DVD Review - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

I've written reviews for every single movie in this franchise. Even though I'm not this movie nor the book's demographic, it came about during a vampire renaissance in pop culture and provided a good contrast to things like True Blood or even the Underworld films. I was also fascinated with this idea of the movies being about sex, but the two characters not being able to have it until this, the fourth film.

Here are my reviews of Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse, but the basic back story is this. Bella Swan, a young girl living in Washington state, is prepping to marry Edward Cullen, a 100-year-old vampire. Jacob, the love-sick werewolf, doesn't approve of the wedding but makes an appearance anyway. A group of vampires in Italy also don't approve and insist on Bella becoming a vampire if she wants to be married to one. This doesn't bother Bella being that sex with a vampire can be dangerous. Plus, she wants to be on equal ground with Edward, even though Edward prefers she maintain her humanity.

Each installment of the franchise has had a different director. Breaking Dawn has Bill Condon who has never done a movie this epic and that requires this much special effects and action. On the DVD commentary, Condon admits he had to defer to others for quite a bit. His comments though indicate his faithfulness to Stephanie Meyer's book.

Condon adds a proviso that since the first film, people have been anticipating the sex scene between Edward and Bella. Condon intimates that he could never craft anything that lives up to people's expectations. Given the movie's MPAA rating, it was obvious that we weren't going to get anything as jaw-dropping as True Blood. Sadly, we don't get anything as restrained as what was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer during what was that titular character's deflowering.

This movie does mark Bella losing her virginity and initially it's all very well-played. Kristen Stewart as Bella does a good job of portraying the awkwardness and nervousness that would naturally come with a girl having sex for the first time. Unlike in most movies, Bella does save herself until her wedding night. She doesn't express any overt religious belief or devotion, but she would make for a good Christian girl.

While Condon and his team find a beautiful, Brazilian locale for the honeymoon, it's all for not. Even in a scene where the newlyweds go for a skinny dip, everything is depicted as if we were still in the 1950s or 60s. These movies since the beginning have always had their female audience in mind. It's why Jacob was shirtless as often as possible in the previous installments.

Yet, Robert Pattinson as Edward has been the true heart-throb. When the time arises for all those female fantasies to be realized on the big screen, the filmmakers really deflate things. Somehow, there is little to no heat, even with a sex-ready Pattinson undressed and in bed. I just didn't feel the love between the two. Edward feels more like an overly invested bodyguard. Though married for only weeks, they already feel like an old couple with all the passion already gone.

It's no spoiler to report that Bella gets pregnant and the rest of the movie is everyone dealing with the consequences of Bella being with child. First off, vampires aren't supposed to be able to procreate through sex. They procreate through biting, sucking and infecting another person's blood.

What makes matters worse is when Edward's vampire father, Carlisle, played by Peter Facinelli, tells them both that the baby is growing too fast and killing her from the inside out. Jacob, played by Taylor Lautner, suggests without saying it that Carlisle should perform an abortion on Bella. Never asserting any religious reasoning, Bella objects to this, but there's no way Bella who wanted to become a vampire, an undead creature, could possibly argue she's pro-life.

It's clear she's being reborn, most obviously as a mother who would do anything, even lay down and sacrifice her life for her child. For readers of the book, she's also being reborn as something more. The special effects for Bella are well done. The effects for the werewolves though aren't, especially when you hear the wolves talking.

Lastly, I question the nice medical equipment that Carlisle conveniently has in his house. Towards the end of the movie, Carlisle uses the equipment to monitor Bella's pregnancy but I had to ask about it. The vampires who live there obviously don't need it for themselves. Does Carlisle have patients come to his house? If so, wouldn't that risk too much exposure?

Special recognition to Booboo Stewart! He was no relation to Kristen Stewart, but he plays Seth, a teenage member of the werewolf characters here. I first saw Booboo Stewart in The Conrad Boys (2006) and I enjoyed his performance. With this film, it seems as if he's growing up to be a fine young actor.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality and partial nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.


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