Released: 18 November
Director: Bill Condon Screenwriter: Melissa Rosenberg
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone
Distributor: E1 Films Running Time: 117 mins
Let’s get this out of the way, then: yes, in Breaking Dawn – Part 1, everyone’s favourite sparkly vampire carries out a Caesarian section with his teeth. And then a teenage werewolf falls in love with the baby.
When Breaking Dawn, the book, came out, it included so many bizarre and controversial moments that many fans threatened to set fire to their copies in protest, and all of those moments have been faithfully recreated in this movie. Which ought to make it more interesting than the previous instalments in the Twilight Saga, at least: in just under two hours, it manages to pack in a wedding, a honeymoon, an unplanned pregnancy, a bloody childbirth, a werewolf coup, a death, and a vampiric transformation. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so it’s a shame the end product feels so lacklustre.
Perhaps it’s because most of the dramatic tension in the Twilight series comes from Bella and Edward’s fraught relationship. Once they’ve consummated their marriage, though, the excitement vanishes. Instead, the film focuses on a schism in the Quileute wolfpack, which isn’t very interesting, and on Bella’s burgeoning pregnancy, which quickly moves into body horror territory. Yet the many and varied threats in the film somehow lack weight. It’s clear that everything will be neatly resolved at the end, so Bella’s anxiety over her wedding night lingerie ends up feeling more urgent than the news that werewolves are planning to attack and kill her unborn child.
A more unforgivable problem, though, is that the film has no real structure. It’s a long film, and its utter lack of rhythm makes it feel even longer. The blame for that has to lie at the hands of the writers: both Melissa Rosenberg, who adapted the novel for the screen, and Stephenie Meyer, who’s responsible for writing all that nonsense about werewolves ‘imprinting’ on newborns and giving Bella the idea to name her child “Renesmee” in the first place.
The other aspects of the film are decent enough. The principal actors are pretty comfortable in their parts by now; though Lautner is so wooden he might as well be an inanimate object, Stewart and Pattinson manage to bring some real charm to their roles. Visually, the film is more appealing than previous instalments: the honeymoon sequences are particularly lavish, as Edward and Bella jet off to a private island to frolic in waterfalls and have bed-wrecking sex amid beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, when it comes to the more supernatural elements, the visuals suffer, and the scenes with the werewolves are embarrassing to watch.
The film’s few truly enjoyable moments can mostly be attributed to director Condon, who manages to imbue the daft script with both humour and horror. The awkward wedding speeches are genuinely funny; the childbirth scene is woozy and bloody and really quite horrifying. The film’s stand-out moment, though, is the nightmare Bella has before her big day, which culminates in the bride- and groom-to-be standing atop a pile of bloodied corpses like the toppers on the worst wedding cake ever. Strong stuff for a teen romance, but none of it can elevate the film from its source material – an improbable teen fantasy in which true love waits and abortion is unthinkable.
Although this film is notionally more adult than its predecessors, it’s still very juvenile. If you’re die-hard Twilight fan, you’ll be able to tolerate 117 minutes of mopey teenagers, questionable morality and shonky CGI; if not, steer clear.