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Two recent movie series adapted from best-sellers with huge cult followings have each had their last chapters divided to be stretched into two films.  In one case, that of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it’s a sensible decision because the source material is so full it couldn’t fit into a standard two hour-ish running time.  One would presume that was same logic behind the bifurcation of Breaking Dawn, the final chapter of the popular Twilight book series; but part one of the cinematic couplet is so poor that the decision seems less intended to benefit the narrative than to milk the series’ massive fan following.  Strange, meandering, uneven and oddly made, Breaking Dawn - Part One is the weakest of the Twilight films since the first chapter.

Bella Swan is getting married.  The teen we met in 2008 falling head over heels for her undead lover, Edward, is tying the knot with the vampire and joining the Cullen clan.  So much joy on Bella’s special day, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, first, there’s Bella’s refusal to be turned into a vampire, a choice that at its very least could ostensibly cause all sorts of issues with her man being all super-strong and stuff.  What’s going to happen on their wedding night if Edward’s so inflamed by his passion for his new bride that he loses control?  Edward so fears harming his new missus that he swears off all conjugal interaction with Bella after her bruise-filled deflowering.  Apart from that tiny hiccup, there are other issues that neither the couple or anyone around them considered before the wedding: It seems that in the vampire world, the pairing of a living human and a bloodsucker is such an anomaly that no one knows all the ramifications.  However, Bella is willing to risk a few black and blues for her handsome vamp and soon Edward’s honourable resolve turns to mush and that’s where things get complicated.

Plot, plot, who’s got the plot?  Outside of the nuptial preparations, the long-awaited wedding night and its (not entirely) unexpected results, there doesn’t seem to be any actual narrative for this film.  If the viewer is coming to the cinema having never seen any of the previous chapters, turn around because you will have very little clue about what’s going on.  Even if you have seen the prior movies but somehow didn’t commit every line to memory, you will still be lost about the disparate relationships between Bella, Jacob and Edward, the werewolves and the vampires, the werewolves and the werewolves and the mysterious black-clad vamps who pop up just before the end credits.  For example, one wedding guest who we’ve never seen previously has a very public fit over a character who met a bad end after a disagreement with the shapeshifters.  We don’t know why her reaction is so over the top, or why no one bothered to inform her that Bella is pretty tight with the puppy clan.  Having seen the earlier films, I could not recall or understand why Bella didn’t wish to become a vampire after marrying Edward; in fact, I remember spending the last three films watching her beg, wheedle and cajole Edward into turning her, and considering the trouble the choice to remain human brings about, her refusal simply seems more like a poor plot device than anything else.  Then again, nearly every awful thing that occurs in this film is somehow Bella’s fault; besides choosing to not get undead along with her new hubby (Which, if memory serves from the earlier chapters, also has larger consequences within the vamp clans than is mentioned here.), she’s still sending undeniable signals to poor, lovelorn Jacob even while wearing her wedding gown having married Edward about five minutes before.  The situation that arises while the couple is on their honeymoon in Brazil becomes the center of the story as it is moving supernaturally fast and literally killing Bella.  Of course, instead of removing the problem, saving her own life and ending the suffering of her terrified, guilt-ridden husband; Bella’s choice to endure puts everyone to great pains:  She exposes the entire Cullen family to possible destruction and clears the blood banks of several hospitals as this condition causes her to become a living bloodsucker.  Hey, you, car crash victim, sorry, we know you desperately need some type O right now, but because Bella chooses not to take the necessary steps to save herself and is sucking down plasma packs like Capri-Sun juice boxes, you’re just going to have to bleed out.

