Movie Review: The Twilight Saga - Part 1
By Matthew Huntley
November 28, 2011
Breaking Dawn, Part 1 shows signs the indefatigable Twilight series is finally loosening up and that maybe, just maybe, by the end we could believe the characters are real people - maybe. Granted, there’s only one movie left, but better late than never. By the time Part 2 comes out, perhaps non-Twilight fans will be able to understand what all the fuss has been about the past three years. As of now, I’m still not sure, but Breaking Dawn at least makes it so I’m not dreading the forthcoming final chapter. In fact, I’m kind of curious about it.
I guess the reason I never understood the appeal of Twilight is because it’s so formulaic in what it’s about: forbidden love, relationships, rivalry, etc. It is, essentially, a mainstream soap opera and lives up to that label in just about every way. It contains exaggerated feelings of love, passion and jealousy; sensational sex scenes; long-winded dialogue; stiff acting; artificial-looking sets; and nobody on-screen looks natural. But then, how natural can vampires and werewolves look? Ten years ago, I would have said its supernatural elements are what sets Twilight apart from its brethren, but nowadays, they’re about as commonplace as superheroes.
At this point, you’re either interested in Twilight or you’re not, and if you’re up to speed with the series, there’s no reason to think you won’t enjoy Breaking Dawn, Part 1. It has more of what the other movies did and continues, however slowly, to progress characters toward their foregone destiny.
In this installment, the human girl Bella (Kristen Stewart) finally marries her vampire hubby, Edward (Robert Pattinson). All the characters from the previous movies attend their “perfect” wedding, except for Jacob (Taylor Lautner), the shape-shifting werewolf who competed with Edward for Bella’s heart. He shows up late and is not too happy to learn Bella plans on staying human the night she and Edward consummate their marriage. In this world, that means Bella could die since sex with a vampire can get incredibly violent and passionate. But Bella wants her first time to be as a human. After all, her time is limited since the ultimate plan is for Edward to turn her into a vampire.
During their honeymoon on a private island near Brazil, the two finally have sex, but not without breaking the bed and Bella enduring a few bruises. She also discovers she’s pregnant, a phenomenon she’d been told was impossible. The fetus begins to weaken Bella physically as it grows inside her at an unusually rapid pace. She and Edward return to Washington and the rest of the Cullen clan is concerned the baby is putting Bella at risk, but she decides to keep it. Meanwhile, Jacob’s werewolf pack, who are at constant war with the vamps, believe the baby could be dangerous and plan to kill it and Bella, leaving Jacob with the tough decision to protect her and the Cullens from his own kind.
If you’re at all familiar with the Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer, then there’s little reason to go on with the plot description. And if you’re like me and have little knowledge of the source material, there’s also little reason to go on with the plot description. Why? Because these movies aren’t about their plots. They’re about giving the audience a romantic fantasy world to escape to and dream about. Yes, the movies are silly, stupid, poorly acted and overly dramatic, and while those aren’t admirable qualities, they’re at least harmless, at least in this case. They simply fulfill the need for mindless escapism, the kind that’s forgettable but inoffensive. It’d be one thing if these movies took themselves seriously, but they don’t, and so I don’t have much to hold against them. I just wish they’d be more effectively made and interesting beyond their soap opera roots. It’d be nice to care about the characters instead of just watch them.
With that said, the characters did seem more believable this time around, especially in the way they reacted to their ordeals. There are a couple funny montages when Bella and Edward are on their honeymoon - one where she’s preparing herself for bed and another where Edward is playing hard to get and lets chess determine whether or not they have sex. Moments like these allowed the characters to open up and gave them one of their few signs of life, which was encouraging.
Based on the quality and tone of the previous movies, Twilight fans will have little cause for complaint with Breaking Dawn, Part 1. Fan or not, I can’t recommend the movie for the simple fact it did not engage me enough - its story, drama and characters are still too corny for their own good, but they’re slowly getting better. If this penultimate installment did anything for me, it made me curious how the saga is going to end, which is something I’m looking more forward to than not.