long and the speeches were dreadful! I actually fast forwarded through them. After all the foreplay, I could have done with a bit of a racier sex scene (but, then maybe I've just been watching too much HBO lately).

I disagree with J.D. about the chemistry between the leads. Considering they've been a real couple for a while now, they should be able to generate some heat (no pun intended). I've always thought that both of them were miscast, but not so badly as to ruin the movies. The rest of the cast does a credible job, but there are no outstanding performances.

But, overall, I enjoyed the film. It was more or less true to the book (not, in itself, a great work of art) and I enjoyed seeing some of the some scenes come to life. The house on Isle Esme, for example, was almost exactly as I had pictured it.

I enjoyed the end with the fight between the wolves and the Cullens (even though it's not in the book). It was a good way to end the film, although I agree that the imprinting is a far too easy way to solve the plot problem.

It was definitely a set-up for the final installment, but that's all right. It held its own and I would agree with the 3 out of 4 hybrids.

Elise said...

I agree with Dreman... This is absolutely one of the worst movies I had the misfortune to sit through (I was on a plane for an 8hr flight n had seen all the other movies...). Half an hr twiddling about on the wedding part, an eternity of an hr on the honeymoon and another half hr leading up to the birth... Sappy followed by cringing followed by nausea. The earlier ones were bearable but this one really takes the cake... I read the books and while I'm not crazy over them, I kinda get why the target audience can't get enough of them. But this movie in particular really doesn't do the book series any justice.. If I saw the movie and not read the series before, I'm not sure I would want to read them afterwards