Everything in this film is at a low; the script is flat and not even campy enough to be amusing.  The action is muddled and all been seen before.  The dialog is brain-dead and the narrative is completely confusing.  Tensions between characters that reflect back to the previous installments are given almost no illumination here.  Neither is it exciting in any way.  Even Bella and Edward’s long-awaited wedding night is tepid and chaste enough to be played on ABC Family Channel at three in the afternoon.  The acting is the worst of all the films: As Edward, Robert Pattinson always looks as if he’s about to cry even when the pair is supposedly celebrating in carefree Rio de Janeiro.  Every close-up of Kristen Stewart is a moment wasted as there seems to be nothing resembling a thought going through Bella’s head.  Stewart’s greatest success in the film is in withering away, looking like a human skeleton as she comes closer to death.  The majority of folks here can barely muster the energy to go through the motions.  Anna Kendrick, an Oscar nominee since her role as Bella’s BF in the previous films looks slightly embarrassed to appear at the wedding, but delivers one of the precious few good moments of the piece.  The other exceptions to the unfortunate performances are Ashley Greene as perky sister-in-law, Alice and Billy Burke onscreen not nearly enough as Bella’s deadpan dad.  Taylor Lautner is once again the best thing in the film, trying to sell the raw emotion of Jacob’s unrequited love for Bella, but even so, he’s not as good as he was in New Moon or Eclipse.  Don’t even get me started on the godawful makeup and prosthetics.  Too late.  All the vamps look as if they’re wearing clown make-up; powdery, white kabuki masks that end suddenly at the neck.  The real lowlight are the contact lenses used to create the golden, glowing eyes of the bloodsuckers; the sclera used in the film not only look ridiculously fake, they’re so ill-fitting that they actually seem to hurt the wearers.  Come on, Summit, this franchise has made your studio a couple of bucks, you can buy more realistic looking contacts over the internet for thirty dollars; why not splurge?  The cinematography does no favours to any of the cast, even making our pretty couple look strangely warped and bedraggled even when they’re meant to bask in the happy afterglow of their honeymoon.  This only works when we see the shocking disintegration of Bella’s health as she drops pounds so quickly she seems sure to die, which might be the only good effect of the entire film.  It probably would’ve been even more disturbing had everyone else around her not looked really bad.  I never thought I’d miss the breathtaking, gigantic hair creations of the first film so very much.  Jackson Rathbone is unrecognisable as vamp Jasper without his trademark large, perfectly coiffed mane, nor the slightly constipated, sulky expression I came to depend on enjoying with each installment.  Even gratuitously shirtless Taylor Lautner and his werewolf kin couldn’t lessen the effect of the film’s shockingly poor production values.

One scene that will forever creep me out and made me question whether someone wasn’t perversely trying to turn Breaking Dawn into a straight-up horror film occurs after Edward makes an emergency incision into his brides’ belly to release the parasite inside Bella, only he’s not using any medical instruments.  The gore in this chapter was the only thing more surprising than what a half-hearted mess the entire movie is.  Simply put, nothing in the film works; not the great love story, nor the consummation of it, not human girl, vamp and wolf triangle because it’s gone on too long and really, Jacob, Bella’s married, I think the choice is made.  Then again, she keeps giving you reason to hope, even to the point of hinting of her desire for a trinogamous relationship between you, herself and Edward, so I can’t really blame your confusion.  The blind, blameless acceptance of everything Bella does that - yet again - endangers everyone around her is just ridiculous.  While we’re speaking of creepy and ridiculous things, in its final moments, Breaking Dawn redefines May-December romance in a way never seen onscreen before and hopefully never will again as we watch an adult character fall irrevocably in love with a minutes-old infant.  It’s all so bad one has to wonder if Bill Condon, who previously directed the sublime Gods and Monsters and many other wonderful films hasn’t subversively punked the audience by turning what should have been a teen-demoed romantic fantasy into some sort of avant-garde experimental art film?

Breaking Dawn - Part One exists only for the edification (and milking) of the fans who made both the book and film series such a phenomenon, but this mess of a movie is so boring, unsexy and just plain weird that even the most devoted Twihards will be disappointed or grossed out, or very likely, both.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 18th, 2011

 

Click here for our review of 2008's Twilight

Click here for our review of 2009's New Moon

Click here for our review of 2010's Eclipse

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Summit Entertainment)

 

 

 

 

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